13.1178, Disc: Re "Overcoming Plateaus in SLA"

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Mon Apr 29 15:43:41 UTC 2002

LINGUIST List:  Vol-13-1178. Mon Apr 29 2002. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 13.1178, Disc: Re "Overcoming Plateaus in SLA"

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Date:  Sun, 28 Apr 2002 09:20:49 -0400
From:  "Ronald SHEEN" <Ronald_Sheen at uqtr.uquebec.ca>
Subject:  Re: 13.1160, Diss: Applied Ling: Zapata "Overcoming   Plateaus..."

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Sun, 28 Apr 2002 09:20:49 -0400
From:  "Ronald SHEEN" <Ronald_Sheen at uqtr.uquebec.ca>
Subject:  Re: 13.1160, Diss: Applied Ling: Zapata "Overcoming   Plateaus..."

(addendum to 13.1167)

Further to my comments and queries on this dissertation abstract, the
following has come to mind.  It would appear from the details of the
abstract that the dissertation is squarely in a domain which entails
"...reconceptualizing second and foreign language learning using a broader,
sociocultural perspective of language learning with practical concerns for
nurturing  classroom communities of successful second and foreign language
learners." (Kelly & Verplaetz, 2000:1-2).

Such a new perspective may well offer new insights into the phenomenon
of successful language learning.  However, in what I have read of the
findings derived from this new approach, I have been underwhelmed by
the evidence offered in support.  In fact, what is striking is the
lack of empirical evidence.  Kelly & Verplaetz (2000) offered fourteen
chapters on the findings of research studies from this perspective.
What was striking therein was the lack of substantive linguistic
evidence of actual learning.  I published a long highly critical
review of this book on this List but received no reaction or response.

Given this, I am wondering what Argenis A. Zapata offers as empirical
evidence to support his conclusion.  He concludes, for example, that some
students did, in fact, overcome their plateaus.  I'd appreciate his
specifying the data he used as evidence of this progress.  I assume that
the evidence was derived, at least, from oral production.  If it was not,
it does not constitute reliable evidence.  Even if it was, it may still be
suspect if the learners were aware of what was afoot.  The only truly
reliable evidence is that derived from fully spontaneous oral production -
extremely difficult to collect.

I write from experience here.  That is, in ongoing research on
defossilization I have been conducting for some time (not yet published),
students in oral interviews apparently show that they have defossilized
some element or other.  Yet, in spontaneous oral production witnessed
later, they often reproduce the fossilized form.  The evidence offered by
Argenis A Zapata should, therefore, prove to be of some interest to List

Refs:  Kelly, J.K. & Verplaetz, L.S. (Eds.) (2000) "Second and Foreign
Language Learning Through Classroom Interaction".   London: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Ron Sheen  University of Quebec in Trois Rivieres, Canada.

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