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PhD ceremony Ms. N.T.P. Hong: A dynamic usage-based approach to second language teaching

When:Mo 02-12-2013 at 16:15
Where:Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

PhD ceremony: Ms. N.T.P. Hong

Dissertation: A dynamic usage-based approach to second language teaching

Promotor(s): prof. C.L.J. de Bot, prof. M.H. Verspoor

Faculty: Arts

A dynamic usage based (DUB) approach to second language teaching holds that language learning is a dynamic process in which all relevant factors to language learning dynamically interact over time. Assuming that meaning is central, that lexicon and grammar form a continuum, and that grammar subserves meaning, the approach focuses on the meaning of all forms in the continuum. Moreover, Langacker (2008: 81) points out that mastering a language requires the specific, usage-based learning of a vast array of conventional units, which calls for frequent exposure to such units. Ideally this exposure should occur in meaningful context exchanges, approximating socially and culturally normal usage events. Moreover, as Ellis (2002) amongst others points out, frequency of input is the main contributor to the language acquisition process.

Taking these DUB principles of meaningfulness and frequency of input in mind, Nguyen Hong developed a teaching program for Vietnamese learners of English at university based on a popular movie. The movie scenes - which are “socially and culturally normal usage events” - were shown over and over again, until students understood the meaning. The emphasis was on frequent exposure to and comprehension of the usage events.

Hong compared the DUB approach to a communicative language teaching (CLT) approach at a university in Vietnam. The experiment involved two groups: three control classes (CLT) and four experimental classes (DUB). The question was which group progressed more in general English proficiency, the use of formulaic chunks, willingness to communicate (WTC), and self-confidence (SC). The groups were pre and post tested on a general English proficiency test consisting of vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, cloze, conversation matching, reading, listening, and writing. The results show that after one semester (12-15 weeks), the experimental group significantly outperformed the control group on general proficiency and SC. Both groups had equal gains in terms of WTC and chunks.