Learning to give and respond to peer-feedback in the L2
the case of EFL criticisms and responses to criticism
Nguyen Thi Thuy Minh
Vietnam National University
Interlanguage pragmatics research has contributed a great deal to our understanding of L2 pragmatic use but less to our understanding of L2 pragmatic development, although developmental issues are also its primary research goal. Additionally, previous studies have been confined to a rather small set of speech acts, under-researching such face-damaging acts as criticizing and responding to criticism even though these may be more challenging for L2 learners.
The study reported in this book examines pragmatic development in the use of criticizing and responding to criticism by a group of Vietnamese EFL learners with a view to shedding light on the pragmatic properties of these speech acts. IL data were collected from 12 high beginners, 12 intermediate learners, and 12 advanced learners, via a written questionnaire and a conversation elicitation task, and analyzed with reference to L1 and L2 baseline data collected from 12 Vietnamese and 12 Australian NSs via the same methods. Metapragmatic data were collected via retrospective interview.
The following findings have been discussed in the book:
1. Criticizing and responding to criticism are complex speech acts, which should be described as speech act sets rather than single speech acts and which need to be frequently mitigated in order to maintain harmony between interlocutors. The complexity of these speech acts poses a lot of difficulty to learners, including those with a high level of grammatical competence.
2. While adult learners enjoy a fair amount of universal pragmatic knowledge for free (Kasper, 1992), learning new pragmatic knowledge is still a major task for them when acquiring L2 pragmatics. So is the task of developing a control over attention to this knowledge.
3. Learning environments may play a more important role than we would have expected. EFL learning environments do not seem to facilitate L2 pragmatic development, especially in the case of challenging tasks such as criticizing and responding to criticism, given the learners’ little exposure to the target norms. Classroom discourse, which is biased towards unequal social role relationships (Ellis, 1992; Kasper, 1997), tends to contribute to making the task of learning L2 pragmatics almost impossible in the EFL context.
4. The acquisitional order of modifiers seems to depend on their structural complexity and the degree of cognitive demand involved in producing them as claimed by Meisel et al (1981). Learners seem to attend to external modifiers more than to internal modifiers as the latter contribute only minimal propositional meaning to the speech acts. They also seem to have less difficulty with external modifiers as these are often realized in separate constituents, not as an integral part of the speech acts, and thus do not increase the structural complexity of the speech acts (Hassal, 2001).
5. The relationship between proficiency and transfer may not be a linear one. Also, as hypothesized by Kellerman (1983), learners play an active role in transferring: they do have their own perceptions of what is transferable and what is non-transferable and act accordingly.
Nguyen Thi Thuy Minh has a B.A from Vietnam National University, Hanoi, M.Ed (TESOL) from Queensland University of Technology, Australia, and Ph.D in Language Learning and Teaching from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She is currently lecturing in Applied Linguistics courses at Vietnam National University, Hanoi.
ISBN 9783895863943. LINCOM Studies in Language Acquisition 21. 363pp. 2007. 2nd edition.