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ABSTRACT

THE ROLE OF AUTHENTIC MATERIALS


IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHING

Abstract. The aim of learning a foreign language is none other than to be able to use the
respective language similarly to the way in which a native would, which is why we believe that
exposing the students to authentic materials throughout the teaching process is crucial. This is
also one of the core pillars of the communicative method. Therefore, after a brief presentation of
the main principles this teaching theory is based on, we tried to exemplify some of the ways in
which its methods could be successfully used in our particular case, laying special emphasis on
the advantages of choosing such an approach, among which that of meeting the students’
learning needs and that of offering them the chance to become truly competent and efficient
language users. In other words, they will be able to adequately convey an intelligible message to
a speaker, within a larger social and situational context.

Keywords: communication; learning needs; linguistic competence; authentic material.


INTRODUCTION
Starting from the assumption that authentic materials are crucial in teaching/learning a
foreign language, this paper is an attempt to analyze how such materials can be used in the
particular situation of teaching/learning, especially since our access to materials designed for
native speakers of English/German/French is virtually unlimited, due to various reasons
(geographical, financial etc.). We have laid special emphasis on the internet, since we consider it
to be an extremely useful and convenient resource. Generally speaking, communication is based
on the existence of a speaker and of a listener, between which there is an information gap which
will be filled in the communication process, so that, in the end, both the speaker and the listener
will have the same information. In other words, the aim of all communication is to adequately
convey an intelligible message to a speaker, within a larger social and situational context.

MATERIALS AND METHODS


Teachers have always been on a continuous search for the most adequate and efficient
teaching method, even though, in reality there is no such a thing as a “perfect” teaching/learning

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recipe, maybe except for the one indicated by the American journalist Dave Barry (1992:20): [in
learning Japanese] “the method recommended by exper ts is to be born as a Japanese baby and
raised by a Japanese family, in Japan” . For all others, less fortunate, there is nevertheless the
possibility of being included in a learning context that resembles real life situations as much as
possible. This is the very general principle the communicative teaching/learning method is based
upon, a method focused on making the student acquire communicative competence. Its declared
purpose is that of enabling the students to use the appropriate language in a given real-life like
context (appropriate from the point of view of the communication situation), and to make
themselves understood by communicating efficiently, while establishing at the same time the
process of negotiating meaning with the listener.
To attain this, the communicative method is based upon a few clear, well-fined
principles that guide the entire teaching/learning process, that is:
1. the aim of all verbal interactions is to communicate;
2. linguistic competence must be doubled by the competence/ability to adequately convey
meaning in various contexts;;
3. communication of all kinds occurs in social and situational contexts, which is why language
must also be learned in authentic, real-life like situations;
4. for an efficient communication in a language it is necessary to acquire communication
abilities and skills, as well as all four communication competences, that is: reading,
speaking, listening, writing;
5. all verbal interactions have an aim;
6. one remembers better familiar, interesting and relevant (to the learner) situations;
7. one remembers better things that one performs.
For the above stated reasons, the teaching/learning process is seen from this perspective
as being focused on an efficient language use – wit h special emphasis on content, not structure –
on the students, with their needs, interests and preoccupations, and not on the text itself. Thus,
the emphasis is laid on verbal interactions among students (using the target-language) working in
pairs or groups, on the initiation of real-like like communicative situations and on the frequent
use of the discovery techniques in the learning process (the student will understand on their own
from the examples given), as well as of authentic materials. By authentic materials one
understands all written or oral materials containing “real”, not processed language, produced by

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a real speaker for a real audience and in a real situation. These can be grouped as: published
material (paper-based) (magazines, journals, etc), audio-visual material (radio, T.V.) or materials
available on the Internet (an almost limitless resource varying from news to the latest articles
available on-line). The advantages of using authentic materials are significant not only from a
pedagogical perspective, but also from a psychological one: the students become more confident,
since they realize that they can “survive” in a rea l life communication situation, they will also
see a point in learning (it really is of use to them in real, concrete, veridical situations as
compared to the sterile, abstract ones presented in textbooks) and will feel motivated (can find
the things they need for themselves). Furthermore, as the students will be exposed to situations
they are likely to come across in real life, they will be forced to use the respective foreign
language in the same way as a native speaker would.
Moreover, the language – in all its aspects, from s tructure to vocabulary – will be
presented in interesting, adequate, relevant contexts that are close to the students’ every-day
experience, and the teaching/learning process will be structured on 5 stages, that is: introduction,
presentation, practice, application and ending. Although all 5 stages are compulsory, the most
important stage from the perspective of the communicative method is “application”, in which
students have to use the knowledge and skills acquired in a creative way in a new situational
context.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


As already mentioned, the communicative method emphasizes the importance of
developing all four competences, which is why the student must also be exposed to listening and
writing activities, and not just to reading and speaking ones. While exercises of the project-draw-
up kind (in groups or pairs) answers both the question of the reading and that of the speaking
part, the teacher must find a way to introduce listening to authentic text –exercises (which can
also be found on the Internet or on CDs/videotapes). Moreover, the use of varied materials will
help the students focus better and maintain their interest alive.

Authentic materials can provide resources for teachers of modern languages such as
English, German and French and offer them the opportunity to expose learners to materials
produced for real life and for out-of classroom context. By authentic material we understand

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materials with “real” language, produced by real sp eakers for a real audience. The focus is on
the message, and means other than language such as format, design, style and context are often
used to help communicate it. If teachers use authentic texts sensibly, they can provide learners
with secure bridges into the real world of authentic, native-like use of the language in question.
One way of reaching communicative goals is to base classroom activities on authentic materials
as often as possible. Authenticity means that the important factor is not the text itself, but the
learner and whether she/he has the necessary knowledge to interpret it correctly, that is be
capable of the appropriate response.
Needless to say, the advantages of using authentic materials are huge. First and foremost,
the use of authentic materials will definitely increase the learner’s self-confidence, as they will
see that they can manage in a real-life situation, while their language will become more “natural”
since the student will get the chance to discover the ‘living’ language, and not the highly-
polished language from the textbooks.
While textbooks, tapes and other various types of teaching materials specifically designed
for foreigners are always at hand, the main problem which has been raised in regard to this type
of materials is that they have limitations, in the sense that either the language used there is
somehow artificial, or that they offer ‘solutions’ for only a limited number of situations. This is
why teachers must continuously search for other types of materials that could compensate for the
limitations of the teaching resources designed for non-native speakers.
A third concept that we could refer to when discussing the advantages of using authentic
materials is cultural awareness. Once again, the students’ coming in contact directly with the
realities of the modern language in question will trigger out a better understanding of the
different, as well as of the common points between the respective culture and their own.
The use of authentic materials does not have, however, only a positive side. The major
disadvantage that has been associated with such materials is their degree of difficulty. Many
teachers claim that authentic materials can only be used with certain levels of study, beginners
being usually excluded. While that may be true with some types, such as newspapers or
broadcast materials, others can definitely be used from the very first lessons.
This is the case with menus, for example; thus, a menu of a fast-food chain that is found
both in an English speaking country and in the learners’ country can be successfully integrated
into teaching; it is good practice for reading/writing and it is also real and up-to-date, giving the

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learner a realistic view on what is available in the country in question, as compared to his/her.
country. A calendar can also be used in beginners’ classes to teach the names of the months or
the days of the week. More difficult materials can be preceded by specific exercises which will
help the learner deal with the problematic parts, such as grammar structures. Thus, we do not
consider the degree of difficulty of authentic materials as a real disadvantage, since the various
problems that may appear can be easily solved with a little imagination.
What could however indeed be regarded as disadvantageous as compared to the classic
textbook is the amount of time that the teacher must allot to the preparation of the activities
accompanying the piece of authentic material, as well as the issue of the correctness of such
materials. Although some of the ‘irregularities’ wh ich can now be found in materials designed
for native speakers and which are now considered mistakes will probably be integrated into the
language and sometimes replace existing forms and structures, teachers are expected to select
only those materials that do not deviate from the current grammatical or stylistic rules and that
will not turn into a source of confusion for the learners.
Authentic materials teachers could actually use in their lessons can be divided into four
main categories, namely: 1. Paper-based materials; 2. Audio-video materials (TV/radio/tapes);
3.The internet; 4. Others.
Paper-based materials include a wide range of things that native speakers use in everyday
life, for various purposes. Some of the most common examples in this category are books,
newspapers and magazines, while books require a certain level of proficiency. newspapers and
magazines provide the language teacher with a multitude of elements that can be used with
various levels and for various teaching purposes: advertisements (both commercial and
classified), horoscopes, TV/radio programmes are just a few of the items in a
newspaper/magazine that can be of much help when trying to make your lesson more interesting
and appealing. Cook books, recipes and menus are a good idea when teaching, for example,
certain forms of the verb, the direct object or vocabulary related with food. Maps could be an
example of material for raising the learners’ awareness about the country in question, introducing
names of places or vocabulary related to travelling. Paper-based materials may also include
various other things that could be linked to teaching: entrance tickets, labels, pamphlets, medical
prospects, postcards, calendars etc. As already mentioned, finding authentic material for
teaching vocabulary not only does it not represent a problem, especially now, when we can use

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the Internet, but it also increases the chances of finding material that meets the students’ interests
and preoccupations, and thus of being relevant.
Audio-video materials are an extremely important aspect in teaching foreign languages,
since, on the one hand, the learners will thus acquire a natural pronunciation and will greatly
improve their listening skill and, on the other hand, the impact of the visual element, especially
when combined with the sound, is very powerful and will enable learners to retain and remember
the information presented easily. The problematic aspect related to audio-video materials is the
necessity for equipment, doubled by the difficulty of finding such materials in our countries.
Moreover, especially with video materials, it is vital that the teacher pay special attention to time
management, since while using video resources can be extremely appealing, they are also time-
consuming and there is also the risk that students’ concentration will be drawn to the material
itself, and that they will neglect the task that they are supposed to fulfil.
Authentic materials are plentiful on the internet and teachers can use the internet to
include pieces of true and meaningful communication in the lesson. In this way, the traditional
teaching of grammar, vocabulary, writing etc. will become enriched with strategies for
developing the four language skills (speaking, listening, writing and reading) and the fifth -
culture skills. The Internet is not only a vast pool of information but also is a place to
communicate with remote people.
We strongly believe that a language can be taught resorting to a series of such materials,
ranging from realia, to pictures, documentaries available on-line or on CDs or on videotapes,
materials which the students will undoubtedly come across in every day life, as well as in the
course of practicing their present/future job. The ways in which this material can be used is up to
the teacher, who can adopt the solution they consider to be most appropriate to the given
teaching/learning situation (students, level, etc) and who will be able to select from a large series
of practical activities – from matching (names/defi nitions), to labelling parts of a picture using
the words newly learned, to fill in the gaps exercises (with the missing information) or even role-
play (in pairs or in groups) transposing the respective situation into practice.
CONCLUSIONS
To conclude, one must say that the use of authentic materials in teaching/learning
specialized vocabulary is not just possible, but also recommended, since it manages: to meet the
students’ learning needs; to offer them the chance of becoming truly competent in a foreign

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language; to stimulate personal motivation; to insure the much needed mental comfort and
confidence; to allow the acquisition of vocabulary as active vocabulary.

Foreign language learning and teaching refer to the teaching or learning of a nonnative language
outside of the environment where it is commonly spoken. A distinction is often made between
‘foreign’ and ‘second’ language learning. A second language implies that the learner resides in
an environment where the acquired language is spoken. In the area of research, the term second
language acquisition (SLA) is a general term that embraces foreign language learning and
investigates the human capacity to learn languages other than the first language once it has been
acquired. Scholarly inquiry into the acquisition of a nonnative language includes the disciplines
of psychology, linguistics, language pedagogy, education, neurobiology, sociology, and
anthropology. Inquiries of learning and teaching innovations have provided new insights into
successful language learning strategies and environments designed to increase language
achievement and proficiency.
Definition A language is considered foreign if it is learned largely in the classroom and
is not spoken in the society where the teaching occurs. Study of another language allows the
individual to communicate effectively and creatively and to participate in real-life situations
through the language of the authentic culture itself. Learning another language provides access
into a perspective other than one’s own, increases the ability to see connections across content
areas, and promotes an interdisciplinary perspective while gaining intercultural understandings.
Language is the vehicle required for effective humanto-human interactions and yields a better
understanding of one’s own language and culture. Studying a language provides the learner with
the opportunity to gain linguistic and social knowledge and to know when, how, and why to say
what to whom National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project (NSFLEP) (2014).
Language scholars distinguish between the terms acquisition and learning: ‘acquisition’
refers to the process of learning first and second languages naturally, without formal instruction,
whereas ‘learning’ is reserved for the formal study of second or foreign languages in classroom
settings. One usually distinguishes between the relatively effortless process of SLA by children
and the more formal and difficult SLA by adults. Foreign language education refers to the
teaching of a modern language that is neither an official language nor the mother tongue of a
significant part of the population. Theories of Language Learning Foreign language learning and

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teaching have undergone a significant paradigm shift as a result of the research and experiences
that have expanded the scientific and theoretical knowledge base on how students learn and
acquire a foreign language. Traditionally, learning a foreign language was thought to be a
‘mimetic’ activity, a process that involved students repeating or imitating new information.
Grounded in behaviorist theories of learning and structural linguistics, the quality and quantity of
language and feedback were regarded as the major determinants of language learning success. A
popular method of teaching in the 1950s, called the audio-lingual approach (ALM), promoted an
imitation and practice approach to language development. The major figure in the ALM
classroom was the instructor who was cast into the role of drill sergeant, expert, and authority
figure. Students were relegated to practicing and imitating patterns to a point of automatic
response in the belief that the learner would then merely have to slot in lexical items appropriate
to the conversational situation. It was believed that the first language interfered with the
acquisition of the second language and that a transfer would take place from the first to the
second language, resulting in errors. In 1959, Noam Chomsky’s review (Chomsky, 1959) of B.F.
Skinner’s (1957) Verbal Behavior dramatically changed the way of looking at language by
arguing that language was a rule-governed activity, not a set of habits.
Chomsky argued that stimulus–response psychology could not adequately account for
creativity involved in generating novel utterances using internalized rules. The creative aspect of
language behavior implies that the human mind is involved in deep processing of meaning rather
than in memorized responses to environmental stimuli. Chomsky’s view of language and
cognitive psychology, dubbed generative transformational grammar, regarded language
acquisition as an internal thinking–learning process. Chomsky claimed that children are
biologically programmed for language and have an innate ability to discover for themselves the
underlying rules of a language system. Chomsky’s ideas led to the demise of structural
linguistics, behaviorist psychology, and the ALM approach to language learning. An alternative
theoretical position emerged centered on the role of the linguistic environment in combination
with the child’s innate capacities in acquiring language.
This position (interactionist) viewed language development as the result of a complex
interplay between innate language capacities of the learner and the learner’s environment. Unlike
the innatist position (e.g., Chomsky, 1959), the interactionists claimed that language had to be
modified to the ability of the learner. According to Long (1985), language input was made

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comprehensible by simplifying the input, by using linguistic and extralinguistic cues, and by
modifying the interactional structure of the conversation. Long maintained that speakers adjust
their language as they interact or negotiate meaning with others. Through negotiation of
meaning, interactions are changed and redirected, leading to enhanced comprehensibility. Long
proposed that learners, in order to acquire language, cannot simply listen to input, rather they
must be active co-constructive participants who interact and negotiate the type of input they
receive. Each of these theories of language acquisition addresses a different aspect of a learner’s
ability to acquire a language. Behaviorist explanations explain systematic aspects, whereas
innatist explanations explain the acquisition of complex grammar. Interactionist explanations
assist in understanding how learners relate form and meaning in language, how they interact in
conversation, and how they use language appropriately.
More recently, researchers have identified nine contemporary language learning
theories: Universal Grammar, Autonomous Induction, Associative-Cognitive CREED, Skill
Acquisition, Input Processing, Processability, Concept- Oriented Approach, Interaction
Framework, and Vygotskian Sociocultural Theory (VanPatten and Williams, 2008). Some of
these theories share a linguistic view of language cognition, others view it from a psychological
point of view and in the case of Sociocultural Theory, a social approach is taken. The Universal
Grammar (UG) and Autonomous Induction theory share the linguistic view that learners have
innate knowledge of grammatical structures that is not learned through mere exposure to input.
They believe that linguistic knowledge is predetermined and is independent from experience.
Learning is believed to occur incidentally by deduction from innate abstract knowledge. The
psychological view of language cognition is represented by the following theories: Associative-
Cognitive CREED, Skill Acquisition theory, Input Process theory, Processability theory,
Concept-Oriented Approach, and the Interaction Framework. While these approaches share a
psychological view of cognition, there are some distinct differences.
The Associative -Cognitive CREED, Input Processing, Processability, and Concept-
Oriented theories view language acquisition as implicit and language learning is presented as an
incidental and a subconscious learning process. However, according to the Skill Acquisition
theory there is a conscious processing. in language acquisition that requires explicit instruction in
order for deliberate learning to occur. The most prevalent and most widely held theory, the
Sociocultural Theory (SCT) proposed by Vygotsky, views cognition as a social faculty.

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According to this theory, participation in culturally organized activities is essential for learning
to occur. Active engagement in social dialogue is important. Learning is regarded as intentional,
goal-directed, and meaningful and is not a passive or incidental process but is always conscious
and intentional. According to Ellis and Larsen- Freeman (2006) learning from exposure comes
about “as part of a communicatively rich human social environment” (p. 577). This is discussed
in more detail later in this article. Emphases in Second Language Research and Teaching
Research has revealed that knowledge of language structures demonstrated on discrete-point
tests does not ensure communicative ability when the measure of language knowledge is one of
more spontaneous language use.
Further studies have shown that there is little correlation between the rules learners are
taught and their developing knowledge of the second language. Language scholars have
demonstrated that certain aspects of second language learning cannot be altered through
instruction, and that intermediate, nonnativelike second language competencies, known as stages
of interlanguage, characterize the progression of SLA. Selinker (1974) viewed interlanguage as
an intermediate system located on a continuum stretching from the native language to the target
language. Corder (1978) stated that, in the interlanguage process, the learner constantly and
progressively adjusts the native language system to approximate the target language system more
closely (restructuring continuum). Corder noted that not all learners showed evidence of transfer
from native language to target language and suggested that there was a uniformity about the way
second language learners progress and that they follow approximately the same sequence of
development regardless of their native language (developmental continuum).
More recent studies in the area of interlanguage such as Vidaković’s study of Serbian
learners of English support Corder’s findings that not only is a learner’s interlanguage a
continuing developmental process, but that it is also systematic in its development. However,
new findings contain evidence that the acquisition paths of the two linguistic systems of the
learner are influenced by a rich interplay of mostly universal (as opposed to language-specific)
factors and show similarities unrelated to the first or second language (2010). According to this
view of SLA, the controlling factor is the innate ability for learning language that all human
beings possess. Pica (1983) determined that all language learners progressed through a fixed
series of stages, known as developmental sequences, in learning particular linguistic subsystems,
such as word order, negation, or relative clauses. In English negation, for example, when

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communicative samples were examined, it was revealed that both foreign language and second
language learners progressed through the same fourstage sequence, defined in terms of
placement of negation. Ellis (1986) reviewed several studies that involved Japanese, Spanish,
German, and Norwegian children, adolescents, and adult learners.
He concluded that all English-as-a-second language learn-ers pass through the following
prescribed set of stages: (1) ‘no’ phrase, for example, ‘No drink’; (2) negator moves inside the
phrase, for example, ‘I no can swim’; (3) negator is attached to modals, for example, ‘I can’t
play this one’; and (4) auxiliary system is developed and learner acquires correct use of not and
contractions, for example, ‘He doesn’t know anything.’ This suggests that learners make
particular kinds of errors at particular stages in the acquisition of a structure. Each stage marks
some kind of restructuring in the mind of the learner regarding that particular structure. Structure
evolves over time. Is L2 learning possible without rules? In the absence of rules, low-level
associative learning that draws on information driven processes supported by memory is possible
but does not lead to knowledge of a systematic rule. Future research should investigate whether
all aspects of a second language are equally learnable by implicit means or whether more
complex aspects of the second language may require more conceptually driven processing in
order for associations to be formed (Ellis, 2002). Recent trends in foreign language research have
increasingly focused on multilingualism and the interplay of multiple linguistic systems in the
language learner. One area of multilingualism that has been much examined is cross-linguistic
influence (also known as language transfer, linguistic interference, the role of the mother tongue,
native language influence, and language mixing) (Odlin, 2003). Studies point to the complexity
and dynamic nature of the multilingual system and have identified a number of factors involved
in cross-linguistic influence in the acquisition of a foreign language, particularly of a third
language. Some of these factors include (psycho) typological distance (e.g., the similarity of the
languages or perceived similarity), foreign language effect (a coping strategy used as a type of
‘foreign language cognitive mode’), proficiency level, and recency of use or context of the
interaction.
Studies also provide evidence for stronger language transfer between L2 and L3 rather
than L3 and L1 (De Angelis, 2007; Wrembel, 2010). Moreover, current studies of cross-
linguistic influence tend to treat each aspect of language acquisition separately (e.g.,

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phonological transfer and transfer of literacy skills) and reveal that not each type of transfer
works in exactly the same way or is influenced by the same factors.
Learner-Centered Instruction Two communicative approaches, the input model and the
input interaction model, represent two models of foreign language theory and teaching that
investigate the language acquisition process from the perspective of the learner. Krashen (1982)
is the principal advocate of the input model of foreign language teaching. His theory is grounded
in (1) Chomsky’s generative linguistics; (2) research on the effectiveness of different
second/foreign teaching methods; and (3) research on affective factors (such as motivation,
anxiety, and personality). Krashen posited that SLA occurs when the learner comprehends the
language input in a low-anxiety, high-motivation situation, and proposed that the teacher’s role is
to create such a learning environment. Krashen further claimed that conscious grammar
teaching/learning is effective only in a monitoring capacity to check for grammatical accuracy,
not in the acquisition of the second language itself. Because classrooms remained a major setting
for language learning, the pursuit to determine those elements that enhanced classroom language
achievement became particularly important. Why do two learners who seemingly have the same
instructional opportunity achieve varying levels of language proficiency? Investigations focused
on individual skills or abilities and environmental factors that may impact foreign language
achievement and proficiency.
Individual cognitive (e.g., intelligence, aptitude, or ability) and affective (e.g., attitude
and personality variables) factors were analyzed. Skehan (1986) noted a fairly strong relationship
between cognitive variables such as aptitude, intelligence, and language achievement for learners
in foreign language classrooms. Other factors analyzed include the age of the learner.
Researchers have typically aimed at understanding how early versus late learning affects
successful acquisition, and discussed this issue in terms of a critical period of acquisition in
which language acquisition seemed to depend on appropriate input during this time frame
(Hernandez and Ping, 2007). Although critical period effects in L2 learning are still being
debated, researchers generally agree that early learning of L2 is associated with higher ultimate
proficiency, and age of acquisition is reliably the strongest predictor of ultimate attainment in the
language (Birdsong, 2006). Recent developments in the fields of neurolinguistics and
neurobiology provide evidence that L2 grammatical processing is carried out through the same
brain computational devices as those in L1. Furthermore, proficiency, age of acquisition, and

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amount of exposure to the L2 has been found to interact in complex ways with the different types
of language performance (Perani and Abutalebi, 2005).
Interestingly, not only is this true for L2 acquisition but also brain imaging research in
neurobiology has revealed a general tendency that early learning (of any type) leads to dedicated
neural circuitry that affects the form of cognitive and neural structures at later stages of
development (Hernandez and Ping, 2007: p. 646). Moreover, studies have suggested that the
attainment of broad native-likeness among late L2 learners is in fact possible (Marinova-Todd,
2003; Hernandez and Ping, 2007; Perani and Abutalebi, 2005). Future research in L2 acquisition
must account not only for the typical decline in L2 attainment with age but also for the nativelike
achievement levels of which some late learners are capable (Birdsong, 2006: p. 37). The
predictive power of the above-mentioned traits, however, has been shown to decrease as the
criteria for language proficiency became more communicative and the learning setting became
more natural (versus formal and instructional).
The most avid pursuit in research occurred in investigations of the role of motivation in
learning language and the learner’s attitude toward the target language and culture. Using
Gardner and Lambert’s (1972) differentiation between integrative and instrumental motivation,
researchers reported no significant advantage for an integrative (intrinsic) motive and others
reported an advantage when the learner was driven by instrumental (extrinsic) motives.
Integrative motivation was defined as one in which the target language was being learned by an
individual in order to be accepted by the native speaker community. Instrumental motivation was
one in which the language was being learned for external benefits, such as securing a better job.
Results of studies investigating environmental factors reported on the effect on achievement
scores. Carroll (1975) conducted a survey of French instruction in eight countries and noted
effects on achievement by gender, school type, and teacher gender, and mixed effects according
to parental interest. Social factors outside the school were determined to have a significant
impact on the development of language proficiency.
Both cognitive and affective factors were investigated to explain the variance in foreign
language achievement. Motivation, attitudes, anxiety, self-esteem, tolerance of ambiguity, risk-
taking, cooperation, and competition proved to be key variables that explained individual
differences in foreign language learning (Ellis, 1994). Successful language learning was
determined to be largely dependent on who was learning the language, under what

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circumstances, and for what purposes. Foreign language acquisition was revealed to be a
complex, multidimensional process influenced by both learner and environment variables.
The questions generated by these theories and research studies began to focus on
significant new responsibilities on the part of the teacher in the design and support of individual
and personalized learning tasks. Learning and Measurement Language teaching has experienced
numerous curricular innovations in response to the importance of providing students with
opportunities to acquire and practice the foreign language in contextualized and meaningful
language communicative tasks at all stages of the second or foreign language acquisition process.
Communicative language teaching (CLT), the term most associated with current discussion of
method, emerged as a significant approach that found universal resonance and support in theory
and application in many contexts and across disciplines (linguists, methodologists, and
curriculum developers). Central to the rise of CLT was the realization that linguistic competence
does not on its own achieve communicative competence (Canale and Swain, 1980) and that
language used in meaningful, authentic contexts is more readily acquired. Pair work, group
work, cooperative/collaborative learning settings, authentic materials, culturally integrated lesson
content, and interactive tasks focused on the cognitive and affective domains were integrated into
foreign language classrooms. In addition, there has been a call for the reconceptualization of
theoretical underpinnings related to use of the target language for language instruction. Past
instructional policies have been dominated by monolingual instructional principles largely
unsupported by empirical evidence. In today’s multilingual classrooms there is a need to revisit
the common assumptions that translation from L2 to L1 (or L3 to L2 for that matter) has no place
in the teaching of language or literacy, that instruction should be carried out exclusively in the
target language without recourse to students’ L1, and that L1 and L2 should be kept rigidly
separate (Cummins, 2010). In contrast to these assumptions, recent research has shed light on the
fact that the L1 should be seen as a cognitive and linguistic resource that can function as a
stepping stone to support more effective performance in the L2 (p. 238). Furthermore,
constructivist teaching practices, influenced by Vygotsky’s emphasis on social interaction in
learning and development, helped learners to internalize and reshape newinformation. The
theoretical underpinnings of Vygotsky’s (1978) view of language learning that maintained
contextualized input in cooperative, meaningful interactions with others formed a basis for
Sociocultural Theory (SCT), which has enhanced language acquisition and taken hold in

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classrooms around the globe. According to Lantolf and Pavlenko (1995), the goal of SCT is to
understand how people organize and use their mind in the daily process of living. From a
sociocultural stance, acquiring language amounts to more than just mastery of the linguistic
properties of the L2. It involves the “dialectic interaction of two ways of creating meaning in the
world” (p. 110). The interaction between an expert (teacher) and novice (learner) in a problem-
solving task (scaffolding) in which the expert’s role was to provide the novice with instructional
support then became the model for communicative tasks in the foreign language classrooms.
Based on Vygotsky’s concept of a Zone of Proximal Development (the distance between the
actual developmental level and the level of potential development), the expert’s and teacher’s
role was to gain the learner’s interest in the task, simplify the task, keep the learner motivated,
point out important features, reduce anxiety and frustration during problem solving, and model
appropriate form. In accordance with the new responsibilities, the role of the classroom teacher
shifted to that of an architect, creating meaningful, interactive, and cooperative learning tasks
designed to engage the learner actively in negotiating language meaning in authentic contexts
that are co-constructed. The focus on student language proficiency as measured through
performance-based tasks made itself felt both in language learning research and in teaching.
Questions emerged regarding how language proficiency could be enhanced and how best to
measure the level of language proficiency.
As the proficiency movement has gained momentum in the US and most recently in
Europe, consensus was sought about describing and measuring language abilities. The
development of the Proficiency Guidelines by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign
Languages (ACTFL) defined what language users are able to do with language in speaking,
listening, reading, and writing at various levels of performance. These Guidelines marked a
major shift in language pedagogy from methodology to measurement and a focus on learner
outcomes. In 1996, content standards were published and subsequently revised (National
Standards in Foreign Language Education Project, 1996, 2006, 2014) that delineated what
learners should know and be able to do with language. The ACTFL Performance Guidelines for
K-12 Learners (ACTFL, 2006) described language performance within three modes of
communication (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational) to assist teachers in
understanding how well students demonstrate language ability at various points along the
language-learning continuum. A similar effort by the International Association for the Evaluation

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of Educational Achievement’s Language Education Study is seeking a comparison and
evaluation of the outcomes of different educational systems across Europe. The Standards
Movement, seeking to promote the establishment of guidelines for the teaching of foreign
languages for all learners, indicates the growing concern with learner outcomes and
accountability. In a standards-driven environment, the shift to student performance requires that
teachers have a repertoire of approaches that target specific goal areas or standardsIntercultural
Competence Increasingly, language educators contend that foreign language learning should
increase students’ intercultural competence (IC) which would allow them to see relationships
between different cultures, mediate across these cultures, and critically analyze cultures
including their own (Chapelle, 2010). Language teachers have now recognized their role in
eliciting culture learning in their classrooms and ways to access that learning (Moloney and
Harbon, 2010). One such way proposed by Schulz (2007) is through utilization of
culturelearning portfolios. According to Schulz, the teaching of intercultural competence should
include developing awareness of variables that affect communicative interactions, recognizing
stereotypes and evaluating them, and developing awareness of types of causes for cultural
misunderstandings between members of different cultures.
The use of a culture-learning portfolio allows teachers to assess students’ progress over
time based on specific objectives that can be related to individual student interest. These
portfolios encourage critical reflection and selfevaluation and, especially important in the area of
cultural learning, the use of multiple sources of evidence (Schulz, 2007: p. 18). Despite much
research into effective strategies and approaches to teaching and assessing intercultural
competency in foreign language classrooms (particularly in the United States), several challenges
have been put forward. One such challenge is that of sensitizing students to the value of seeing
the world through the language/culture of another and creating a more affective climate for
developing intercultural competency in an environment where a monolingual monocultural
national linguistic identity rules at home and global English rules abroad (Fonseca-Greber, 2010:
p. 117). Foreign Languages: Future Directions One area that remains controversial in the world
of foreign and second language teaching today is the question: Is native-like attainment a
necessary or desirable goal in the global world we live in today? In the field of English as a
Foreign Language (EFL), the question of whether speakers should conform to native speaker

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norms of English in light of its increasing use in international contexts has been widely debated
in recent years (Timmis, 2002).
In light of this issue many scholars in the field have raised the question of why native
speaker communities are most often a model for learners of English as an international language.
In reaction to this, a deluge of terms have been developed (e.g., Global English, International
English, International Standard English, World English, or World Englishes) some of which
challenge the idea that only native speaker community varieties are valued (McArthur, 2001).
Proponents of the term ‘Global Englishes,’ for example, promote the idea that English belongs to
all who use it, however they use it (p. 4). Another important direction in research that requires
more attention is use and effect of computer technology on foreign language learning. As
classroom tasks become more focused on real-world issues, texts, or events, and problem-
solvingbased tasks, technology introduces a new dimension to the teaching and learning process
that incorporates the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Voice Thread, and
others. Digital media allows students to manipulate learning materials and language at their own
pace and according to individual needs.
Students examine reports, authentic documents, and web pages to find information that
can be synthesized and discussed later and can collaborate electronically with youth from around
the world. In such a learning environment the role of the teacher changes from one of authority
figure or expert who delivers knowledge to one who facilitates, guides, and supports student
learning. The teacher assumes greater responsibilities in designing and supporting individual and
personalized learning tasks. This has tremendous implications for teacher educators and teacher
trainers to act as agents of change as they foster language learning through the use of public
pedagogy and critical media literacy. One of the most effective research methodologies that
emerged in the last few years has been action research. Inquiring into one’s own instructional
practices through classroom-based investigations, teachers actively contribute to the research
endeavor and change practices based on findings. Such research promises to improve teaching
practices that are of interest to both researchers and teachers. Methodologically classroom-
oriented research has been largely conducted within the framework of correlational approaches,
case studies, survey research, ethnographic research, experiments, and discourse analysis
(Johnson, 1992). While the choice of research method is largely determined by the nature of the
research question to be investigated, or by the hypothesis to be tested, thoughtful combinations

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of qualitative and quantitative research on foreign/second language learning conditions will
provide valuable insights into language acquisition processes. Greater use of qualitative and
mixed methods investigating students in their classrooms with special attention to cultural,
situational, and longitudinal contexts is needed and recommended. As foreign language research
draws on related disciplines (psychology, psycholinguistics, neurobiology, neurolinguistics,
sociology, and linguistics) to better explain conditions that lead to greater language proficiency
and differential success among foreign language learners, a deeper understanding of how
languages are acquired and consequently how they should be taught will be gained. Furthermore,
as learning and teaching innovations continue to be tested and researched, new insights will be
gained that will influence teaching practices globally.
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