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Exploring the role of modality: L2-heritage learner interactions in the Spanish language classroom


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Title: Exploring the role of modality: L2-heritage learner interactions in the Spanish language classroom

Exploring the role of modality L2-heritage
learner interactions in the Spanish language
  • Melissa A. Bowles
  • bowlesm_at_illinois.edu
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Summer Heritage Language Research Institute June
    22-26, 2009

1. Theoretical background
  • Interaction Hypothesis (Long, 1996)
    conversational interaction facilitates L2
  • Claims consistently supported by SLA research
  • Both short-term and long-term gains from
    conversational interaction with native speakers
    (Mackey Goo, 2007)

2. Learner-learner interactions
  • Most studies have examined benefits for NS-NNS
    interactions, but what about foreign language
  • NNS-NNS interactions far more frequent than
    NS-NNS due to student/teacher ratio
  • Many opportunities also occur in NNS-NNS
    interactions (Adams, 2007 García-Mayo Pica,
    2000 Gass Varonis, 1985 Mackey, Oliver,
    Leeman, 2003 Pica, Lincoln-Porter, Paninos,
    Linnell, 1996)

  • Specifically, learners provide each other
  • comprehensible input
  • opportunities to negotiate for meaning
  • opportunities to produce modified output

Differences between NS-NNS and NNS-NNS
  • But NNS-NNS and NS-NNS interactions are not equal
    in all ways
  • (-) Learners do not always provide each other
    targetlike input (errors) (Adams, 2007)
  • () Learners produce more output with NNS than
    with NS (Adams, 2007 Pica et al., 1996)

  • Negotiation between learners more variable than
    with NS
  • Deals with lexicon more frequently than
    morphosyntax (Buckwalter, 2001 García-Mayo
    Pica, 2000 Williams, 1999)
  • Less consistent provision of feedback than in
    teacher-student interactions (Toth, 2008)

3. Language-related episodes (LREs)
  • One benefit of interaction is that it
  • provides learners an opportunity to attend to
    issues of linguistic form while engaging in
    meaningful communication
  • Occasions when learners attend to form during
    interaction are referred to as form-focused
    episodes (FFEs) or language-related episodes

  • LREs defined
  • all interaction in which learners draw attention
    to form, that is, those that focus on form in the
    context of meaningful interaction as well as
    those that are set apart from such communication
    and simply revolve around questions of form
    itself (Williams, 1999 595)

Frequency/occurrence of LREs
  • LREs occur frequently in classroom contexts
    (Ellis, Basturkmen, Loewen, 2001a, 2001b
    Loewen, 2003, 2004 Swain Lapkin, 1998, 2001,
    2002 Williams, 1999, 2001) and are investigated
    as a site where L2 learning/development can occur

Instructional context
  • Spanish language classrooms in the US
  • Historically instruction focused on
    monolingually-raised English speakers (Valdés,
  • Currently most Spanish foreign language classes
    enroll both L1 English speakers and heritage
    speakers of Spanish

  • A heritage learner is
  • a student who is raised in a home where a
    non-English language is spoken, who speaks or
    merely understands the heritage language, and who
    is to some degree bilingual in English and the
    heritage language (Valdés, 2001 1).

  • Heritage learners do not comprise a homogenous
    group (Kanno, Hasegawa, Ikeda, Ito Long, 2008)
  • Range of abilities in English and in Spanish
  • Emphasis on the importance of describing the
    characteristics of this sample of learners

Linguistic profile of heritage learners
  • Phonetic advantage over L2 learners even the
    least proficient speakers are often perceived to
    have a native-like accent (Polinsky Kagan,

  • Grammatical competence
  • Incomplete acquisition of some aspects of
  • Gender agreement (Montrul, Foote, Perpiñán,
    2008 Polinsky, 2006)
  • Tense/aspect/mood (Lynch, 1999 Montrul, 2002,
    2007 Pereltsvaig, 2008 Polinsky, 1997, 2006
    Silva-Corvalán, 1994)
  • Differential Object Marking (Montrul Bowles,
  • Many gaps in heritage learners morphosyntactic
    knowledge are also problem areas for L2 learners
    of Spanish (Montrul, Foote, Perpiñán, 2008)

  • Despite calls for special Spanish for Native
    Speaker classes, only 18 of colleges have
    separate tracks for L2 and heritage learners
    (Ingold, Rivers, Tesser, Ashby, 2002)
  • SoIn the majority of cases, L2 and heritage
    learners are enrolled in the same classes

  • Despite this instructional reality, just one
    study on paired interactions of L2-HL learners
    exists (Blake Zyzik, 2003)
  • Examined chat-based interactions of 11 HL-L2
    pairs engaged in a jigsaw task
  • Laboratory-based study with learners at all
    different proficiency levels who did not know
    each other prior to study

  • Descriptive in nature (no inferential statistics)
  • HL learners assisted partners more than the
    reverse greater linguistic benefits for L2
  • HL learners did report benefiting from
    interacting with L2 learners, where they served
    as a respected source of information

Study Goals
  • To explore the interactions of mixed L2-HL pairs
    in Spanish language classrooms using the
    framework of the Interaction Hypothesis
  • Are the benefits one-sided in these mixed

Research Questions
  • Do language-related episodes occur in L2-HL
  • If such opportunities do occur,
  • 1. Does one learner (L2 or HL) initiate more LREs
    than the other?
  • 2. Does one learners (L2 or HL) LREs get
    resolved more often than the others?
  • 3. Does one learners (L2 or HL) LREs get
    resolved in a more targetlike way than the

  • 24 learners enrolled in an intermediate-level
    (fifth-semester) Spanish class at a large
    Midwestern US public university
  • Second-language learners (N12)
  • Monolingually-raised English speakers born in the
  • Did not have Spanish language instruction until
    high school or college
  • Heritage language learners (N12)
  • Bilingually-raised Spanish/English speakers born
    in the US
  • Had at least one parent from a Spanish-speaking
  • Reported speaking both Spanish and English at
    home growing up
  • English-dominant at present, but all reported
    that they continued to interact with at least one
    family member in Spanish on a regular basis

Distribution of learners into pairs
  • None of the participants had ever been enrolled
    in bilingual education or dual-immersion courses
  • All had been placed into the fifth-semester class
    for the study by
  • a) Score on a university-administered placement
    test OR
  • b) Progression through the course sequence

While looking at only one drawing each, the
partners must describe their pictures to each
other and determine the similarities and
differences between them Learner A
Learner B
Coding scheme
  • All LREs identified and coded according to
  • Which learner initiated the focus on form
  • L2, HL
  • Linguistic focus
  • Grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation
  • Resolution
  • Resolved, unresolved
  • Targetlikeness of resolved LREs
  • More targetlike (if the outcome of the LRE was
    more targetlike than the trigger),
  • Less targetlike (if the outcome of the LRE was
    equally as non-targetlike or less targetlike than
    the trigger

  • All data coded by 2 raters until 100 agreement
    was reached

  • Do language-related episodes occur in L2-HL
  • 62 total LREs
  • Mean 5.16 LREs per dyad
  • Range 1-13 per dyad

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  • Does one learner (L2 or HL) initiate more
    language-related episodes than the other?

t(11).638, p.536
  • 2. Does one learners (L2 or HL) language-related
    episodes get resolved more often than the
  • Each LRE was tallied based on which learner
    initiated it (HL or L2) and based on whether it
    was resolved or unresolved
  • 2x2 contingency table produced

LRE Initiator LRE Initiator
HL n L2 n Total (n)
LRE Resolution
Resolved 28 (82) 28 (100) 56
Unresolved 6 (18) 0 (0) 6
  • Because one cell had a frequency of lt 5, a
    Fishers exact test was used instead of a Chi
  • Results showed that L2 learners LREs were indeed
    resolved significantly more often than those of
    HL learners (p0.022)
  • Effect size was moderate (Cramers V 0.297)

  • 3. Does one learners (L2 or HL)
    language-related episodes get resolved in a
    more targetlike way than the others?
  • Resolved LREs (N51) were examined in detail

LRE Initiator LRE Initiator
HL n L2 n Total (n)
Nature of LRE Resolution
More targetlike 17 (68) 24 (92) 41
Less targetlike 8 (32) 2 (8) 10
  • Fishers exact test used instead of a Chi square
  • Results showed that L2 learners LREs were
    resolved in a more targetlike way significantly
    more often than those of HL learners (p0.038)
  • Effect size was moderate (Cramers V 0.306)

  • Learners did focus on form in the two-way
    information gap task
  • L2 and HL learners initiated a similar number of
  • Suggests that one type of learner did not
    dominate the task, although there were
    differences between L2 and HL learners

  • LREs initiated by L2 learners were resolved more
    often and in a more targetlike way than those
    initiated by HL learners.
  • HL learners in the mixed L2-HL pairs in the
    intermediate Spanish class in this study were
    less likely to have their language-related issues

  • Even when they were resolved, the resolution was
    more likely to be less targetlike than
    resolutions of LREs initiated by L2 learners

Vocabulary-focused LREs
  • A closer examination reveals that L2 learners may
    have benefited more because they were largely
    unfamiliar with the lexical set, whereas their HL
    interlocutors were more familiar with these
    home-related vocabulary words.

An HL learner providing a targetlike word for the
L2 learners circumlocution
  • L2 Uh, en mi cocina, tengo una tapa para uh,el
    café uh, en la alacena derecha.
  • Uh, in my kitchen, I have a cover for,
    uh, coffee, on the right-hand counter.
  • HL Perdón, qué?
  • Excuse me, what?
  • L2 Una, para café, para beber café, una
  • A, for coffee, to drink coffee, a
  • HL Una taza?
  • A mug?
  • L2 Sí.
  • Yes.

  • But HL learners did sometimes benefit from their
    L2 partners
  • Benefits not entirely one-sided, even for
    vocabulary-focused LREs on this lexical set

An HL learner providing a word for an L2 learner
  • HL No, no la tengo. No tengo una cuchara.
    Tienes, eh, una cubeta junto al refrigerador?
  • No, I do not have it. I have a spoon. Do you
    have, uh, a bucket next to the refrigerator?
  • L2 No sé qué es cubeta.
  • I dont know what bucket means.
  • HL Una, unaes para limpiar.
  • A, ait is for cleaning.
  • L2 Para limpiar el piso?
  • To clean the floor?
  • HL Sí.
  • Yes.
  • L2 Como una escoba, para?
  • Like a broom, to?
  • HL No, no laughs. Una
  • No, no. A
  • L2 Cómo se llama? Otra palabra?
  • What is it called? Another word?

  • HL Cubeta?
  • Bucket?
  • L2 Qué es? Para qué se usa?
  • What is it? What is it used for?
  • HL xxx qué es?
  • xxx what it is?
  • L2 Yo no sé qué es.
  • I do not know what it is.
  • HL Es algo para poner el agua. El agua, pones
    el agua y para
  • It is something to put water in. Water, you
    put water and to
  • L2 Y hielo?
  • And ice?
  • HL No.
  • No.
  • L2 Oh! La cosa que una persona trae para con
    agua para limpiar.
  • Oh! The thing that a person brings towith
    water to clean.

The same pairwith the L2 learner providing a
word for the HL learner
  • HL Eh, tienes una, una cosa cerca del
    fregadero? Eh, parece una cosa para limpiar. No
    es una toalla. No es un paño.
  • Uh, do you have a, a thing near the sink? Uh,
    it looks like a thing for cleaning. It is not a
    towel. It is not a cloth.
  • L2 Es esponja? Esponja?
  • Is it a sponge? Sponge?
  • HL Yo no sé cómo se llama.
  • I do not know what it is called.
  • L2 Sí, es una esponja. No, no la tengo.
  • Yes, it is a sponge. No, I do not have it.

Grammar- and pronunciation-focused LREs
LRE Initiator LRE Initiator
HL n L2 n Total (n)
LRE Focus
Grammar 3 (50) 3 (50) 6
Pronunciation 5 (100) 0 (0) 5
  • Not enough tokens of grammar- or
    pronunciation-focused LREs for statistical
  • But there are trends that emerge
  • Pronunciation LREs were (exclusively) initiated
    by HL learners when they had trouble
    understanding the message of L2 learners
  • L2 learners never initiated pronunciation-focused

An HL learner initiating a pronunciation-focused
  • HL Ah, sí. Qué más? Qué más?
  • Ah, yes. What else? What else?
  • L2 Ok. Tienes el juego? wé?o
  • OK. Do you have the game/set?
  • HL Cuál juego? Oh, el jugo. xú?o
  • Which game? Oh, the juice.
  • L2 Jugo.
  • Juice.
  • HL Oh, es leche. Es leche o jugo? No sé. No
    tengo jugo o leche o lo que sea.
  • Oh, its milk. Is it milk or juice? I dont
    know. I dont have juice or milk or whatever.

  • None of the pronunciation-focused LREs were
    initiated by L2 learners because L2 learners did
    not question the pronunciation of the HL
    learners, nor did they ask the HL learners how to
    pronounce any lexical items.
  • The pronunciation-focused LREs had one-sided
    benefits, for the L2 learners, who were the ones
    demonstrating pronunciation difficulties.
  • Not unexpected, given clear advantage in
    pronunciation ability for HL learners compared to
    L2 learners.

  • Mutual benefits for the grammar-focused LREs,
    half of which were initiated by L2 and half by HL
  • HL Está más cerca a el
  • It is closer to the
  • L2 al
  • to the
  • HL fregadero?
  • sink

  • Just 6 examples in the dataset, but combined with
    research showing some shared morphosyntactic
    deficiencies between L2 and HL learners (Montrul,
    Foote, Perpiñán, 2008) it seems that grammar
    may be an area where both groups benefit.
  • Differentiated instruction (Carreira, this

  • Mutual benefit when grammar issues arise
    incidentally (as in this study) or when
    grammatical features are task-essential, or
  • Inherent difficulty in creating such tasks

  • Classroom study (small n size but ecologically
  • Task focused on home vocabulary may have biased
    results in favor of HL learners

  • Only linguistic benefits addressed, but what
    about affective factors, such as self- and

  • After completing the task, both partners
    completed a perception questionnaire
  • Likert-scale questionnaire with 25 questions on
    self- and partner perceptions

Examples from the questionnaire
  • strongly disagree disagree
    somewhat disagree somewhat agree agree
    strongly agree
  • Negative partner perception
  • 1. I found working with my partner unpleasant.
  • 1 2 3 4
    5 6
  • Positive partner perception
  • 2. I enjoyed working with my partner.
  • 1 2 3
    4 5 6
  • Positive self-perception
  • 3. I felt that I could perform the task in
  • 1 2 3
    4 5 6
  • Negative self-perception
  • 4. I didnt feel confident about my ability in
  • 1 2 3
    4 5 6

Neutral feelings about their own ability
Disagree/strongly disagree with negative beliefs
about partner
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  • Students questionnaire responses indicate that
    both interlocutors perceived benefits from the
  • Self-selected group since students paired

What about modality?
  • Ongoing data collection including both oral and
    written tasks
  • Oral Spot-the-differences task
  • Written
  • Crossword puzzle task
  • Cloze and complete the story task

(Very) Preliminary findings
  • Laboratory-based study
  • Learners paired based on proficiency (measured by
    DELE cloze)
  • Data on the three tasks collected from 1 L2-HL
    pair so far
  • 11 LREs

(No Transcript)
Typical spelling LRE
L2 Dos años después la vio otra vez en la biblioteca, o algo así
HL Two years later he saw her again in the library, or something like that OK (writing) dos años
L2 OK(writing) two years Oh, dos semanas! No dos años! Perdón! Oh, two weeks! Not two years! Excuse me!
HL Dos semanas despuésdespués lleva acento?
L2 Two weeks laterdoes later have an accent? Sí Yes
HL Sobre la 'e'? On the e?

  • More research is needed to determine how best to
    instruct all students in mixed classes
  • Pairing students differently based on modality
    seems promising
  • HL learners can help L2 learners in oral tasks
    and L2 learners can use their metalinguistic (and
    written) knowledge to help HL learners in written
  • But what about learning outcomes?

  • Stay tunedindividualized post-testing is part of
    the ongoing data collection!

  • UIUC Campus Research Board (Award 08166)
  • Florencia Henshaw (UIUC)
  • Silvina Montrul (UIUC)
  • Kim Potowski (UIC)
  • Paul D. Toth (Temple University)
  • Rebecca Adams (University of Auckland)
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