Does Output Promote Noticing and Second Language Acquisition?



    1. Sophia University Tokyo, Japan
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    • Shinichi Izumi recently earned a PhD in applied linguistics from Georgetown University. He teaches EFL and applied linguistics at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. His research interests lie in second and foreign language acquisition and the interface between second language acquisition research and teaching.


    Visiting Professor
    1. State University of New York, University at Buffalo Buffalo, New York, United States
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    • Martha Bigelow is a visiting professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her research interests include topics in language teacher education, writing instruction, and cognitive issues related to second language acquisition.

  • The first author presented an earlier version of this article at the Second Language Research Forum at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa in 1998.


Following an initial investigation (Izumi, Bigelow, Fujiwara, & Fearnow, 1999), this study examines the noticing function of output (Swain, 1995, 1998), namely, the activity of producing the target language that may prompt L2 learners to recognize their linguistic problems and bring relevant aspects of the L2 to their attention. Before completing (a) essay-writing tasks and (b) text reconstruction tasks, two groups of ESL learners received the same input containing numerous examples of the target form, the past hypothetical conditional in English. One group was given opportunities for output whereas the other group engaged in comprehension-based activities. Although the results indicate no unique effects of output, extended opportunities to produce output and receive relevant input were found to be crucial in improving learners' use of the grammatical structure. A closer examination of the data suggested, however, that output did not always succeed in drawing the learners' attention to the target form, a phenomenon that seems related to both learner and linguistic factors. The essay-writing tasks were found to be much more susceptible to such individual variation than were the text reconstruction tasks. Further research is necessary to more precisely specify the noticing function of output and derive effective uses of output in L2 teaching.