Language awareness in a young L2 learner


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Most studies on L2 language awareness from the learners' own perspectives have been carried out with adolescent and adult learners. Children's perception of target languages is rarely investigated. Research on out-of-school L2 learning is also quite limited in the literature. In addition, studies which concern the earliest stages of learning are scarce. This present study aims to provide information on one child's language awareness from the onset of her second language learning outside of formal learning settings.

This longitudinal study explores language awareness over a period of 14 months in a female Japanese ESL learner, beginning from when the learner was 7 years 2 months old as she started a sojourn in an L2 environment. The present study analyzes a diary, written by the child's mother, the researcher, which provided insights into the learner's perception of the target language and the learner's reflections on her own language learning. The diary included the child's spontaneous utterances as well as comments related to her L2 learning.

Drawing on Schmidt's noticing hypothesis (1990, 1993, 1995 & 2001), the study attempts to determine: (1) the features a learner notices in the target language environment and (2) whether the features the learner notices change over time.

The findings revealed that the learner noticed a wide range of features about the L2. Furthermore, comments and questions on L2 features related to pragmatic awareness appeared from the very first week of the sojourn, while those concerning metalinguistic awareness did not appear until the fourth month, suggesting that her conscious noticing of L2 features were present from the beginning, but that as she became better at using English, she noticed more L2 rules in the input than she had before.

The findings provide some implications for primary school English education in Japan.



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