Positive Risk Taking - Essays - Leahkirby

Topics: Second language acquisition, Language acquisition, Linguistics Pages: 16 (6857 words) Published: May 13, 2014
Revista de Lenguas Modernas, N° 19, 2013 / 421-435 / ISSN: 1659-1933

The Role of Risk-Taking Behavior
in the Development of Speaking
Skills in ESL Classrooms
Irene Marín Cervantes

Escuela de Lenguas Modernas
Universidad de Costa Rica

Abstract
This essay presents an overview of different perspectives of the risk-taking construct in the development of speaking skills in the second language classroom. Its main purpose is to examine the role of risk taking in the acquisition of a foreign or second language and the improvement of oral proficiency. The first section introduces the concept of risk taking from markedly different perspectives of several authors. The second section focuses on the particular traits that characterize risk takers in the language learning scenario. The third section explains the distinctive variables, namely, situational, social and individual, which are responsible for differences in risk-taking levels. The last section compares and contrasts the high and low use of risk-taking behaviors which leads to a final discussion and reflection on some pedagogical issues concerning risk taking in the second language classroom.

Key words: risk taking, language learning, language acquisition, speaking skills Resumen
Este ensayo hace un análisis de la toma de riesgos en el desarrollo de las destrezas orales en las clases de inglés. Se examina el papel que juega este factor en la adquisición de una segunda lengua y se describen las características de los estudiantes que asumen riesgos en la clase y las de aquellos que los evitan. Se comparan los dos tipos de estudiantes y se discuten las implicaciones pedagógicas de esta comparación para el beneficio de profesores y estudiantes de una segunda lengua. Palabras claves: riesgos, aprendizaje de una lengua, adquisición de una segunda lengua, destrezas orales

Recepción: 2-10-13

Aceptación: 23-10-13

422

Revista de Lenguas Modernas, N° 19, 2013 / 421-435 / ISSN: 1659-1933

Introduction

T

he study of second language learning has been the subject of considerable exploration for many years. Several theorists have tried to explain the human ability to learn a second language and all the factors that may facilitate or hinder this learning (Benson & Gao, 2008; Dewaele, 2012; Dörnyei, 2005). Certainly, the process of acquiring a second language has to be understood as both a process of learning rules and one in which several individual differences come into play. The environmental conditions, age, attitude towards the target language and learning itself, neuroticism, motivation as well as extroversion are common examples of individual differences worth studying when helping students learn a second language.

In addition to the ones mentioned, learners’ ability to take risks appears as an important individual difference, which has been considered a predictor variable of success in second language learning (Gass & Selinker, 2008). Thus, this essay intends to determine if risk-taking behaviors facilitate second language acquisition and help learners improve their oral proficiency. Basically, risk-taking behavior refers to a “developmental trait that consists of moving toward something without thinking of the consequences” (Alshalabi, 2003, p. 22). Language learners, then, engage in the act of taking risks simply by learning a second language because they are changing established linguistic patterns for other unfamiliar ones, which involves a game of “having a go” (Gledhill & Morgan, 2000, n.p). Similarly, to communicate using the new language, either orally or in writing, and to venture into linguistic tasks where the outcome is unknown challenge students as well. Risk taking may entail impulsiveness and keep a correlation with extroversion, introversion, and self-confidence among others. In terms of skills, most of the literature regarding risk taking has focused on speaking rather on the other macro skills (writing, listening, and reading). Oral...

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