Second Language Acquisition and Teaching: First Stages and Input Processing (SLAT)


This GDRI brings together researchers from ten European institutions in Germany, the UK, Italy, France, Poland and the Netherlands, a group of researchers with a long history of collaboration in research focused on the very beginning stages of adult foreign language learning. The objective of the research is to provide empirical data collected in the language classroom where the linguistic input and learners’ performance on tasks in the foreign language is documented in order to test prominent hypotheses and theories of second language acquisition and their implications for language pedagogy.

The most recent and on-going collaboration of this group of researchers resulted from an ANR ORA grant (Open Research Area in Europe for the Social Sciences, with the DFG in Germany and the NWO in the Netherlands, 2011-2014) for the cross-linguistic project “Varieties of Initial Learners in Language Acquisition: Controlled classroom input and elementary forms of linguistic organisation” (VILLA). Following approval of this funding, two additional grants were obtained by two Italian teams (University or Bergamo and University of Pavia) and two UK teams (University of York and University of Cambridge – British Council), allowing them to join the project.

The VILLA project entails teaching the same 14-hour Polish course to groups of monolingual native speakers of French, German, Dutch, English and Italian. Identical tasks in Polish and tests of individual differences were administered to all participants in all countries. All classroom sessions were entirely recorded (audio and video) in order to compare learners’ performance on Polish tasks with the Polish input they received in the classroom, while also taking into account learner variability.

The resulting database will contribute significantly to current debates in language acquisition research and to reflections on how language teachers can enhance their students’ experience of appropriating a new foreign language. Over the next four years, the research group is committed to formulating proposals for foreign language teaching based on results of empirical research regarding the role of the native language, the impact of the type of instruction (more or less focused on formal structures), and the role of individual differences in the appropriation of a new foreign language. This GDRI will support the continued international collaboration necessary to analyse, compare and discuss these data with a view to diffusing results.