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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton July 31, 2018

Strategy development and cross-linguistic transfer in foreign and first language writing

Karen Forbes ORCID logo and Linda Fisher

Abstract

In an increasingly multilingual world, empirical knowledge about the reciprocal influence between the mother tongue (L1) and a learner’s acquisition of foreign languages (FL) is crucial yet remains surprisingly scarce. This paper examines how an explicit focus on metacognitive strategy use within a FL (German) classroom impacts students’ development of writing strategies in the FL, and whether any such effects transfer to another FL (French) and/or to the L1 (English). Based on a quasi-experimental design, the study involved a two-phase intervention of strategy-based instruction primarily in the FL classroom and later also in the English classroom in a secondary school in England. Data were collected using writing strategy task sheets. Key findings indicate high levels of cross-linguistic transfer, both from one FL context to another and from FL – L1, evidenced especially by an improvement in the quality of students’ planning and a reduction in the number of errors. Findings support the development of a multilingual, strategy-based pedagogy for writing where L1 and FL teachers collaborate to encourage and facilitate connection-making across language contexts.

Funding statement: This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (10.13039/501100000269).

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the ESRC for providing funding for the PhD study from which this paper is drawn. We would also like to thank the reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Appendix A: Table of frequencies for Figure 3: Range of planning strategies (by number of students)

LanguageGermanFrenchEnglish
GroupEGCGEGEGCG
Point123123123123123
Drafting (paragraph)200100110553500
Drafting (sentence)11091322105641202
Drafting (whole text)012000042413000
Content items414166645711151916171520
Language features21281400118229504
Use of resources0310012012041020
Structure06720009231510262
Style0000000031214506
Translations0863111436000000
Goal-setting029000014018001
Total9566714259124743365365362335

Appendix B: Table of frequencies for Figure 4: Instances of problem-solving strategies (per 1000 words)

LanguageGermanFrenchEnglish
GroupEGCGEGEGCG
Point123123123123123
Resources (other)2.784.924.147.361.884.580.490.612.100.811.250.612.281
Resources (dictionary)14.67.035.5113.135.1713.1814.667.583.390.260.070.280.610.610.5
Resources (thesaurus)000000000000.140.20.150
Monitoring grammar2.099.840.341.774.230.570.493.942.3400.44000.150
Avoidance0.350.71.030.350.4700.4900000.28000
Ask help (peer)1.0401.382.840.941.151.24000.450.15000.150
Ask help (teacher)5.91004.614.71.153.02000.340.370.140.710.150.2
Total26.7722.4912.430.0617.3920.6320.3912.137.831.051.842.092.133.491.7

Appendix C: Table of frequencies for Figure 5: Number and type of errors (per 1000 words)

LanguageGermanFrenchEnglish
GroupEGCGEGEGCG
Point123123123123123
Grammar90.4052.7265.82103.6286.55131.8173.7729.0933.205.883.622.084.169.588.27
Punctuation4.872.111.388.169.883.449.774.557.817.245.833.746.3910.199.90
Spelling33.7314.0612.7536.9123.9926.9348.8538.1830.0816.5210.344.4315.7313.5317.00
Vocabulary19.1217.938.9625.9024.4637.8240.0623.3317.195.363.104.573.965.936.05
Total148.1286.8288.90174.59144.87200.00172.4595.1588.2835.0022.8914.8230.2539.2241.22

Appendix D: Results of Wilcoxon signed rank tests on errors made over time

SubjectClassPoint 1 - Point 2Point 2 - Point 3
ZprZpr
GermanEG−3.4930.000*−0.76−0.1220.903−0.03
CG−1.9770.048−0.41−1.8940.058−0.40
FrenchEG−3.424<0.001*−0.750.0001.0000
EnglishEG−3.0990.002*−0.69−2.3150.021−0.52
CG−1.7040.088−0.36−0.8280.408−0.18

  1. *These results remain significant when using Bonferroni adjusted p levels of 0.005

Appendix E: Table of frequencies for Figure 7: Range of evaluation strategies (by number of students)

LanguageGermanFrenchEnglish
GroupEGCGEGEGCG
Point123123123123123
Spelling1011121512711109111010161411
Punctuation232332222666786
Grammar39106663776761374
Vocabulary130200102112101
Content003010022113100
Word order234042130000000
Back-translating003000000000000
Read through111533200210112
Makes sense024512154444443
Relevance000000000001010
Structure000000010000000
Checked by a peer001000000000000
Checklist2112200014117100
Focused checking113000003124000
Making improvement002001011024101
Total223457383023213234333547453528

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Published Online: 2018-07-31
Published in Print: 2020-05-26

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