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Title: Spoken interaction in the French as a foreign language classroom in Malta : learner responses elicited by teachers’ questioning patterns
Authors: Bezzina, Anne-Marie
Gauci, Joanne
Keywords: French language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers
French language -- Acquisition
French language -- Spoken French -- Malta
Issue Date: 2021-12
Publisher: University of Malta. Faculty of Education
Citation: Bezzina, A. M., & Gauci, J. (2021). Spoken interaction in the French as a foreign language classroom in Malta : learner responses elicited by teachers’ questioning patterns. Malta Review of Educational Research, 15(2), 165-195.
Abstract: This study investigates the state of health of the spoken component in the teaching and learning of French as a Foreign Language (FFL) in Malta, positing that this may throw some light on the nature of foreign language (FL) pedagogical methods employed locally. A review of research conducted on the practice of the spoken skill by Maltese learners of French is supported by a study of questioning techniques employed by FFL teachers and their effect on the quality of learners’ spoken participation in class. Modern language pedagogy values practice of the spoken skill by L2 learners. The language teacher as interaction facilitator needs to master strategies based on asking direct, specific, open-ended questions which may trigger replies that go beyond single-word answers. Using Bloom’s taxonomy ensures that through their questioning, teachers engage learners in different cognitive processes. The analysis is based on a corpus of 16 transcribed FFL lessons delivered in two Maltese secondary schools, studied by means of Natural Language Processing (NLP), with a focus on questions, classified according to the types of responses they generate. The corpus is tagged with a tokenizer for French and another one for Maltese. The platform used for collocation searches and statistical calculations in the multilingual corpus is the Sketch Engine corpus management toolkit. Identification of grammatical categories mostly used by learners is carried out. Results confirm a rather traditional tendency in these classes, with the teacher as dominant figure, and a significant imbalance in the distribution of teacher and learner talk. Teachers frequently ask closed questions about word/phrase meaning and meta-language. Classroom verbal exchanges tend to involve lower order cognitive processes. Grammatical categories used in learner talk are predominantly heads of phrases, with very limited expansion. An improvement in the quality of classroom exchanges is warranted. Teacher training should go beyond theoretical knowledge of Bloom’s taxonomy, to include practice of efficient questioning strategies that may help learners produce longer stretches of L2 talk and develop their thinking skills. Not much progress seems to have been achieved in recent years regarding the practice of speaking in the FFL classroom; a culture change in the FL teaching scenario seems to be necessary to allow for advancement.
Appears in Collections:MRER, Volume 15, Issue 2

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