Task: Sections of the case study
Preparation for the case study Find an adult who is learning English as a second language who is willing to be interviewed and tape recorded. You will need to ask him or her to sign a written consent form which should explain what you want to do and why, and should guarantee anonymity. The person may be studying English formally, i.e. in a class, or may be acquiring English naturalistically. Do not choose a family member or very close friend. Do not choose a beginner or someone with a very low level of language. It will be difficult for you to get enough information, or a large enough sample of language. Draw up a list of questions about general background, country and language of origin, family and work, and about language learning. Use these questions as the basis for an interview, and make sure you tape record it. Use the tape, and any notes you make, to base your report on.
Sections of the case study
a brief description of the learner’s background (eg family, work, education) and language learning experience. a description, with examples, of the learner’s achievements and difficulties in spoken English (lexis, grammar, pronunciation, discourse, conversation strategies etc) a discussion relating all of the above to some of the theoretical concepts of language development covered in the course. This discussion should comprise at least half the report. You may for example choose to discuss the learner’s language in terms of contrastive analysis, or Schumann’s acculturation model. The choice will depend on your interests and the features of the learner’s language you wish to focus on. a brief section giving suggestions for the learner’s future language development.
Although all the above elements should be covered, you are not limited to a particular format. For example, you may integrate the discussion of Language development theory with your presentation of features of the learner’s language and background. Further tips for the case study
– Before you start, read carefully the chapter from R. Ellis 1997 ‘Introduction: Describing and Explaining L2 Acquisition’, in Second Language Acquisition, O.U.P., Oxford. This provides a good example of a case study.
– Do not transcribe the entire tape. This is very time-consuming: an hour of tape may take five hours to write down! It is better to listen to it several times, and take notes.
– On the first listening, take notes on what the learner says: ie content. On later listenings, focus on his/her language use itself – ie errors or successful use of particular grammatical structures or vocabulary etc. You will need to copy down some actual examples of language use to include in your report, but these should be to illustrate the points you make – I repeat, do not transcribe the entire tape!
– In describing your learner’s use of language, you should find the following chapters useful: Littlewood chapter 3 and Lightbown and Spada chapter 4.
– You may also want to consult Swan, M. and Smith, B. 1987, Learner English, Cambridge University Press to see if your learner’s language is included in their collection.
– Find a learner to work with early, and do the interview with plenty of time before Assessment Task 2 is due. Many things could disrupt your plans: your learner might change his/her mind; or move away or be sick on the day you arrange; or your tape recorder might not work; or your tape might run out be prepared so that you can remedy any of these things if they happen!
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