An Interactional Framework for Second Language Learning

Vivian Cook 
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Scanned and OCRed from a typed manuscript, so some oddities; this seems to be a parallel to International Studies Bulletin 6, 93-111, 1981, online

This paper considers second language learning as a process of interaction between properties of the learner and of the situation. It proposes an overall framework to describe this interaction and suggests that this framework provides a useful scheme within which current ideas about second language learning can be discussed. The first part of the article sketches the outline of the framework; the second part relates it to the interactionist position in psychology and to current ideas in second language learning such as the Monitor Model, the Acculturation Model and Conversational Analysis.

Let us start with a quick overview of the framework as illustrated in Figure 1. The framework tries to capture the interaction between the learner and the situation at a particular moment in time. Suppose we take a learner who finds himself or herself in a situation where a second lan­guage is being used, say an English-speaking person trying to buy a ticket at a railway station in Paris. (From now on the learner will be referred to as 'he' for convenience rather than repeating 'he or she' each time.)

The learner comes into the learning situation equipped with all his past experience of the world, his knowledge, his capabilities and personality, everything that makes him an individual human being. The neutral term that is used here for the contributions that the learner makes to learning is mental makeup; the learner is not a tabula rasa but has a mind of his own. So the learner wants to buy a ticket in a country where he knows little of the language; what does he do? Essentially he has to find ways of coping with the demands put upon him out of his own resources, his mental makeup: he needs ways of communicating with the people involved, ways of saying things to them and understanding what they say to him. The possible ways of behaving that are open to him are termed his potential strategies. The strategies that any particular learner has to choose from depend upon various aspects of his mental makeup; his beliefs about language and his attitudes towards foreigners for instance may lead him to believe that one way of getting the ticket is to speak his own language loudly and clearly rather than attempt to use the foreign language. But he cannot use all the strategies of which he is capable because of the situation in which he finds himself; his strategies are limited by the role he has to play, the language he en­counters, the time he has available, and so on. These are termed the situational factors, the aspects of the situation that are relevant to language use. Thus there is an interaction between what the learner brings to the situation (his potential strategies) and the properties of the situation (the situational factors) that allows him to use only some of the strategies that he has available; these are termed his actual strategies. In the railway station he is limited first by its nature as a railway station and then by the availability of timetables, maps etc. in easy reach; his actual strategy may be simply to write down his destin­ation on a piece of paper and hand it to the travel clerk. So an inter­action between situation and potential strategy produces the actual strategy.

There is always, however, a choice for the learner; neither the situation nor his mental makeup totally determines what he does. Rather than writing the destination down, he may try to request a ticket in French or he may decide to give up and travel by taxi.

This provides a birdseye view of the interactional framework. The next section spells out the contents of each of these major components in more detail. Much of it is already familiar in second language learning research; the novelty is in relating these disparate elements in a single framework.

Mental 'Makeup

Mental makeup includes any aspects of the learner's mind that are rel­evant to the second language learning situation. These can be covered under five main headings: linguistic competence, pragmatic competence, speech processing strategies, cognition and memory, and attitude and motivation.

1.   Linguistic competence

The learner already has a knowledge of the grammatical, phonological and other rules of his first language: he possesses linguistic compet­ence (Chomsky, 1965): if he is English he can say whether "I very gratitude you" is grammatical and whether "sbalf" is a possible phonological sequence. Contrastivists have felt that this linguistic competence in the first language is the most important factor in second language learning; others have attached less importance to it.

It may be particularly important for example whether the learner has already achieved full adult competence or is still learning it as a child; quite apart from other differences between adult and child second language learners, their stage of development in their first language- has to be considered.

2.   Pragmatic competence

As well as this idealised knowledge of his first language, the learner also knows how to use it appropriately: this can be termed 'pragmatic competence', 'the knowledge of conditions and manner of appropriate use' (Chomsky, 1960). Pragmatic competence is still relatively unexplored, except in first language acquisition (Bates, 1976). At least two aspects of it have to be taken into account. One is the ability to use speech acts in a situation: as speakers of English we know in most sit­uations, if not all, whether a speaker intends "Have you got a pen?" as a request or as a question; we know the situational factors that help us assign speech acts to sentences in conversation (Clark, 1979). The other aspect of pragmatic competence is how to take part in conver­sations. A conversation is a process of give and take by the participants; the speaker gives signals that he is finishing or continuing his turn at speaking; the participants know how to construct sequences of turns, such as adjacency pairs of question and answer, "What's the time?" "Ten o'clock", or request and acknowledgement, "A ticket to Leeds" "All right". The speaker also knows what topic to talk about in a particular situation: an English person for instance would usually avoid asking comparative strangers direct questions about their income. The potentialities in a particular situation, the topics, the use of variable rules, the appropriate turn-taking, and so on, have been called elsewhere a conversational schema (Cook, to appear, a). Though the allied notion of communicative competence has been widely discussed in language teaching, we still know little about the role of either communicative or pragmatic competence in second language learning.

3. Speech processing strategies

The learner also has psychological processes that he uses in his first language for producing and comprehending speech, in other words performance. If he hears someone say "42 is the answer to the problem of the universe", he has to work out the actual sounds involved, he has to discover the syntactic structures and the lexis, and he has to arrive at the semantic meaning of the sentence: he therefore needs perceptual processes for decoding the phonology (Liberman, Cooper, Shankweiler & Studdert-Kennedy, 1967), syntactic strategies such as those based on word order (Bever, 1970), or even the complexities of augmented transition networks (Bresnan, 1978). Though the details of these processes are still largely mysterious, they are nevertheless a vital part of the learner's mental makeup and distinct from linguistic competence. There are similarities with what have been called here pragmatic strategies; it is however convenient to distinguish strategies that need knowledge of the situation (pragmatic strategies) from those that operate regardless of the situation (speech processing strategies).

4. Cognition and memory

The learner has already developed ways of thinking and of remembering. In terms of cognition he has a particular overall mode of thinking associated with his stage of cognitive development: if he is at the Piagetan stage of concrete operations he can see relationships between things but he cannot express these relationships in an abstract form away from actual objects (Piaget and Inhelder, 1969). Whichever model of cognitive development we favour we still have to locate our learner within it. For it has often been claimed that the stage of cognitive development limits or facilitates particular processes in the second language learner (Tremaine, 1975; Felix, 1975); the Monitor for example is used only by adults (Krashen, 1981). Memory also develops with age; younger children's short term memory is more limited in capacity than adults' and is concerned more with shapes and colours than with the sounds that adults rely on (Conrad, 1970); younger children use different strategies for memorising from older children (Ornstein, 1978 ) and tend not to use mental labels of their own accord (Hagen, 1971). Memory is an important aspect of mental makeup in at least two ways: the capacity of the learner's memory processes affects his capabilities in the second language; the ways in which the processes work affect second language learning.

5. Motivation and attitude

The reason why the learner wants to learn a second language and the kinds of attitude that he has towards its speakers are also vital. Indeed these are the aspects of mental makeup that have been studied in greatest detail. For example, there is the well-known pair of instru­mental and integrative motivation (Gardner and Lambert, 1972); the instru­mental motivation is when learners want the second language for functional purposes such as a job; the integrative motivation is when they want to share in the target culture and life. The integrative motivation is often believed to be more potent; indeed some research claims that the instrumental motivation is an actual handicap to high attainment in a foreign language (Gomes-da-Costa, Smith and Whitely, 1975). Like other aspects of mental makeup, motivation and attitude are themselves the product of the learner's earlier experience, the culture in which he lives, the attitudes and motivations: Lambert (1981) talks of 'adding' or 'subtracting' from one's identity by learning a second language according to how a minority language group sees its relationship to the host culture; Schumann (1976) describes the 'social distance' between cultures and its effects on second language learning.

These five aspects of mental makeup have been used to illustrate some of the properties of the learner that need to be taken into account. Many more than this are necessary for an adequate description. Among the others that may prove important one may mention:

-   intelligence. Genesee (1976) showed an interaction between intelligence and success with two different teaching techniques; Gomes-da-Costa, Smith and Whitely (1975) found a closer association with the passive than with the active language skills.

-   personality. Factors such as tolerance of ambiguity and field independence have been related to success at different stages of second language learning (Naiman, Frohlich, and Stern, 1975).

- expectations of the learning situation. The learner's preconceptions about second language learning affect his behaviour: Naiman, Frohlich and Stern (1975) claim that 'Attitudes to the language learning situation play an important role in successful language learning, perhaps to a greater degree than either the integrative instrumental orientation'; unpublished research of my own suggested that classroom learners expect to be given grammatical explanation much more than they expect explanations of language functions.

Let us now see how these aspects of mental makeup relate to the second component in the interactional framework, the learner's potential strategies.

Potential strategies

This component describes the ways that the learner may behave in the learning situation. Any given learner has a repertoire of possible things he can do; the term 'strategy' that is used for this has had a long life in second language learning research; it is not intended here to be more than a broad label and does not contrast with the terms 'process' or 'tactic'. Though many different strategies have been discussed by researchers, for instance by Tarone, Cohen, and Dumas (1976) and by Ervin (1979), they belong to three major types: pragmatic strategies, speech processing strategies, and learning strategies. Examples of each are given below but of course many more strategies are necessary for a full picture.

1. Pragmatic strategies

The learner finds himself in a communicative situation of some kind, whether the railway station, the classroom, or somewhere else; he has to employ pragmatic strategies to deal with the situation. Among these are the strategies mentioned earlier for dealing with speech acts in the con­text of situation and for constructing conversations. So far as speech act assignment is concerned little is yet known how this operates in a have been related to success at different stages of second language learning (Naiman, Frohlich, and Stern, 1975).

- expectations of the learning situation. The learner's preconceptions about second language learning affect his behaviour: Naiman, Frohlich and Stern (1975) claim that 'Attitudes to the language learning situation play an important role in successful language learning, perhaps to a greater degree than either the integrative instrumental orientation'; unpublished research of my own suggested that classroom learners expect to be given grammatical explanation much more than they expect explanations of language functions.

Let us now see how these aspects of mental makeup relate to the second component in the interactional framework, the learner's potential strategies.

Potential strategies

This component describes the ways that the learner may behave in the learning situation. Any given learner has a repertoire of possible things he can do; the term 'strategy' that is used for this has had a long life in second language learning research; it is not intended here to be more than a broad label and does not contrast with the terms 'process' or 'tactic'. Though many different strategies have been discussed by researchers, for instance by Tarone, Cohen, and Dumas (1976) and by Ervin (1979), they belong to three major types: pragmatic strategies, speech processing strategies, and learning strategies. Examples of each are given below but of course many more strategies are necessary for a full picture.

1. Pragmatic strategies

The learner finds himself in a communicative situation of some kind, whether the railway station, the classroom, or somewhere else; he has to employ pragmatic strategies to deal with the situation. Among these are the strategies mentioned earlier for dealing with speech acts in the con­text of situation and for constructing conversations. So far as speech act assignment is concerned little is yet known how this operates in a second language; Rintell (1979) and Walters (1979) have looked at some effects of deference upon requesting strategies in Spanish-speaking adults and children; Cook (to appear, a) has looked at effects of age and sex on thanking and requesting strategies in adult learners of English; Schmidt and Richards (1980) have provided an overall discussion of some of the issues. But we still know very little about how second language learners actually use strategies for assigning speech acts to sentences whether in production or comprehension. Strategies for constructing conversations have been studied more extensively; the line of research started by Evelyn Hatch has led to the discovery of such strategies as topic nomination - how the speaker establishes what he is talking about - and repairs - how the participants keep the conversation going on the right track (Hatch, 1978); to these can be added the strategy of topic avoidance (Tarone et al, 1976) and the strategy of translation (Ervin, 1979), both of which speak for themselves; doubtless many more could be found. These pragmatic strategies interact on the one hand with the mental makeup that makes them possible and on the other with the situational factors that make them actual: topic nomination for instance is suggested to the learner by some aspect of his mental makeup and can only be used if the situation permits; a learner from a culture where he does not nominate topics is unlikely to do so in a second language situation. Neither will he do it if he finds himself in a formal classroom where the teacher always takes the lead.

2. Speech processing strategies

The learner has to try to understand the sentences he hears in the learn­ing situation and to produce sentences of his own: he adopts performance strategies for producing and understanding sentences in linguistic terms. Many production strategies used by second language learners have been postulated; Hakuta (1974) for instance believes that they can make use of prefabricated patterns such as "These are"; Ervin (1979) talks of a strategy of approximation such as using the word "ship" when the learner means "raft"; Lattey (1975) discusses sequentialisation in which learners prefer structures with a straightforward word order rather than inversion and other less usual word orders. Some of these strategies are similar to those used in the first language; some are similar in all language learners, whether of a first language or a second; others may be unique to second language learning. Less work has been done on comprehension strategies; Cook (1975) claimed that second language learners were using perceptual order strategies similar to those postulated in Bever (1970) in which sequences of noun-verb-noun are usually interpreted as agent-action-object. Like pragmatic strategies, whether a learner actually uses a particular speech processing strategy depends partly on whether it is made available to him by his mental makeup, partly whether it is usable within the actual situation.

3. Learning strategies

A distinctive element in the second language learning situation is that the learner is learning language as well as using it: he is codebreaking as well as decoding. So part of the learner's task is not just to take part in the particular situation but also to learn from it for future occasions. In principle then he chooses strategies for learning as well as pragmatic strategies or speech processing strategies, even if in prac­tice these overlap. Some learning strategies are a matter of conscious choice: for instance many strategies characteristic of the Good Language Learner such as 'The GLL actively involves himself in the language learning process' (Naiman, Frohlich, and Stern, 1975) presumably reflect conscious decisions by the learner. In most cases he is aware that he is learning a second language and so he tries to think of ways of coping with this task. There are also learning strategies that are below the learner's conscious attention; several writers have spoken of the learner simplifying the language he is learning in various ways, that is to say seizing on certain aspects of the language rather than trying to use its full complexity (Schumann, 1975). Other strategies are the various processes associated with the term 'transfer'; the learner may adopt the working principle that the second language is like the first language.

Relationships between mental makeup and potential strategies

Some allusions have already been made in the previous discussion to the relationship between mental makeup and potential strategies. Let us now try to make this more precise. In the interactional framework mental makeup is seen as making strategies available to the learner for potential use. There are at least three ways in which this works: by transfer, by limitation and by predisposition.

1. Transfer

Transfer in this framework means that the learner can use part of his mental makeup directly in the second language; he transfers some aspect of it to his potential strategies. Usually this has been spoken of in terms of linguistic competence: the learner knows a particular rule of phonology or syntax in his first language and uses it in his second; a German student learning English may transfer the rules about voicing in final consonants or about word order. While linguistic competence is undoubtedly relevant to the learner's strategies, the extent of its contribution has tended to be minimised by researchers in recent years: Dulay and Burt (1972) for example found that only a small proportion of children's L2 errors could be explained by transfer of first language rules. Other aspects of mental makeup can also be transferred. Some aspects of pragmatic competence may be transferred to a new language: the learner knows how to realise a speech act in his first language, say how to realise a request through an interrogative syntax, and he transfers this to the second language. If the two languages are similar in pragmatic terms or if part of pragmatics is universal, as may be the case, this transfer will not be detectable. The same applies to the rules for constructing conversations: the learner knows that in his first language a request is followed by an acknowledgement and so he answers "Alright" when someone says to him "Could I borrow your pen?" At present we do not know how similar pragmatic competence is in different languages, whether in terms of speech act assignment, in terms of rules of conversation, or in terms of the situational factors that govern the appropriate forms of either of these. Further discussion of this can be found in James (1960), Fraser, Rintell and Walters (I960) and Cook (to appear, a). Turning to speech processing strategies, a particular language may have a preferred strategy for interpreting sentences; evidence by Bates (1981) suggests that Spanish speakers pay more attention to semantic features such as animacy rather than the word order that English speakers rely on. Some aspects of cognition too are transferable: the learner carries over his mode of thinking to a new language. Other aspects may not be transferred: Green (1977) for example suggests that learners revert to an earlier Freudian stage in a second language, becoming more infantile. Memory also is a vast area for transfer; to take two examples, adult strategies for memorising material are transferred to a second language according to Cook (1981), as are the form and much of the capacity of short term memory (Cook, 1977). One resource that the learner has for potential strategies is the transfer of various aspects of his mental makeup; in itself, this proposition does not ascribe any one purpose for transfer, such as 'ignorance' , nor does it assert transfer is associated with a particular stage of L2 development.

2. Limitation

The kinds of thing that a learner can do in a second language are limited by his mental makeup. In some ways this is stating an obvious truth: we are unlikely to be able to use strategies and capacities in a second language that we do not have available in our first: we are unlikely to perform at a cognitive level above the one we have reached in our first language. Apart from this, however, there are numerous ways in which we are limited in using a second language. Cook (1975) claimed that a cer­ain memory capacity is required to understand relative clauses such as 'The man I saw is English' and that this has to be reacquired in a second language; Marsh and Maki (1976) described the 'cognitive deficit' that second language learners have in mental arithmetic; Long and Harding-Esch (1977) found that second language learners had problems with various types of textual processes. Hence we can say both that some aspects of mental makeup limit what we are capable of doing in a second language, and that the second language situation causes us to behave below our normal level of operation. This relates particularly to the learner's age which affects his mental makeup in many ways and limits the strategies he has available and the capacity he has for using them.

3. Predisposition

However, many of the effects of mental makeup cannot be put down to either transfer or limitation; a particular learning strategy, such as resolving to take an active part in language lessons, depends on aspects of the learner's makeup such as motivation and expectation but neither transfers nor limits them. Rather it suggests that a certain strategy is preferable; this relationship is called predisposition. The expectation that the teacher will use grammatical explanation may cause us to arrive in the classroom armed with a grammar book; the integrated motivation causes the classroom learner to be perceived as more interested (Gardner, Smythe, Clement and Gliksman, 1976). A learner who believes that written language is the standard form and that spoken language is debased and corrupt will use strategies that rely on written texts and probably obed­ience to authority. These too interact with the situation; the learner who believes in the importance of writing may find himself in an audio-lingual class where he has great difficulties in using the strategies he prefers. Predisposition is particularly important to language teaching since it concerns aspects of mental makeup that can, potentially at any rate, be changed. We can do little about the learner's cognitive level or about his memory capacity but our teaching may influence his future expectations of the classroom or his attitudes towards the target culture.

Situational factors

We have now seen how mental makeup relates to potential strategies in several ways: it is a major research task to pin these down more precisely. Let us now turn to the interaction between potential strategies and situational factors that gives rise to the learner's actual strategies. A learner can use only some small subset of the strategies of which he is capable; the choice of this subset depends upon the situation, giving rise for instance to the situational variation that has often been found in second language learners (Dickerson, 1975; Wenk, 1979). At least the following factors in the situation play some part: language input, social roles, time available, and, in the classroom, teaching technique.

1. Language input.

Little perhaps needs to be said about this here. Essentially language input means the language the learner hears or reads and is distinguished from intake, the language that the learner's strategies can actually accept (Corder, 1978). Language input includes not just the linguistic aspects of sentences but also the other levels of pragmatics, gestures, and so forth. The situation presents the learner with some of the possible utterances in the language and hence the learner's experience is limited to some extent by the features of those utterances he happens to have encountered; to take a crude example, if he never hears a passive sentence, he may have difficulty producing one, to say the least. Language input for second language learners can also be limited in most circumstances by one inevitable fact: the learner is a non-native speaker and native speakers may well treat him in ways they would not use to a fellow native, whether at the extreme variety of foreigner talk (Ferguson, 1975) or the less extreme variety of foreigner register (Arthur, Weiner, Culver, Lee, and Thomas, I960). Both in first and second language learning it has proved hard to demonstrate that features of language addressed to learn­ers affect their learning; nevertheless much of their language input has distinctive features of its own, particularly so for second language learners who encounter the pedagogic simplifications used in many class­rooms.

2. Social roles

Whatever the social situation in which he is using the second language, the learner has to adopt some social role within it. It may be the role of 'customer' as in the railway station; it may be that of 'colleague' as at a business conference; or it may be 'polite stranger' as in the street or at a party. One broad difference in language terms is between the 'leader' in a conversation and the 'follower'; leaders have the right to organise the conversation, followers that of responding to the leader's directions. In some situations, such as ordinary conversation, these roles may change and there are turntaking signals by which we show we are prepared to stop being a leader or to take over the leadership. In other situations these roles are not interchangeable and this may be particularly important in many situations the foreign learner meets: he may have to assume the follower role of 'patient' in a doctor's surgery, 'customer' in a shop, or 'pupil' in a classroom. There is a set of strategies for each of these social roles, an appropriate schema; customers use partic­ular pragmatic strategies for making requests, receptionists or pupils use others. Thus the social role the learner plays narrows down his choice of potential strategy. We do not at the moment have an adequate description of these social roles or of the strategies that go with them; there has, however, been work on the learner's target roles within the field of Needs Analysis (Munby, 1979) which might provide a starting point for looking at roles in the learning situation, though these are of course distinct.

3.         Time

The amount of time that a learner has to carry out a particular task interacts with the kind of strategy that he can employ; Monitoring for instance is used when the learner has sufficient time available (Krashen, 1976). Strategies such as translation or conscious learning of grammat­ical rules also require sufficient time as do some speech processing strategies. The type of memory process that can be used also depends upon how much time we have; after more than a few seconds we have to transfer information from short-term to long-term memory if we are going to retain it.

4.         Teaching techniques

For the learner in a classroom, the teacher's choice of teaching tech­nique is one of the central factors in restricting his potential strategies. If the learner is in an audiolingual classroom with its emphasis on mechanical drilling and repetition, he has very little choice of pragmatic strategy since these are deliberately excluded by the teacher. If he finds himself in a Community Language Learning group on the other hand he has a free hand with pragmatic strategies appropriate to small groups but little opportunity to use Monitoring strategies. A teaching technique can be seen as a way of purposefully cutting down on the student's potential strategies; it allows him to do some things and excludes others.

This small selection from the possible situational factors that interact with the properties of the learner completes the interactional framework: we have now fleshed out the bones with some details from second language learning research. Let us now see how this interactional framework can be related to various ideas in psychology and second language learning.

The interactionist model in psychology

Though conceived independently, this interactional framework displays a great similarity to a position known as the interactionist model in the psychology of personality. Endler and Magnusson (1976) have described modern interact ion ism in terms of four essential features. Let us relate each of their features to second language learning; quotations are from Endler and Magnusson (1976) except where otherwise specified.

"1. Actual behaviour is a function of a continuous process or multidirectional interaction (feedback) between the individual and the situation that he or she encounters."

Thus in an interactionist model it is not enough to look at the prop­erties of the organism that cause behaviour nor to look solely at the properties of the situation; instead we must see how properties of both organism and situation interact to produce actual behaviour. This has been expressed as a formula B = f(P,S) by Lewin (1935) and others, where B stands for behaviour, P for Person and S for Situation. Translated into the present interactional framework it becomes Actual Language Behaviour = f (Mental Makeup, Situational Factors): second language behaviour is a function of Mental Makeup and Situational Factors. In terms of the traditional debate in linguistics interact ion ism emphasises neither the mentalist view that properties of the learner's mind are of primary importance nor the behaviourist view that properties of the sit­uation determine learning but lays equal stress on both. What is more, it claims that these interact: a learner's strategies change according to the situation and the strategies themselves change the situation. Let us take an example of error analysis; we find the sentence "Sorry please can you said at what time will be the next bus?". On the one hand we can relate this to the learner's pragmatic strategy in making a request and his grammatical strategies for producing sentences, partic­ularly the verb form to use with the auxiliary "can"; we can perhaps trace these strategies back to aspects of mental makeup such as his first language (which happened to be Kazakh). But to reach a full explanation we need to know the situation in which he was supposed to be speaking ("You want to ask Helen the time of the next bus") in terms of his goal and of his relationship to the addressee and any relevant factors of the addressee such as age and sex. The learner's error may be in the choice of appropriate strategy for the situation as much as in the grammatical strategies for carrying it out. Also the situation itself will be changed by the learner's utterance since the addressee will realise he is a foreigner and behave accordingly. Thus the interactional framework makes us aware of some of the complex interactions that have produced a particular piece of behaviour. This framework undoubtedly pos­sesses the first of Endler and Magnusson's essential features of an interactionist model.

"2. The individual is an intentional active agent in this interaction process."

The individual has the power of choice; his behaviour is not determined by either his personality or the situation. He will try to act in the situation according to his goals; he will tend to prefer some situations or to actively avoid others for various reasons. In terms of L2 learning this is the essence of all strategies models: the learner chooses what he will do; he prefers one strategy to another. The interaction between situation and mental makeup still leaves the learner an individual with the unpredictability of any human being. Thus, in the railway station example, the learner may adopt a gesturing strategy or one of writing destinations down on a piece of paper or one of extra loud speech or mock foreign pronunciation of the destination: these are all possible in terms of his makeup or of the situation. He may in fact decide that in future he will travel by air and avoid the situation altogether in future. For this reason I usually travel by Metro rather than by bus in Paris because there are clear signs and maps. In the classroom too the learner still has a choice of strategy: the teacher may be trying to encourage him to learn by unconscious habit formation but in the privacy of his own head the student can use a grammar translation strategy; sometimes the student can opt out of the situation altogether, as witnessed by the high drop-out rate on some adult evening classes. The interactional frame­work also meets this requirement of an interactionist model by seeing the individual as a free agent choosing to adopt various ways of behaving in the light of his goals and of the interaction between himself and the world.

"3. On the person side of the interaction cognitive factors are the essential determinants of behaviour, although emotional factors do play a role."

Endler and Magnusson claim that it is the person's cognitive factors that are dominant: they cite factors such as 'encoding strategies' and 'construction competencies'. In terms of second language learning these relate to the processes that have been called above transfer and limitation: they do not encompass predisposition in which say a particular motivation predisposes the learner towards a particular strategy rather than providing him a basis for transfer or limiting the ways in which he can use it. Within the interactional framework there is no a priori reason for preferring cognitive over emotional factors; both of them play their part. Therefore the framework diverges from an interactionist model at this point. We might, however, feel that even within the interactionist model the commitment to interaction bet­ween person and situation does not logically imply the priority of cognitive factors.

"4. On the situation side, the psychological meaning of the situation for the individual is the important determining factor."

It is not the situation in itself that influences the individual's behaviour; it is the way that the individual interprets the situation. "Individuals may give different meanings to one and the same situation." (Magnusson, 1974). If an individual sees a situation as threatening, he reacts in a threatened way; if he sees himself as having an inferior role, he behaves accordingly: there is no objective situation independent of people's perceptions of it.

Take one example of language input in a classroom; when I first started teaching I used to address students by their Christian names and be slightly offended that they usually addressed me by title and surname; then I realised that our perception of the situation was different. I saw an informal situation in which the participants were equals and used Christian names; they saw a formal situation of superior and inferior in which it is usual in English for the superior to use Christian names to the inferior but for the inferior to reciprocate with the surname and title. The same situation objectively, namely the use of Christian names by a teacher, was seen in two different ways by the participants. There is a valuable reminder within the interactional framework that it is not so much the situation itself that is important but the situational factors that the individual perceives in it. This is specially important in second language learning as different languages may well relate in different ways to the situation; as well as learning the appropriate strategies to use, the learner may have to learn new ways of perceiving the situation. The interactional framework therefore needs this assumption of the interactionist model.

To sum up, there seem close resemblances between the interactionist model described by Endler and Magnusson (1976) and the interactional frame­work presented here. Both stress the importance of the interaction between the individual and the situation rather than dwelling on one or the other in isolation; both see the individual as having a free choice. The difference is the relative importance of cognitive rather than emotional factors. But it should be noted that the interactionist model is not a model of language use in itself and therefore makes no mention of language input or language strategies; nor is it strictly speaking a model of learning but of behaviour.

Models of second language learning

In recent years several models of second language learning have been put forward. Mostly these seem to stress one particular aspect at the expense of others: the Monitor Model some aspects of syntactic processing; the Acculturation Model certain aspects of motivation; Conversational Analysis some properties of conversational interaction. It has been difficult to choose between these models or indeed to compare them because they are about different things. One aim for the interactional framework is to set these models within a single overall frame of reference; they can be reconciled with each other and with the other aspects of second language learning that they ignore. Let us see how these three models can be dealt with in the interactional framework.

1. The Monitor Model

The essence of the Monitor Model as summed up in Krashen (1981) is that some second language learners are able in certain circumstances to use a strategy called Monitoring in which they bring their conscious 'learned' knowledge of the second language to bear on their language use. This strategy is linked to aspects of the learner's mental makeup: it is claimed that children who have not achieved the formal operations level in Piagetan terms cannot Monitor; language aptitude is believed to be more important to learning than motivation; other factors lead to some learners being Monitor over-users, some optimum and underusers. But Monitoring also depends upon situational factors; one is that Monitoring can only be used when there is sufficient time; another that the task must concen­trate upon 'form' rather than 'meaning'; a third that it shows up in a discrete test rather than an integrative test. Thus the Monitor Model seems a clear example of an interactional framework; on the one hand it postulates certain aspects of mental makeup that either predispose the learner to use Monitoring or limit him from using it; on the other it suggests that Monitoring depends upon factors in the situation. The learner's use of the Monitor, his actual behaviour, depends upon an interaction between the learner and the situation, clearly an interactionist position. Because of this, the Monitor Model brings us face to face with the problem of evidence in the interactional framework. Any behaviour by the learner needs to be considered in relationship with both mental makeup and situational factors. Suppose we set up an experiment to show that learners use Monitoring: whatever the result, all we have shown is that those learners did or did not use Monitoring in that situation. To make any general statement about Monitoring we need to isolate the situational and mental factors which interact to produce it and this means testing a variety of situations. Though the problem of generalisation from limited data is always with us, it is particularly acute in interactionism; the burden of proof is much more demanding if we see behaviour as an interaction between person and situation. The Monitor Model has set itself an interactional aim and thus reveals some of the drawbacks. This is not the place to consider the actual evidence for the Monitor Model in detail; Mclaughlin (1978) has made some criticisms. Looked at in terms of the interactional framework, the Monitor Model seems to have placed such em­phasis on the complex interactions involved as to neglect to establish the nature of Monitoring itself. It is claimed for instance that aptitude is related to conscious learning, i.e. acquisition (Krashen, 1981). This hardly seems surprising since most conventional aptitude tests are devised to show the learners' abilities to do well in a classroom and most class­rooms aim at examinations that test conscious knowledge of the language: what we need is an aptitude test for natural language learning as well as for taught language learning. But what has this got to do with Monitoring? Before the relationship between aptitude and conscious learning is interpretable in terms of the Monitor we need to show not only that Monitoring exists but also that it is the most important aspect of conscious learning. The correlation does not in itself commit us to a belief in the Monitor. A similar argument can be applied to the claim that Monitoring requires more time; a test that has to be done quickly does not allow the learner enough time to Monitor (Krashen, 1976). One may well accept that the time available for a task affects our behaviour: sometimes I drive to work in a hurry and take seven minutes, sometimes I go more slowly and take ten. This does not necessarily mean that the difference in behaviour is due to Monitoring, without independent proof of the existence and importance of Monitoring; with driving, for instance, I believe I am more conscious of sheer driving technique when driving fast than when driving slowly. So we need to show that it is indeed Monitoring that is affected by time, not any of the other mental processes that we are using, such as short term memory. But the independent existence and importance of Monitoring seem not to have been established in any scientific sense, apart from introspective reports by learners; virtually all the evidence is that of an interaction between mental makeup and situational factors producing differences in behaviour; this does not make clear that the important interven­ing link is the strategy of Monitoring rather than some other aspect of the interaction.

2. The Acculturation Model

The Acculturation Model, which has been conveniently summed up in Schumann, (1978), claims that social and affective factors in the learner combine to produce a single variable called acculturation - 'the social and psychological integration of the learner with the target (TL) group' (Schumann, 1978, p.29). This is the chief cause of success or failure in second lan­guage learning; 'the degree to which a learner acculturates to the TL group will control the degree to which he acquires the second language' (Schumann, 1978, p.34). The social factors that influence acculturation are the cultural, structural, and political relationships between the native and the target groups: a good situation for language learning is one where 'the 2LL group is non-dominant in relation to the TL group, where both groups desire assimilation... for the L2 group and where the 2LL group intends to remain in the area for a long time'. (Schumann, 1976, p.141) These factors are considered in terms of groups of learners and explained in terms of the relationship between target and native groups. Affective factors, on the other hand, are dealt with in terms of the individual learner and consist of factors such as language shock, culture shock, motivation, and ego-permeability. Evidence from the Heidelberg Project (1978) is cited by Schumann (1978) to show that successful immigrant learners of German have more leisure and work contacts with Germans. Let us now fit this into the interactional framework. In some ways this proposal goes further than the framework used here, since it deals with causation of certain aspects of mental makeup: it claims that certain cultural pressures produce a particular combination of affective and social factors in the learner. Interpreted within the present framework, Schumann is making a proposal for the dominance of these factors over all others in the interaction with the situation; he is also suggesting that these fac­tors affect the situation by making the learner seek out or avoid certain situations such as contact with native speakers.

How persuasive is the argument for this? Again it is not appropriate to look at the evidence for this in detail here except in so far as it relates to the framework being discussed; it should be pointed out, however, that despite the Model's sociolinguistic bias it relies primarily on grammatical evidence rather than on that derived from communicative or pragmatic com­petence. First one would require extremely solid evidence from a wide range of situations that acculturation is indeed as important as is claimed. While it may well prove to be important in contact situations between host and migrant communities, it has little obvious relevance to other situations. For example most second foreign language learning in schools has no clear relationship to acculturation; the last thing that many British children learning French want to do is mix with French people. Schumann allows for another process called enculturation by which an individual assimilates to his own cultures (Schumann, 1978, p. ), but this he applies to 'elite professionals' rather than schoolchildren; indeed I have heard teachers claim that their motive in teaching French was to make their pupils dissatisfied with English society, the opposite of enculturation. Nor do acculturation and enculturation explain the second language learning of English which often is learnt as a vehicle for communication detached from an English-speaking environment and which has some-times been learnt by groups whose specific aim was to overthrow English-speaking culture and the status quo in their own countries.

Secondly, one looks in vain for an account of the strategies which cause acculturation to be so powerful, other than in its effect on the learner's preferred situations. We must assume that the degree of acculturation causes learners to behave in different ways; all we are told of this is an analysis of the development of syntax in terms of decreolisation, a global explanation. It has been shown, for example, that integratively oriented learners offer more responses in the classroom (Gardner, Smythe, Clement, and Gliksman, 1976). Without more specification of what accul­turation means in terms of strategies, we are left with something rather like a black-box model of learning: you see what goes in one end (accultur­ation) and you see what comes out the other (successful language learning) but you have no idea of what is going on in the middle. The strength of the acculturation model within an interactional framework is its emphasis on aspects of mental makeup and their interaction with the situation; its weakness is its failure to characterise the strategies that are the product of this interaction.

3. Conversational Analysis

Conversational analysis as presented in Hatch (1978) is both a theory and a methodology. The theory is that in learning a language 'One learns how to do conversation, one learns how to interact verbally, and out of this interaction syntactic structures are developed (Hatch, 1978, p. ); the methodology consists usually of detailed discussion of fragments of observed conversation between native speakers and second language learners, in the tradition of Sacks and his associates (Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson, 1974). The important strategies in conversation are: to get the other participant's attention, "You know John?"; to provide the topic of discussion, "Well he's just got a new car"; to effect repairs to the conversation whenever necessary, "He's got a new what?"; and to get clarification of the topic, "John who?" Both adult and child learners initially have great difficulty in perceiving and nominating topics in a foreign language; this may cause them to perceive their chief problem as being a matter of vocabulary. Learning takes place by attempting to use these strategies and hence syntax and other linguistic levels are subordinate to the learner's conversational strategies. Fitting this into the interactional framework we find that it is a description of certain pragmatic strategies for constructing conversations - the types of move that the learner may make and how they can be sequenced. The situation that interacts with these moves is spontaneous conversation between foreigner and native in a non-classroom setting. Mental makeup is not discussed except for differences in preferred topics between adults and children. Conversational analysis fits within the interactional framework because it insists on the centrality of the learner's individual strategies, although the idea of these being an interaction between learner and situation is not stressed.

Within the interactional framework this can be seen as its major failing. On the one hand it provides no hint where these strategies come from in terms of mental makeup; are they transfer of pragmatic strategies from the first language, in which case we would expect to find some variation bet­ween learners of different native languages? Is it some form of predisposition in that the situation suggests strategies that are not normally used by the learner in his first language? Somewhere there must be a source for these strategies. On the other hand it describes only a limited range of situations; many of the adult conversations reported appear to have been interviews, a situation with a clearly prescribed set of rules in that the interviewer plays a 'leader' part which allows him to ask a succession of unrelated questions for no other purpose than to elicit information and with very little opportunity for the interviewee to adopt other than a 'follower' role of answering his questions. Thus the particular strategies may be true only of the limited situations that have been reported: we do not know the interaction between situation and strategy. A broader range of situations may necessitate a considerably amplified set of strategies, for example, introducing, requesting, reacting, confirming, giving directives and many more.

Summing up these three models of second language learning within an inter­actional framework, we see how each of them occupies a particular place within it: the Monitor Model runs in a narrow band from mental makeup through potential strategy to situation; the Acculturation Model covers primarily mental makeup; Conversational Analysis the potential strategies of the learner. Each of them makes certain claims about its own area but is far from complete as a picture of second language learning. If we accept the reality of Monitoring for instance, this tells us something about the use of consciously acquired grammar by certain learners in certain circumstances; it is a description of one aspect of speech processing. But it says little about other aspects of speech processing or about pragmatic strategies; it is a model of syntactic production and comprehension strategies. This can only be taken as a wider proposal if we commit ourselves to the centrality of syntax in language learning and use; if, however, we believe that phonology and semantics are as important as syntax, or if we feel, as many have come to believe in recent years, (Bruner, 1975; Halliday, 1975), that social interaction and the acquisition of pragmatic and communicative competence are far more important than syntactic development, then the Monitor Model has little to offer. Similarly the limitations of the Acculturation Model and Conversational Analysis prevent them from being more than theories about certain areas of second language learning rather than about second language learning in general. None of these proposals can be called a model of second language learning in any real sense since they are partial; a testable model of the whole of second language learning rather than some part of it needs to encompass many more of the types of relationship revealed in the interactional framework.

To conclude, this paper has explored some of the implications of considering second language learning as a process of interaction between the learner and the situation. This viewpoint has already implicitly been taken in proposals such as the Monitor Model; in one sense the interactional framework only makes explicit an idea of interaction already present in much research into second language learning. This interactional framework is not intended to replace or challenge existing theories of second language learning; instead it is a way of relating these theories together and of seeing the extent of their coverage. Not all of the ramifications of the interactional framework have been described here; in particular it needs to be amplified to take into account the effect of situation on mental makeup, as when learning situations affect the learner's motivation, and the stages of the learner's development in a second language which are the result of the actual strategies he uses. Nevertheless the framework provides a useful tool for thinking about second language learning that demonstrates the sheer complexity of the task awaiting those who attempt to describe it, relates the diverse aspects of it together, and suggests new avenues of research.

Let us finish with two examples where the interactional framework gives us an improved awareness of the learner in a language teaching situation. The first example starts from the learner's mental makeup and draws conclusions for language teaching. We know that short term memory capacity develops with age and we know that it is slightly more limited in a second language (Cook, 1979); we know, say, that a thirteen-year-old English child learning French has a short term memory capacity for 2.5 words less in French than in English. This means that language teachers can adopt teaching techniques that use language within the learner's processing capacity for French, say in terms of sentence length for repetition or, alternatively, that they can deliberately strain the learner's capacity for one reason or another. Thus we are seeing the teaching situation as an interaction between known aspects of the learner's mental makeup and the teaching situation we provide and examining our techniques in the light of learner factors. The second example goes in the reverse direction, starting from a teaching technique and ending with the learner; it is discussed in greater depth in Cook (to appear, b). The teacher decides to use the Community Language Learning technique in which the learners talk to each other in a circle, using the teacher chiefly as a translator. This technique implies at least the following about the learner's actual strategies: speech processing strategies are unimportant, since the learner arrives at the meaning through translation; pragmatic strategies are transferred in toto to the new language, as the learner never hears any but fellow students communicating, and are also limited to those that can be used in small group interaction among equals; learning strategies rely both on the idea that the students should say meaningful things and on translation. Going back to mental makeup, this suggests that the learner is motivated primarily by the need to communicate within the group, a variant of the integrative motivation, and it makes various other assumptions about the learner's expectations of the classroom as a group experience. Thus going from a teaching technique we can find the implications this technique has about learning, check whether they are in fact true, and end up perhaps by specifying what learner type is ideally suited to that technique. Of course, to use the framework in this way, we need much more specific information about each part of it. In particular we need to look much more closely at teaching techniques in terms of the actual strategies that the students are using; what does the technique imply in terms of speech processes, of memory capacity, of pragmatic strategies and so on? Too often a technique has been seen from only one of these points of view; a structure drill was seen as practising habit-formation, a type of learning strategy, and was not considered as presenting a small model of conversational interaction, nor investigated in terms of its information processing load. The interactional framework makes a contribution not only to second language learning research but also to our thinking about language teaching.


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