MULTICOMPETENT SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNERS VIRGINIA M . S COTT Academic Director, Vanderbilt University Center for Second Language Studies CLAS & CSLS Teacher Workshop October 4, 2011 Introduction 2 Confronting realities: Our students often study a foreign language for two years; soon thereafter they seem to remember very little. In a class of 20 students, maybe only one has “real talent” in the target language; few of them achieve advanced- or superior-level proficiency. FL teachers don’t always agree about curricular goals and approaches What should we be doing for all students to prepare them for life and work in our global community? Introduction 3 double-talk vs. double talk Our future success as foreign / second language teachers in the United States lies in adopting an approach to teaching that empowers students to view themselves as proficient L2 users rather than as deficient native speakers. My argument is based principally on Cook’s notion of “multicompetence.” Defining “multicompetence” 4 This term was first coined by Vivian Cook (Professor of Applied Linguistics, Newcastle University) at least 20 years ago. Multicompetence … … accounts for an individual’s knowledge of language, including both first language competence and a developing understanding of a second language. … is the knowledge of two languages in one mind. Defining “multicompetence” 5 Cook’s notion of multicompetence is based on 3 principal ideas: 1. A dynamic understanding of bilingualism 2. The native speaker “problem” 3. The L2 user Defining “bilingualism” 6 Balanced bilingual: mastery of two languages is roughly equivalent Covert bilingual: hides knowledge of another language because of an attitudinal disposition Dominant bilingual: greater proficiency in one of the two languages Early bilingual: acquired both languages in childhood Late bilingual: became bilingual later than childhood Receptive bilingual: understands but does not read or write Secondary bilingual: second language has been added to a first via instruction Incipient bilingual: someone at the early stages of bilingualism (Wei, 2000) Defining “bilingualism” 7 “The impasse reached can only be overcome if bilingualism is no longer regarded as something inside the speaker’s head, but as a displayed feature in participants’ everyday behavior. You cannot be bilingual in your head, you have to use two or more languages ‘on stage’, in interaction, where you show others that you are able to do so.” (Auer, 1988, p. 167). What do bilingual people do? 8 Bilingual people … … stand between two languages (L1 and L2), even when apparently only using one. … have the resources of two languages (L1 and L2) readily available whenever needed. … code-switch. Code-switching is … 9 Le prof, elle est really nice. … the alternating use of two or more languages in a single Yeah … So, do conversation event. you want to go prendre un … a natural, observable verre now? occurrence among people of all ages who speak more than one language. … one indicator of whether a person is bilingual. … is the norm for many bilinguals. Code-switching indicates language skill 10 “There is a widespread impression that bilingual speakers codeswitch because they cannot express themselves adequately in one language. This may be true to some extent when a bilingual is momentarily lost for words in one of his or her languages. However, code-switching is an extremely common practice among bilinguals and takes many different forms…. It has been demonstrated that code-switching involves skilled manipulation of overlapping sections of two (or more) grammars, and that there is virtually no instance of ungrammatical combination of the two languages in code-switching, regardless of the bilingual ability of the speaker.” (Wei, 2000, p. 16-17) Bilingualism as a dynamic system 11 Cook’s notion of multicompetence has served to frame recent research on multilingualism: “The multicompetence approach allows us to theorize the interaction between multiple languages in the speaker’s mind as a natural and ongoing process and to understand why multilinguals may perform differently from monolinguals in all of their languages, including the L1.” (Jarvis & Pavlenko, 2008, p.17) Bilingualism as a dynamic system 12 Bilingualism is something a person does with both the first and second languages. A bilingual person is not two monolinguals in one body but rather a single speaker-hearer with a unique and complete linguistic system. (Grosjean, 1997/2000, 2001) A Dynamic Systems Theory (DST) view offers new ways of thinking about the terms monolingual, bilingual, and multilingual. Rather than considering them each as distinct descriptions with particular sets of attributes, they become variants of one language system. (de Bot, 2008; de Bot, Verspoor, & Lowie, 2007; Cook 2003; Herdina & Jessner, 2002; Jarvis & Pavlenko ,2008) The native speaker “problem” 13 Second language use is not comparable to native-like speech. Cook notes that “few second language users can pass for native speakers; their grammar, their accent, their vocabulary give away that they are non-native speakers, even after many years of learning the language or many decades of living in a country” (2000, p. 5). His sense that most people are unable to achieve full mastery of a second language is supported by research in neuro-linguistics. The native speaker “problem” 14 “Given that maturation has [a] strong influence on second language acquisition, it should come as no surprise that native-like proficiency in a second language is unattainable. More surprising … are the miraculous levels of proficiency that second language learners (at all ages) in fact can reach, despite the constraints that are imposed by our biological scheduling.” (Hyltenstam & Abrahamsson, 2003, p. 578) The native speaker “problem” 15 “In recent times, the identity as well as the authority of the native speaker have been put into question. The ‘native speaker’ of linguists and language teachers is in fact an abstraction based on arbitrarily selected features of pronunciation, grammar and lexicon, as well as on stereotypical features of appearance and demeanor.... The native speaker is, moreover, a monolingual, monocultural abstraction: he/she is one who speaks only his/her (standardized) native tongue and lives by one (standardized) national culture. In reality, most people partake of various languages or language varieties and live by various cultures and subcultures.” (Kramsch, 1998, pp. 79-80) The L2 user 16 Cook proposed the term “L2 user” to describe a unique, individual speaker-hearer of a target language who stands in stark contrast to an idealized native speaker. In his view, the L2 user … uses a language other than his or her first language (L1). exploits whatever linguistic resources he or she has for real-life purposes, such as reporting symptoms to a doctor, negotiating a contract, or reading a poem. refers to a person who uses a second language at any level, however small or ineffective. L2 use = a paradigm shift 17 Defining pedagogical goals in terms of L2 use requires that we rethink … the native speaker standard. our ideas about L1 and L2 use in the classroom. our goals for lower-level vs. upper-level language students. multicompetent L2 learner Promoting multicompetent L2 learners 18 1. Eliminate a native-speaker standard. Promoting multicompetent L2 learners 19 2. Establish a pedagogically coherent understanding of L2 use that is founded on literacy. “What I mean by “literacy,” then, is more than reading and writing as skills or as prescribed patterns of thinking. It is about relationships between readers, writers, texts, culture, and language learning. It is about the variable cognitive and social practices of taking and making textual meaning that provide students access to new communities outside the classroom, across geographical and historical boundaries. It involves an awareness of how acts of reading, writing, and conversation create and shape meanings, not merely transfer them from one individual or group to another. It is precisely because literacy is not monolithic, but variable and multiple, tied to the various sociocultural practices of a given society, that is of key importance in our teaching of language and culture .” (Kern 2003, p. 3). Promoting multicompetent L2 learners 20 3. Design learning goals that are based on the notion of a multicompetent L2 learner. Traditional learning goals 21 GOALS APPROACH OUTCOME 1. Proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, writing 1. Target-language input 1. Good language learners identified 2. Interaction about topics of personal interest related to everyday life 2. 20% of students continue study of target language 2. Grammatical competence 3. Knowledge about target culture(s) 3. Focus on sentence grammar 4. Discussion of culture in target language 3. Rapid attrition of grammatical knowledge and verbal skills 4. Sense of self as deficient language learner Goals for promoting multicompetent L2 learners 22 GOALS APPROACH OUTCOME 1. Growing ability to read 1. Target-language input 1. All learners identified as (oral and written) L2 users at some level and interpret a variety of representing diverse target language texts genres 2. 50% of students continue (oral and written) as well study of target language as pertinent texts in 2. Interaction in both target English language and English 3. Maintenance of reading / interpretive abilities 2. Developing awareness of bilingualism and L2 use 3. Focus on words and utterances in oral and 4. Sense of self as L2 user written texts 3. Increasing sensitivity to the ways “culture” is expressed and perceived 4. Discussion of bilingualism and second language in texts development The multicompetent L2 learner … 23 recognizes acceptable uses of English (L1) in the classroom. familiarizes him/herself with features of bilingual and multilingual language use, such as code-switching, and other cross-linguistic phenomena. articulates ways that his/her multilingual identity is evolving. seeks out appropriate target-language texts (oral and written) that contribute to classroom discussion. reflects critically about oral and written target-language texts. asks increasingly informed questions about the target language and culture. exhibits traits of a multilingual, multi-cultural citizen, such as appreciation of diversity, tolerance for ambiguity, awareness of human rights issues, etc. (Scott 2010, p. 163) Suggested reading 24 Cook, V. (2002). Background to the L2 user. In Cook, V. (Ed.), Portraits of the L2 user (pp. 1-28). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. Herdina, P., & Jessner, U. (2002). A dynamic model of multilingualism: Perspectives of change in psycholinguistics. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. Jarvis, S., & Pavlenko, A. (2008). Crosslinguistic influence in language and cognition. New York, NY: Routledge. Kern, R. G. (2003). Literacy and advanced foreign language learning: Rethinking the curriculum. In H. Byrnes & H. H. Maxim (Eds.), Advanced foreign language learning: A challenge to college programs (pp. 2-18). AAUSC Issues in Language Program Direction. Boston, MA: Heinle. Kramsch, C. (2006). From communicative competence to symbolic competence. The Modern Language Journal, 90, 249-252. Scott, V. M. (2010). Double talk: Deconstructing monolingualism in classroom second language learning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Swaffar, J., & Arens, K. (2005). Remapping the foreign language curriculum: An approach through multiple literacies. New York, NY: The Modern Language Association.
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