17.1236, Review: 2nd Lang Acquisition: Sanz (2005)

Mon Apr 24 21:53:03 UTC 2006

LINGUIST List: Vol-17-1236. Mon Apr 24 2006. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 17.1236, Review: 2nd Lang Acquisition: Sanz (2005)

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Date: 17-Apr-2006
From: Antje Carlson < Antje at ak.net >
Subject: Mind and Context in Adult Second Language Acquisition 

-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2006 17:50:11
From: Antje Carlson < Antje at ak.net >
Subject: Mind and Context in Adult Second Language Acquisition 

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/16/16-3597.html 

EDITOR: Sanz, Christina
TITLE: Mind and Context in Adult Second Language Acquisition
SUBTITLE: Methods, Theory, and Practice
PUBLISHER: Georgetown University Press
YEAR: 2005

Antje Carlson, Ph.D., Liberal Studies Department, Alaska Pacific 
University, Anchorage, Alaska 


The book ''Mind and Context in Adult Second Language Acquisition: 
Methods, Theory, and Practice'' is a collection of highly scholarly 
essays by various authors. This volume describes latest research in 
adult second language acquisition (SLA) and discusses the external 
and internal variables of SLA and their interactions on various levels 
of the learning process. Though SLA has its foundation in the 
quantitative research paradigm, the contents includes a description of 
qualitative research methodologies that gradually have been 
employed and recognized in SLA classroom inquiry to provide a more 
holistic and contextualized view and understanding of the influencing 
SLA factors. The purpose of the book is ''to provide, in one place, a 
coherent, well-structured picture of latest research on processing and 
approaches to SLA'' (Sanz, 2005, p. ix). The audience is identified as 
researchers and practitioners.

The book begins with an introduction by the editor. The volume has 
four parts that are each subdivided into two or three chapter essays. 
The structure of each chapter is consistent throughout: key words, an 
introduction, main body, summary, suggestions for further readings, 
and references. Chapters 2 through 8 conclude the discussion with 
exercises, guided critique activities, and a list of recommended 
reading. The following provides a synopsis of each chapter essay:  

Part 1:  Theory and Methodology
Chapter 1: Adult SLA: The interaction between external and internal 
factors. Christina Sanz provides the width and breadth of SLA 
research and places the learning processes into context. Sanz argues 
that the adult L2 learning process may be explained by the interaction 
of internal processing mechanisms, individual differences, as well as 
the quality and quantity of language input. 

Chapter 2: Research methodology: Quantitative approaches. Rusan 
Chen presents an abbreviated review of statistical procedures that are 
commonly used by SLA researchers. The chapter begins with the 
statistic basics, proceeds to discuss hypothesis testing, explains 
rudimentary concepts (sample, mean, variable, median, and more), 
and illuminates the various forms of data analyses, such as t-test, 
ANOVA, correlation and regression methods, Chi-square test, etc. 
The chapter concludes with exercises regarding data analysis and 
leads with seven questions into a guided critique activity based on a 
suggested article. The author provides recommendation of literature.  

Chapter 3: Research methodology: Qualitative research. Rebecca 
Adams, Akiko Fujii, and Alison Mackey present an overview of 
qualitative approaches to instructed SLA. The authors open the 
discussion with theoretical assumptions and methodological 
characteristics and describe commonly used qualitative inquiries for 
data collection that include classroom observation, interviews, case 
studies and ethnographies, verbal protocols, diaries, journals, and 
survey-based procedures, i.e., interviews and questionnaires. In a 
research area dominated by the quantitative paradigm, Adams et al., 
outline the underpinnings of qualitative research approaches that aim 
to present a more holistic and comprehensive of a phenomenon in its 
natural environment. The authors proceed to describe the various L2 
research topics that used qualitative research methodologies 
(cognitive processes, classroom processes, learner variables). 
Substantive explanation is provided for the data analyses by 
illustrating the process through specific methods (coding). They also 
address the issues of reporting, credibility, transferability, and 
dependability of qualitative research, issues that need to allow for 
empirical scholarship and rigor. Exercises, guided critique, and 
recommended reading conclude the chapter.

Part 2: Internal Factors
Chapter 4: Individual differences: Age, sex, working memory, and prior 
knowledge. Harriet Wood Bowden, Christina Sanz, and Catherine A. 
Stafford explore these four aspects of individual differences in 
relationship to L2 learning as a result of renewed interest and 
discussions in the subject matter. The elaboration on age particularly 
addresses the critical period hypothesis, the biological factors 
influencing the language learning process. The authors conclude that 
age-influenced factors may influence the success of SLA but that it 
cannot be attributed to the closing of the critical language learning 
period. The issue of sex is explored from the male and female 
perspectives and it is suggested that men and women process 
languages differently on the base that verbal memory seems to be 
modulated by estrogen. Working memory (WM) falls into the category 
of language aptitude that is further divided into the historical 
perspectives on memory (short-term-, long-term memory), recent 
theoretical accounts, ''span'' tests of verbal working memory and 
phonological short-term memory. Bowden et al., argue that more 
research has implications how brain regions collaborate during 
complex cognition processes. Prior knowledge takes into 
consideration prior experience in L3 acquisition that demonstrated the 
L3 learner's ability to classify, abstract, and generalize linguistic 
information that allows for transferability to subsequently learned 
languages. In a subsequent paragraph the authors describe how input 
of language is perceived and organized. Exercises, guided critique, 
and recommended reading conclude the chapter.

Chapter 5: A cognitive neuroscience perspective on second language 
acquisition: The declarative/procedural model. With his neurocognitive 
model, Michael T. Ullman comes to the aid of otherwise thin research 
in L1 development in correlation to mind and brain. He initiates the 
discussion with neurocognition of lexicon and grammar and proceeds 
to elaborate fully on the declarative/ procedural (DP) model on which 
also the remainder of the chapter builds. Therein the author proposes 
and elaborates at length that aspects of the lexicon-grammar 
distinction are tied to the distinction between declarative and 
procedural memory. In his discussion, Ullman compares and contrasts 
L1 and L2 learning in relationship to the procedural (PM) and 
declarative memory (DM). He concludes that learning grammar in PM 
becomes more problematic with late L2 learning. It is more difficult 
than learning lexical or other linguistic knowledge in DM. Ullman 
maintains that adult learners rely on the DM for storing idiosyncratic 
lexical knowledge and complex forms and rules and becomes more 
difficult with the progression of age. Exercises, guided critique, and 
recommended reading conclude the chapter.

Chapter 6: Attention and awareness in SLA. Ronald P. Leow and 
Melissa A. Bowles describe the current standing and the development 
of various attention models in cognitive psychology and SLA all of 
which is followed by brief reports of empirical studies in the major 
framework of SLA. These include awareness and learning, 
measurement of awareness and the role of attention/noticing 
(Schmidt's noticing hypothesis) in L2 development. The authors 
believe in a facilitative effect of attention and awareness on adult L2 
learners' subsequent processing and intake but also call for more 
rigorous and robust attention/awareness research designs. Exercises, 
guided critique, and recommended reading conclude the chapter.
Part 3: External Factors
Chapter 7: Input and interaction. Alison Mackey and Rebekha Abbuhl 
discuss the role of input and interaction in L2 learning and maintain 
that interactionally modified input  (changes through conversation with 
interlocutor) may be more effective than simple input modification 
(made less complex)  because it allows learners to control the input 
that is adjusted to their specific needs at a particular stage of learning. 
Part of input is feedback that the authors divided into explicit feedback 
and recasts both of which are suggested to be linked through a 
variety of variables to L2 development. Research on output suggests 
that it may promote automatization, which allows learners to recognize 
L2 knowledge gaps. This in turn invites the individual to adjust their 
processing and check their own drawn conclusions about their 
learned understanding. A brief section on pedagogical implications 
stresses the benefits of interactionally modified input, feedback, and 
output on SLA. Exercises, guided critique, and recommended readings 
conclude the chapter.     

Chapter 8: Explicitness in pedagogical interventions: Input, practice, 
and feedback.  Pedagogical intervention in Christina Sanz' and Kara 
Morgan-Short's essay is defined as ''provision of manipulated input, 
explicit rule explanation or feedback in combination with feedback'' (p. 
xi). In this chapter the author discuss respectively positive, no effects, 
and negative effects of explicit rule presentation prior to input, explicit 
feedback, and research on both-explicit rule presentation and explicit 
feedback. A survey-summary of researches is presented in table-
format in the appendix. Sanz and Morgan-Short summarize that adults 
seem to fare better from explicit intervention (metalinguistic 
intervention) which in turn seems to expedite the learning process.  
Exercises, guided critique, and recommended reading conclude the 

Part 4: Pedagogical Implications
Chapter 9: Processing instruction. Bill VanPatten gives attention to 
processing instruction (PI) that ''considers the nature of real-time input 
processing and the ways in which learners make form-meaning 
connections during comprehension . . . . it attempts to identify 
particular processing problems and treat them'' (p. 267). VanPatten 
presents a set of principles that interact in complex ways in the 
working memory under the premise that learners have a finite capacity 
of information processing before the working memory is exhausted 
and forced to provide new storage area for new incoming information. 
The question ''to what degree can we either manipulate learner 
attention during input processing or manipulate input data so that 
more and better form-meaning connections are made'' (p. 272) 
underlies the PI framework. PI is considered a complementary 
technique to existing teaching approaches, such as TPR or the 
Natural Approach and that helps to identify the learners' problematic 
processing strategies and then suggests activities that help learners 
move away from them. 

Chapter 10: Content-based foreign language instruction. With her 
chapter contribution Heidi Byrnes moves away from SLA research and 
focuses on the pedagogical implications of content-based instruction 
(CBI). The crucial question for the author was ''How can the classroom 
setting affirm the social embeddedness of language in a way that 
facilitates learners' acquiring comfortable competence . . . .?'' (p. 282). 
With this question in mind, Byrnes proceeds to explore the answers 
through addressing the development of extended curricula paired with 
pedagogical approaches that support the teachers' decision making 
that guides learners in establishing macro-and microlinks between 
meaning and form, advanced proficiency of L2 in form of high levels of 
literacy. Byrnes criticizes what she calls ''scientized'' understanding of 
language and the lack of connecting the knowing with the doing. She 
argues ''both CBI and SLA research as practiced in the U.S. have 
been shaped by a kind of intellectual displacement, finding remedies 
for problems that do not exist and ignoring those that do'' (p. 286). In 
this chapter the author calls for the development of genre-based 
literacy within the curricula because language is a meaning making 
tool that is embedded in social practice and that is best developed 
through guided engagements with texts. Only through the adequate 
and pedagogically sound linking of content and language form, so 
Byrnes, can competent L2 use in a variety of discourse environments 
emerge, which has yet to be fully employed. 


Though researchers and practitioners are described as the 
audience, ''Adult Second Language Acquisition: Methods, Theory, and 
Practice'' is a book for which also many graduates have been waiting. 
Well-structured and intensely informative, this collection of essays 
fabulously covers the current standing in adult L2 learning in a very 
scholarly fashion. For the longest time, research on SLA or L2 
learning was focused on children's cognitive processing and learning 
behavior but, finally, as we begin to increasingly value, recognize, and 
understand the long neglected species adult learner, research has 
broadened its interest base to include the FLA or SLA needs of adults. 

The book presented the knowledge that has been gathered and 
documented from the various respective research disciplines, i.e., 
sociopsychology, linguistics, and neuroscience. Needless to say, that 
research methodologies in these fields are primarily quantitative in 
nature; noteworthy and laudable is therefore the included chapter on 
qualitatively based inquiries that gradually take a scholarly foothold in 
adult SLA research and that serves to present a more holistic and 
deeper understanding of a human phenomenon as it presents itself in 
its natural environment. It serves as an encouragement to do conduct 
more qualitative research.

Of fundamental value and a rather novel presentation are the 
exercises and critique guides that concluded most of the essays. For 
the novice researcher they stimulate critical examination of methods 
and critical thinking about literature to which they were led by 
Chapters 2 and 3. These chapters were of preparatory nature and 
presented a detailed review of quantitative and qualitative research 
procedures. The inclusion of the exercises, guided critiques, and 
methodology explanations makes this book a good supplemental 
textbook in a graduate class. 

A shortcoming of this book was the hesitance with which the ''knowing'' 
was connected to the ''doing'', the employment of theory to practice,  
though the last two chapters are a wonderfully affirmative and 
encouraging step in the right direction. Particularly refreshing was 
Byrnes' contribution that exuded common-sense and practical concern 
and called for making practical use of a communication tool. In the 
reviewer's opinion, science has aggregated a wealth of knowing in 
terms of the SLA cognitive linguistic processes and illuminated the 
many underlying variables that may influence the adults' learning. 
Byrnes referred to this as ''scientized'' and the reviewer fully agrees. 
Time has come to pay attention and to explore more fully the practice-
oriented application and to push for the translation of  theories that 
prominently considers and applies the practices of adult education to 
allow for more pedagogically competent and effective FL teaching of 
adults at universities and colleges. 

Carlson (2005) in her dissertation ''Adults' experiences in learning a 
foreign language in a university classroom: A heuristic study'' posited 
her research in the frameworks of Knowles' (1970; 1998) concept of 
andragogy, Tough's (1971) self-directed learning theory, and 
Mezirow's (1991; 2000) perspective transformation theory, and 
evaluated them for their relevance and applicability in the German 
classroom. With her interpretative concept of Foreign Language 
Andragogy, Carlson provided a pedagogical guideline that moves the 
adults as FL learners more prominently into the center of the methods 
and didactics that are appropriate, relevant, and motivating to who the 
adults are, what they want, and how they want their learning to unfold. 
It is mindful and considerate of the adult as the individual who is life-
experienced, self-directed, and autonomous.

In conclusion, the book ''Mind and Context in Adult Second Language 
Acquisition: Methods, Theory, and Practice'' is an essential book for 
any graduate learner interested in adult SLA studies. It is insightful, 
informative and conveys an almost mentoring character by illuminating 
the various fields of scholarship of SLA thereby helping students 
taking their first steps in graduate studies to narrow their fields of 
interests. Hopefully, another book of such nature and quality is 


Carlson, A. (2005). ''Adults' Experiences in Learning a Foreign 
Language in a University Classroom: A Heuristic Inquiry''. In 
ProQuest/UMI publication process. Union Institute and University, 
Cincinnati, OH. 

Knowles, M. S. (1970). ''The modern practice of adult education: 
Andragogy versus pedagogy''. New York: Association Press.

Knowles, M. S., Holton, III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (1998). ''The adult 
learner''.  Houston, TX: Butterworth-Heinemann. 

Mezirow, J. (1991). ''Transformative dimensions of adult learning''. 
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, J. (2000). ''Learning as transformation''. San Francisco: 

Tough, A. (1971). ''The adult learning projects: A fresh approach to 
theory and practice in adult learning''. Toronto, Canada: The Ontario 
Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). 


Antje Carlson works at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, Alaska. 
She received her doctoral degree from Union Institute and University 
with a concentration in Adult Education and a specialization in adult 
foreign language (FL) instruction and learning. Carlson researches 
adults' experiences in learning a FL, and FL learning and motivation 
from a qualitative paradigm and investigates the applicability of 
Knowles' andragogical concept, Mezirow's perspective transformation 
theory, and Tough's self-directed learning theory in the adult FL 
learning environment.

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