The Removal of Target Language Captioning Supports

The Removal of Target Language Captioning Supports

Aubrey Neil Leveridge (University of British Columbia, Canada)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8499-7.ch004
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This chapter discusses captioning support in second language instruction and its subsequent removal. Prior research has focused on the addition of captions, viewing captioning support as similar to other types of supports. However, captioning is unlike other instructional supports in that it provides an alternative route from which to gather complete comprehension, in turn fostering learner reliance on the support. Accordingly, this chapter argues that the removal of this support may negatively affect learners. The current paper reports on an empirical study that gathered learner perceptions regarding caption reliance, caption addition and removal. The data reveals that perceptions are affected by learner proficiency. A framework was created to assist language instructors and course developers to make informed choices regarding the addition and removal of captioning support.
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For many second language learners, listening in the target language is a “…grave challenge” (Yang & Chang, 2014, p. 44). To address this challenge, instructional support has been widely discussed as a strategy to optimize student learning experiences (Leveridge & Yang, 2014). Optimal learning experiences facilitate the reaching of instructional objectives. One particular objective of second/foreign language (L2) instruction is communication without the need of learning supports. Thus, the provision of appropriate learning supports that assist the realization of this goal is one of the main challenges in L2 instruction. This is particularly true regarding the instruction of L2 listening comprehension, as listening comprehension is essentially the product of many intertwined complex cognitive processes (Meinardi, 2009; Goh & Taib, 2006; Wipf, 1984). Instructional classes that focus on target language listening are often found most difficult as:

  • 1.

    The target language emerges as a continual auditory stream of non-distinct words (Diao, Chandler, & Sweller, 2007; Chang, Tseng, & Tseng, 2011);

  • 2.

    Sentences are devoid of explicit punctuation symbols which are present in written text (Leveridge & Yang, 2014; Yang & Chang, 2014); and

  • 3.

    References for unfamiliar words are normally not available (Chen, 2011; Krashen, 1981).

Such difficulties may be attended to with the addition of supports facilitated by multimedia. Multimedia enables various combinations of different audio and textual signals, such as:

  • 1.

    Subtitling: consisting of L2 audio with the text in the learner’s native language (L1) (Yang, 2014).

  • 2.

    Captioning: L2 audio with L2 text (Danan, 2014).

  • 3.

    Reversed subtitles: L1 audio with L2 text (Montero Perez, Van Den Noortgate, Desmet, 2013).

  • 4.

    Bilingual: L2 audio with concurrent L2 and L1 text (Chiu, Hsieh, Lee, Chang, Wang, 2012).

  • 5.

    Bilingual Reversed: L1 audio with concurrent L1 and L2 text (Winke, Gass, & Sydorenco, 2010).

  • 6.

    No Subtitling: L2 audio without text.

Of the aforementioned combinations, one often used multimedia support for instruction of L2 listening is captioning, described as visual text that matches the target language auditory signal verbatim (Leveridge & Yang, 2013; Montero Perez, Peters, & Desmet, 2014). Captioning is a valuable support as it addresses the aforementioned problems while enabling listening texts to become comprehensible input. Comprehensible input is a requirement of the cognitive load theory, which “places a primary emphasis on working memory capacity limitations as a factor in instructional design” and suggests that “too many elements of information may overwhelm working memory, decreasing the effectiveness of instruction” (Kalyuga, 2000, p. 161; Sweller, 1999). Language learners have limited processing capacity, thus proper allocation of cognitive information is critical to learning (Kalyuga, 2000, p. 161; Hedberg et al., 1993; Sweller, 1999). The provision of appropriate captioning support at suitable stages with learners at appropriate proficiency levels can ensure this. As learners advance and overcome such problems, captioning supports are removed, in turn enabling learners to realize the ultimate goal of non-supported communication in the target language.

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