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Numer: 48018
Dział: Języki obce

Consciousness - raising

If Shakespeare were a methodologist his famous statement could be: ‘to give (grammar instructions) or not to give’, as it seems probably one of the most frequently raised questions by language teaching professionals. The concept of learning/teaching grammar has undergone extensive modification and began to be a contentious issue.
In his Input Hypothesis Krashen (1985) stresses the importance and necessity of comprehensible input in order successful second language acquisition (SLA) could take place, asserting at the same time that the role of grammar is peripheral. Another, thoroughly different approach is presented by Sharwood Smith (1981), who explains that grammar instructions are significant and inevitable in SLA. To this may be added the opinions of numerous grammarians, who are for and against of giving grammatical instructions. Unfortunately, it seems there is no definite answer to the question whether students should be taught grammar or not. However, Rutherford (1987) suggests grammatical consciousness raising (C-R), the term that he explains in his glossary as “the drawing of the learner’s attention to features of the target language” (Rutherford 1987:189) – the solution that can lead to a certain compromise. What he endeavours to express is that SLA should be concentrated on helping students notice grammatical structures themselves and devoid of any explicit rules. Assuredly, it is different from strict communicative approaches for it makes learners pay attention to forms, which can either lead to a conscious practice of the relationships between meaning and form or building implicit knowledge of targeted features. Rutherford (1987) objects to perceiving language learning as collecting linguistic units, where collecting the last one could be called mastering proficiency of the target language. He accentuates the fact that the latest research supports the process of learning English in which both the order of mastering the language features and the time in which they are learned in are not governed by the curriculum or the textbook whatsoever, but most of all by the learner. Furthermore, they are rooted in universal principles.
From the outset Rutherford (1987) points out that successful learning is possible only when the learner can relate the new material to the already known items. Additionally, he gives an example of a study made by Pienemann, who claims that some language features may only be acquired in a relatively fixed order, which can improve acquisition in three distinct manners:
• Learning will be faster,
• The quantity produced will be greater,
• The contexts in which the rule can apply will be extended. (Rutherford 1987:26)

This can lead to a conviction that the aim of grammatical consciousness raising is to draw learner’s attention to some grammatical topics in order to develop his/her awareness of them and so that the learner could apply them when ready. Whereas, certain grammatical topics can be dealt by the learners by themselves, grammatical C-R is a powerful tool in preventing the unneeded accumulation of mistakes accelerating at the same time the acquisition of grammatical structures.
Rutherford (1987:14) defines the language learning process as: ”an interaction of the universal with the specific”. He asserts that L2 learners already have both specific and universal kind of knowledge. He perceives grammatical C-R as: ”the illumination of the learner’s path from the known to the unknown” (Rutherford 1987:21). To this may be added the opinion of Hinkel and Fotos (2002:7) who claim that:

When a language point in noticed frequently, learners develop awareness of it and unconsciously compare it with their existing system of linguistic knowledge, unconsciously constructing new hypotheses to accommodate the differences between the noticed information and their L2 competence.

On the other hand, another principal researcher Ellis (1993:5) claims that “Like so many other terms in language pedagogy, the term ‘grammar consciousness raising’ is rather vague and is used with very different meanings”. According to him a clear distinction between the teaching of grammar through practice and through consciousness-raising can be made. He argues that the aim of the first is to produce “sentences exemplifying the grammatical feature that is the target of the activity” (Ellis 1993:7), whereas the aim of the second one is to provide a student only with comprehension of a particular grammatical feature, where the production of the examples is unnecessary. What is more, he also stresses as opposed to Rutherford, the placement of explicit grammar rules in C-R. That agrees with the stance of Sharwood-Smith (1981:158), who accentuates the fact that C-R of form or explicit knowledge can contribute implicit knowledge. Explicitness, according to him, can guide formal practice, what inevitably is processed as comprehensible input by the learner which can aid implicitness.
However, when attempting to examine C-R activities it appears that it is nothing but another term for grammatical activities, or as Thornbury (1999) claims: “a smart term for what was once called grammar presentation”. (ibid: 25)
Rutherford (1987) stresses the fact that one inevitable feature in order to successful language-learning process took place is the necessary exposure to the sufficient amount of data to form generalizations. He is of the opinion that, as opposed to the experience of learning L1, when it comes to learning L2 learners have less than necessary data to test their hypotheses. Rutherford claims that C-R help to organize the data (language) in a controlled and principled fashion allowing the learner to form generalizations.
A ‘C-R” activity aims to foster or encourage noticing as Fotos (1993:406) states: “Once a learner’s consciousness of a target feature is raised through formal instruction... the learner often tends to notice the feature in subsequent input” and this noticing is perceived as the entry to acquisition. Noticing ,according to Lynch (2001:128), ”is certainly part of successful language learning; one can hardly imagine (adult) learners making substantial progress without it” To this may be added the opinion of Harmer (2003:8), who in his article “Do Your Students Notice Anything?” states that:
The most effective way of noticing language (without which it cannot be successfully internalised and acquired) is having students perform communicative tasks which have meaning at their centre. The negotiation of this meaning – and the need to repair communication breakdown when it occurs – is the most effective way of focusing on noticing language construction, being far superior to the focus on discrete grammar and vocabulary items
Consciousness – raising as stated above constitutes something as a compromise between the two extremely different approaches to teaching grammar of a foreign language: ‘the zero position approach’ proposed by Krashen and the traditional grammar based approaches. Yip (1994:124) suggests that C-R attempts to bridge this discrepancy. Still, there are factors that need to be taken into consideration as far as the role of C-R in SLA is concerned like: the learner’s interest in grammar, form and accuracy, his willingness to pay attention and the nature of the structure itself.

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