Through the years, language teachers, psychologists and others have had varying ideas of how languages are learned. Second language acquisition has multiple models, including cognitive based models, sociocultural models, and models regarding input and interaction. In this paper, my goal is to take one prominent model of SLA, the interactionist model, and determine how this model actually plays out in the classroom. I seek to answer the following questions: How does interaction support the development of interlanguage as shown in SLA research? And what does this imply about teaching practice. The discussion of these questions will follow from an analysis of four articles on interaction research. First, I will discuss an article called “Talking, tuning in and noticing: exploring the benefits of output in task-based peer interaction” by Philp & Iwashita (2013). Then I will discuss Iwashita’s work, “Negative Feedback and Positive Evidence in Task-Based Interaction” (2003). I will move on to the work of Mackey and Silver, “Interactional tasks and English L2 learning by immigrant children in Singapore” (2005). Finally, I will analyze McDonough’s work from 2005 on “Learner-learner interaction during pair and small group activities in a Thai EFL context.” Through these articles I will gain more information on how to answer my chief questions.
Before diving into the research, let us briefly investigate what the interactionist view of SLA is, and how it differs from other views of SLA. Long (1981, 1983, 1996) proposed that interaction is crucial to SLA. One key idea in Long’s perspective on SLA is negotiation for meaning. When interlocutors struggle to understand one another during a difficult language task, they modify their interactions through simplification, comprehension checks, clarification requests, repetition, or paraphrasing. This, Long argues, is the key to creating comprehensible input like that discussed by Krashen (1982). When learners are pushed to the limits, they also see where they can grow in their language development, as discussed by Swain in the comprehensible output hypothesis (1985). This is related to the idea of “noticing” – the hypothesis that we cannot learn something unless we have first noticed it (Schmidt 1990, 2001). Through interaction, such as corrective feedback, we are encouraged to notice the mistakes we have made and grow in our interlanguage.
How does the interactionist model differ from other models? The interactionist model for SLA is unique compared to behaviorism, as behaviorism focuses heavily on repetition, while interactionism requires meaningful context for interactions. Though Krashen’s “Monitor Model” (1982) introduced the excellent idea of “comprehensible input,” which is used in interactionism, Krashen’s ideas focus mainly on the learner as a receiver of language. On the other hand, interactionism focuses on the production of language and negotiation of meaning as useful processes to aid...