A Study of Chinese Learners’ Internal Context in English Leaning
|School||Guangdong University of Foreign Studies|
|Course||Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics|
|Keywords||internal context language acquisition transfer|
The present study constitutes an attempt to investigate Chinese learners’ internal context with a view to understanding the role of context in SLA. The internal context refers to the contextual knowledge that resides in human mind as contrasted with the external context that is either audible or visible. Thus far, few studies have been carried out to investigate the effect of the internal context on L2 learning. The current study is aimed to work along this line and probethe internal context in the hope that it can shed light the L2 learning process.on.An empirical study was designed using a Sentence Grammaticality Judgment Test to elicit the Chinese learners’ and native speakers’ internal contextual knowledge in relation to English use. The test consisted of 24 contexts, and for each context four tense-aspect forms were provided. Participants were 40 English Majors, 40 Senior Middle School students and 6 native speakers. They were required to judge the sentences’ acceptability in the given context followed by thinking aloud. 24 of the Chinese learners’ think-aloud protocols were scrutinized and the results showed that the L2 learners’ internal context could be described from two perspectives. Statically speaking, the internal context can be viewed as an information depository containing three parts: a direct and instant reflection of the external context, the contextual knowledge of the linguistic forms, and the panoramic contextual knowledge. Dynamically speaking, the internal context can be viewed as a cognitive process involving three steps: sifting the most relevant ones through all the external features, analyzing the contextual orientation, and matching a form which was most adequate to cover the detected features and the contextual orientation. Although the statistical results of the Test indicated that the learners’ internal context generally supported language use, three problems of the internal context have been found impeding the correct L2 use. First, the contextual knowledge assumed for a linguistic form was erroneous. Second, the students attended to some trivial contextual information and mapped it onto a L2 form. Third, some L1-based panoramic contextual knowledge has preempted L2-based panoramic contextual knowledge. Transfer phenomena also surfaced, as the Chinese learners judged those L1-like sentences most acceptable for the given contexts. An examination of the think-aloud protocols showed that transfer was mainly occasioned by the first two problems associated with the internal context.Overall, the Chinese learners’ internal context had much bearing on FL context. Years of English learning had not helped establish an impeccable L2 internal context. The comparison between the native speakers’ think-aloud protocols with those of students’ made it clear that as long as the learners had the experience of matching the linguistic form with the external context correctly, they could avoid the above three pitfalls. The present study has provided empirical evidence for delineating the internal context and understanding the transfer phenomena. It also confirmed the Compensation Hypothesis (Wang 2003a) in that L1-based contextual knowledge may preempt and induce incorrect language use.