Ortega (2009) Chapter 4

The Linguistic Environment


Case Study: Japanese Artist Wes

Discussion Question 1

Class Discussion

Briefly scan Schmidt's case study on Japanese artist Wes (pages 55-57 in Ortega). 

  • Identify the factors which positively contributed to Wes' language development. 
  • Are there any factors that may have negatively impacted Wes' language development? 

Positive & Negative Influences

Factors that POSITIVELY impacted Wes' language

  • Positive attitude toward L2 culture
  • Social disposition
  •  Native-speaking friends, roommate, and colleagues. 
  • Daily engagement in the L2 

Factors that NEGATIVELY impacted Wes' language

  • No formal instruction
  • Elected to emigrate from Japan 

  • L2 not tied to employment

  • Failure to employ learning strategies 


  • Motivation

  • L1 influence

Environmental Influences on L2


Acculturation Model 

The acculturation model asserts that the more acculturated a language learner becomes, the more successful his or her language learning outcomes will be. This model was inspired by a case study of an immigrant worker from Costa Rica who was unable to produce more than basic pidginized English after 18 months in the U.S.  despite individualized instruction. 

Discussion Question 2

Class Discussion

  • Despite Wes' case, do you think a learner's attitude influences their L2 development
  • How much do you encourage your students (or provide opportunities) to minimize the distance between L1 and L2 groups to improve their language development? How about culture shock and low motivation? 


Comprehensible Input Hypothesis 

Krashen asserts that the single most important source of L2 learning is comprehensible input. Comprehensible input is linguistic data produced by competent L2 users that is slightly above the recipient's current proficiency level. 

Discussion Question 3

Class Discussion

If we know that comprehensible input is necessary for L2 language learning but not sufficient on its own, what might this mean for our education system, in particular in mainstream classrooms?

12 Strategies for Supporting ESL Students in the Mainstream Classroom

7 Easy Ways to Support Student Writing in Any Content Area


Interaction Hypothesis

Michael Long proposes that quality comprehensible input contains interactional modifications, or input that the interlocutors adjust in response to (real or perceived) comprehension issues. Interlocutors negotiate meaning in the following ways:  

  • Clarification requests
  • Confirmation checks
  • Comprehension Checks

These interactional modifications are tailor-made comprehensible input, or as Krashen argues, learner-contingent i+1 input. In other words, the input is at the appropriate level for the learner to understand the message but also challenges the learner.  SLA researchers suggest that this form of input may serve students better than authentic or pre-modified input. 

Discussion Question 4

Class Discussion

Do you think tailor-made comprehensible input is better than unmodified or pre-modified output? What activities might you design for your classroom to encourage this type of input? 


Pushed Output Hypothesis

Swain (1985) proposed the Pushed Output Hypothesis or Comprehensible Output Hypothesis which states that language learners must produce spoken and written language in meaningful ways to acquire and improve performance in the target language. 

According to Swain, comprehensible input requires learners to employ lexical processing to decode a message. However, language learners cannot rely on lexical processing alone to produce the L2. Instead, must engage in syntactic processing to produce the L2 and use its forms correctly.


The Noticing Hypothesis

Schmitt's work with Wes and analysis of his own second language learning resulted in his proposal of the Noticing Hypothesis which claims that learners must notice relevant material in the linguistic data that they receive. This means that the brain must register that there is new material in the linguistic data, even if the new material is not readily understood. Schmitt argues that the more language learners notice, the more that they learn. Thus, Schmitt does not support the claim that comprehensible input is enough for L2 acquisition.

Benefits of Attention

Schmitt asserts that when learners pay attention to linguistic data, they  notice differences in their speech and that of L2 speakers and realize the gaps in what they can express in the L2.


Negotiation of Form

Reflection during interaction 

When linguistic issues arise,  learners may negotiate form with other interlocutors, in particular, learners who study language in a formal context. There are a few items to consider for negotiation of form: 

  • May involve learners using their L1.
  • May not  lead to correct solutions each time. 
  • Meta-reflection and self-regulation processes  occur and foster L2 learning
  • Information-gap tasks produce high level of negotiation compared to conversational tasks

Avoiding Negotiation

The Limits of the Linguistic Environment 

It is important to note that a positive learning environment must be cultivated.  Negotiation of form and meaning may not occur between all interlocutors, for instance, learners may pretend that to comprehend a message to avoid negotiation. A learner may evade negotiation to bypass a lengthy conversation, to appear polite, to prevent embarrassment, or because s/he is disengaged.

Discussion Question 5

Class Discussion

How can you ensure learners participate in negotiation of meaning and form in the classroom?  

Negative Feedback

Types of Negative Feedback

Oral negative feedback

Oral negative feedback occurs in the following ways in and outside of the language classroom: 

  • Clarification requests (sorry?)
  • Recasts (you went to the store)
  • Elicitation (I waited...? [in line])
  • Explicit correction (provide correct language)

Cognitive-interactionist researchers agree that negative feedback is beneficial to second language learning because it allows learners to determine what is not possible in the language


ESL/EFL Oral Error Feedback

Watch the video and see if you can identify the negative feedback the instructor is giving in examples 1-6. 


Discussion Question 6

Class Discussion

  • Considering all of the research presented in this chapter, do you believe that Wes is capable of improving his L2 grammar? If yes, what steps would you recommend Wes take to improve? If no, explain your decision.