Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Previously, we were examining and looking at the most important issues in the INPUT HYPOTHESIS; now, we want to link these two hypotheses because it is important to think of the role of production in English. From our point of view, output is closely related to the process of production.

For Swain, constant practice facilitates the learner to be conscious of her/his production. Output makes to move the learner from the semantic processing to the complete grammatical processing for accurate production.

According to Merrill Swain, “The output hypothesis claims that the act of producing language (speaking or writing) constitutes under certain circumstances, part of the process of second language learning”1. As it can be noticed, there is a need for implementing and improving the use of these two skills  which are different from the Input Hypothesis and that could be grouped together, forming  a whole construct necessary for students to be able to convey meaning and communicate their ideas.

According to this author there are three specific functions of output; they are as follows:

1. The noticing/triggering function: It refers to the awareness or “noticing” students find when they cannot say or write exactly what they need for conveying meaning. With the use of this function, learners realize there are some linguistics problems they need to manage, so that, it pushes the student to look for the adequate knowledge they require for completing the new discovered gap.

“Learners may notice that they cannot say what they want to say in the target language” (Swain 1995) Noticing this “hole” (Doughty and Williams 1998) may be an important step to noticing the gap. 2

2. The hypothesis-testing function: This function suggests learners may use the method of “trial and error” for testing her /his production expecting to receive a feedback. This feedback can be applied in two ways: recasts and elicitations or clarifications requests. Example: 

3. The metalinguistic (reflective function): Language is seen as a tool conducive to reflection on the language used by the teacher, their partners and the student himself/herself. (Vigotsky´s sociocultural theory)
Stetsenko and Arievitch (1997:161) state: “Psychological processes emerge first in collective behavior in co-operation with other people, and only subsequently become internalized as the individual’s own possessions.”

When explaining this theory, it is necessary to highlight the importance of the negotiation of meaning, which is not simply related to understand the meaning of the message the transmitter sends to the receiver despite the problems in its structure, but a clear, precisely, coherently and appropriately message=Pushed output.  Pushed output example:

This theory has a great importance since thanks to it, we can move from the input data provided to the student from the environment to the capacity of the learner to produce a clear and coherent   language.

We considered it is important to make our students to produce language through writing exercises or activities and speaking interaction among students. If we are able to store information in our student’s brain, they will have the necessary background for conveying meaning and make their communication activities an efficient practice.

Comprehensible input + Comprehensible output = Effective Second language Acquisition.

Some important advantages applicable to the classrooms when reflecting upon this hypothesis are the collaboration and interaction necessary for students to feel comfortable and work together. Language in this case will serve as a mediating tool, which allows students to lead with the solving-problem process they encounter in the path of acquiring the second language.

It is something of great importance to be conscious of our role of individuals who have a more advanced conscious process in contrast to our students and consequently the ones able to provide correction for students applying new accurate and proper constructions when providing feedback. This feedback is important in our context, especially, because it is one of the few settings in which students have a contact to the target language and they need advices and corrections for improving their production. 

1,2 Power Point Presentation: The output hypothesis: Its history and its future. Merril Swain. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.

Posted by: Jessica B. Liberato

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