University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Second Language Education Group >  Cross-linguistic Transfer of Learning Strategies between First and Foreign Language Classroom Contexts: Making a Case for a Multilingual Approach to Writing Pedagogy

Cross-linguistic Transfer of Learning Strategies between First and Foreign Language Classroom Contexts: Making a Case for a Multilingual Approach to Writing Pedagogy

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In an increasingly multilingual world, empirical knowledge about the reciprocal influence between the mother tongue and a learner’s acquisition of additional languages is crucial yet remains surprisingly scarce. In this talk I will explore the potential contribution of foreign language teaching to the development of writing skills more generally. I will draw on quantitative and qualitative data from a classroom-based intervention study conducted in a secondary school in England to provide insights into how adolescent learners develop and transfer language learning strategies within and between foreign language (FL) and first language (L1) contexts.

While there is evidence in the literature to suggest that the effective use of strategies can be of great benefit to learners, the vast majority of this research has taken place within a single context of either L1 or FL education and has had a tendency to neglect the potential interactions between the two. In addition, it is almost taken for granted within the literature that any reference to transfer between these two contexts implies the one-way transfer of pre-existing skills and strategies from the L1 to the FL. The focus of this study therefore emerged from a hypothesis that the reverse may be equally, if not more effective; if the use of writing strategies is explicitly developed within the FL classroom, then it seems logical that this knowledge could not only benefit FL writing tasks, but may also positively affect L1 writing. In light of this, I will consider students’ conceptualisations of writing in both the L1 and FL classrooms, provide an overview of the intervention which introduced an explicit focus on developing writing strategies, and explore the multiple directionalities of transfer which emerged: from the L1 to the FL, between two FLs, and from the FL to the L1. Pedagogical implications will also be discussed, which call for a collaborative and multilingual approach to writing pedagogy where L1 and FL teachers work together to encourage and facilitate connection making across language contexts.

Bio

Karen previously taught French and Spanish in secondary schools before completing a Masters and PhD in Second Language Education at the University of Cambridge. These classroom-based studies explored how learners develop and transfer language learning strategies within and between foreign language and first language contexts. She currently works as a Research Associate on the Education strand of an AHRC -funded project on multilingualism, which focuses on the influence of multilingual identity on foreign language learning. Karen also teaches on undergraduate and Masters programmes in the Faculty of Education, and is involved with both school-based and university-based teacher training courses for secondary Modern Foreign Language teachers.

This talk is part of the Second Language Education Group series.

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