Communication Strategies and their Role in Second Language Competence and Teaching
Baouchi, M'hamed al
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This thesis can be regarded as a modest attempt to contribute to the controversial issue concerning the nature of communication strategies (CS) so as to come to an adequate definition and classification on the basis of which a pilot study is conducted. To this end, a predominantly psycholinguistic approach is adopted because CS are seen as special cases of a wider class of strategic behaviours that characterise all cognitive and language activities, with no logical necessity for their behavioural outcomes to be clearly observable in the learner’s speech production (e.g., Kellerman & Bialystok, 1997). Their existence may be thus a matter of inference rather than direct observation, since advanced learners of the target language (TL), like native speakers, appear to be skilful in coping with communication breakdowns in such a way that their speech productions hardly reveal any traces of difficulty (Faerch & Kasper, 1983b; Hinnenkamp, 1987). The main objective of this study is to explore the extent to which the claim of strategic similarity across linguistic/cultural backgrounds of the predominantly Anglo-European language learners can specifically be applied to Dutch and Dutch-Moroccan learners of English. The study is qualitative in nature and investigates: (a) the types of CS mostly and effectively used by Dutch and Dutch-Moroccan learners of English, and (b) the consequences of this type of strategic use for competence and instruction. The results seem to lend support to the findings from CS research that linguistic and cultural backgrounds are not decisive in determining the learners’ strategic behaviour or choice (see, e.g., Paribakht, 1982; Russel, 1997; Tarone, 1977). Other factors such as the learners’ proficiency level and the critical and specific-referent contextual features seem to make the difference (Bialystok, 1990; Poulisse, 1990). The implications of these results for competence and teaching are as follows. Unlike some of the researchers who attribute potential learning to some types of strategies over other ones (Bialystok, 1983; Blum-Kulka & Levenston, 1987; Faerch & Kasper, 1983a), it is argued in this thesis that –because of the input/intake opportunities– all strategies can lead to competence (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 1991), provided that the information conveyed by those strategies comprise crucial features of the referent object or concept (Bialystok, 1990; Poulisse, 1990). As for the teachability of CS, Kellerman’s, Bialystok’s and, to some extent, Faerch & Kasper’s (1983a, b) views are adopted. CS should not be taught as such because L2 learners have already competence in their native language. What they need, instead, is the mastering of linguistic means in the TL. Only in the case of less proficient learners, consciousness-raising about CS would be of some benefit.