Variation in spoken discourse in and beyond the english foreign language classroom : a comparative study
This study is concerned with one of the most interesting and the least well-researched areas in contemporary research on classroom interaction: that of the discourse variability exhibited by participants. It investigates the way in which the language of native speakers (NSs) as well as that of non-native speakers (NNSs) may vary according to the circumstances under which it is produced. The study, therefore, attempts to characterise the performance of both NSs and NNSs (with particular emphasis placed on the latter) in various types of interaction in and beyond the EFL classroom. These are: Formal Interview (FI), Formal Classroom Interaction (FCI), Informal Classroom Interaction (ICI), Informal Classroom Discussion (ICD), and Informal Conversation (IC). The corpus of the study consisted of four NSs and fifteen NNSs. Both a video and a tape recording was made for each type of interaction, with the exception of the IC which was only audio-recorded so as not to inhibit the natural use of language. Each lasted for 35 minutes. The findings of the study mark clearly the distinction between the `artificiality' of classroom interaction and the `naturalness' or `authenticity' of non-classroom discourse. Amongst the most interesting findings are the following: Unlike both FCI and ICI, in the FI, ICD, and IC, the language of NNSs was characterised by: greater quantity of oral output, a wider range of errors, the use of natural discourse strategies such as holding the floor and self-correction, and a greater number of initiations in both ICD and IC. It is suggested that if `natural' or `authentic' discourse is to be promoted, the incorporation of FI, ICD, and IC into the EFL classroom activities is much needed. The study differs from most studies on classroom interaction in that it attempts to relate work in the EFL classroom to the `real' world as its prime objective.