Input, Intake, and Output in One-Way Drawing Task
By Yan Lin
It is agreed that input plays a critical role in language acquisition thus researchers have done many studies on input. Without input the learner has nothing. But the question is what kind, form and amount of input is most useful for the language learners. Krashen (1980) has argued that the input given to the learners has to be comprehensible for acquisition to happen. He defined it as input which is slightly beyond the learner's current knowledge level (in his term I+1). Swain (1985) explained that comprehensible input means that "language directed to the learners that contains some new element in it but this is nevertheless understood by the learner because of linguistic, paralinguistic, or situational cues, or world knowledge backup." (p.245). She further argued that although comprehensible input is crucial in language acquisition, it does not ensure that the learner could produce native-like output. Her findings (1985) showed that even after years of comprehensible input, students in immersion classrooms still lagged behind native speaking peers. She contended that comprehensible output is a necessary mechanism in language acquisition. Comprehensible output provides opportunities for contextualized, meaningful language use, which allows students to "move from semantic analysis of the language to a syntactic analysis of it." (p.252) Long (1983), Varonis and Gass (1985), and others have suggested that it is not input per se that is important to second language acquisition but input which the learners get in interaction where meaning is negotiated. When meaning is negotiated the learner not only has to delivery the meaning but also tries to convey it precisely, coherently, and appropriately. In NS-NNS (native speaker-nonnative speaker) interaction usually the native speaker has to simplify, paraphrase the linguistic input, thereby making the input more comprehensible. People who have dealt with language learners have recognized that all input does not have the same impact on the learner. Some input can be taken in almost immediately and directly into output. This has to do with the linguistic or conversational environment in which the interaction takes place. There are many studies done in this area. In discussion on the importance of conversation, Long (1980) made a distinction between modified input and modified interaction. Modified interaction refers to the modification and reconstruction of the conversational form by the interlocutors in order to make the meaning understood. Other researchers agree that when learners modify their interaction through negotiation the opportunities for L2 learning are increased and enhanced considerably (Pica 1985; Holliday 1991). In favor of the positive function of negotiation, Stevick (1976, 1980, 1981) claimed that "successful communication is dependent on attentiveness and involvement in the discourse by all participants and that it is involvement which facilitates acquisition in that it charges the input, allowing it to penetrate." Gass expressed the similar view (1985) that the input must first be noticed in order to become useful to a learner in helping him/her reconstruct his/her grammar. Negotiation can be viewed as the trigger for acquisition. Researching on the factors that contribute to the creation of opportunities for negotiation and the role of task type in learner conversation, Varonis & Gass (1985) showed that the less shared background knowledge the greater the frequency and complexity of negotiation required. They found that a one-way drawing task required more negotiation than a two-way oral task. Shared knowledge in a two-way task facilitates communication while the lack of shared knowledge in the one-way task led to a greater amount of negotiation. In order to develop the language, the learner has to transfer the input into...
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