Errors in the learning of Italian as a foreign language : a contribution to the debate on the difference between acquiring a language in natural circumstances and learning a language in a classroom
The present study is based on the distinction between Second Language Acquisition (SLA), the acquisition of an L2 in a natural context, and Foreign Language Learning (FLL) in an instructed context. In the field of Applied Linguistics, there is a tendency to overlook the differences between the two contexts, both in terms of empirical research and theoretical work. Findings from SLA in a given country have been applied to FLL in another, without any questioning of the validity of the application. Although this practice has become established in the field, an analysis of the differences between SLA and FLL, both contextual and learner-related, seems to justify the need to redefine two areas of enquiry which may be related but are also distinct. In Chapter One several models of SLA are reviewed with specific reference to the notion of error within each of them, and their relevance to FLL is questioned. In Chapter Two, an attempt is made to define a model which incorporates the differences between L 1 acquisition, SLA and FLL and which seeks to categorize error sources in terms of the different socio-cognitive variables operant in each. The following two chapters contain a report of a study designed to test the proposed model and addressing the following questions: 1. can findings on errors from SLA be applied to FLL? 2. is there a correlation between errors and learning context? The study comprises two schools with instruction as the independent variable in a process-product design. Data was collected by means of questionnaires, interviews, analysis of documents, classroom observation, and tests. Findings seem to highlight that SLA and FLL should be considered as separate areas of enquiry and support an affirmative reply to question 2. The study is concluded by a series of observations on the applicability of findings to foreign language teaching.