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Applied Linguistics Review

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

Karen ForbesORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8981-8236 / Linda Fisher
Published Online: 2018-07-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2018-0008

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.

Keywords: language learning strategies; writing; cross-linguistic transfer

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About the article

Karen Forbes

Dr. Karen Forbes is a Lecturer in Second Language Education in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Her current research interests include the development and transfer of language learning strategies, multilingualism and identity, and the education of students who speak English as an additional language in UK schools.

Linda Fisher

Dr. Linda Fisher is a Reader in Languages Education in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Her current research interests are in the field of modern languages education, in particular, using metaphor to investigate students’ beliefs about language learning, motivation, teacher learning and the academic and social integration of EAL learners. She is co-investigator of a large AHRC project on multilingualism.


Published Online: 2018-07-31


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


Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2018-0008.

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