Online Communities of Practice and Second Language Phonological Acquisition

Online Communities of Practice and Second Language Phonological Acquisition

Gillian Lord, Stasie Harrington
DOI: 10.4018/ijcallt.2013070103
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Second language (L2) researchers have long recognized the potential benefits of incorporating pronunciation instruction in language curricula (e.g., Arteaga, 2000; Castino, 1996; Elliott, 1995, 1997; González-Bueno, 1997; Lord, 2005; Major, 1998; Moyer, 1999; Terrell, 1989; among others), and have investigated a variety of training types both in and out of the classroom, meeting with mixed successes. Likewise, technological advances provide educators with new tools that foster collaboration among learners and encourage the crucial processes of input, interaction and output (Long, 1996; Pica, 1994; Swain, 1985) beyond the walls of the classroom. The present study examines the potential of one such tool – podcasting – to create a community of practice for language learners to improve their second language phonological production (following Lord, 2008; see also Ducate & Lomicka, 2009). Although the results offer inconsistent evidence in favor of specific acoustic and articulatory improvements, the benefits of podcasting for such purposes are discussed.
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Main Premises And Previous Work

As a basic assumption we maintain that the process of L2 acquisition depends on ample input, opportunities for interaction1 and the push to produce output (Long, 1996; Pica, 1994; Swain, 1985). At the same time, it has also been shown through the Noticing Hypothesis (Schmidt, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995; Schmidt & Frota, 1986; Swain & Lapkin, 1995) that learners must notice certain features in the input in order for those features to be acquired. In other words, input alone is insufficient to assume acquisition; only input that is consciously noticed can become intake for acquisition. Whereas Schmidt’s hypothesis maintains that noticing is a required condition for L2 acquisition, other researchers favor a weaker version of the hypothesis that claims that noticing is helpful but perhaps not always necessary (see, for example, Schmidt, 2010; Truscott, 1998; Schmidt, 2010).

While Schmidt and colleagues referred primarily to morphosyntactic features of language in this hypothesis, we maintain here that the acquisition of L2 sound systems is another area in which noticing is, if not necessary, at the very least beneficial. As will be seen below, for learners to acquire sounds that are different from the sounds in their first language (L1) or that do not exist in their L1, they must first be aware that such sounds exist and become conscious of their occurrence in speech.

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