AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

Highlighting linguistic features of native-English teacher talk as a reference framework for French-speaking EFL teachers : a corpus study

by Eric Nicaise

Institution: Université Catholique de Louvain
Department: Institut Langage et Communication
Year: 2015
Keywords: Teacher talk; Classroom language; Teacher development
Record ID: 1076510
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2078.1/156661


Classroom English is a key aspect of EFL lessons. Setting aside the wide range of listening materials available, the EFL teacher is in many instances the only model of English which students are exposed to throughout their time at secondary school. According to research, ‘teacher talking time’ takes up an impressive 70% of classroom time in general (Meunier 2012). Moreover, the number of non-native speakers teaching in EFL contexts has risen dramatically for the last twenty years, with estimates ranging from 80% (Timmis, 2002) to even 95% (Bolitho, 2008). However, the advent of the communicative approach in foreign language teaching and the accompanying switch of focus from the teacher to the learner (Andrews 2007) raised the issue of the amount of teacher talk that should be spoken in the classroom, arguing that good teacher talk often meant minimum teacher talk (Cullen 1998). The teacher’s role also came to be seen as one of facilitator rather than one of transmitter. Not surprisingly then, the attention given to teacher talk as a factor conducive to foreign language acquisition has been a much neglected area in the recent ELT literature. There are, for example, but a few corpora of teacher talk in existence. Two notable exceptions are corpora set up by Walsh (2006) and Horst (2010). But while the former is a corpus of native-English teachers, the latter focuses on the teacher talk addressed to adult learners in a second language context. By making clear that teacher talk is interaction as much as input (Lynch, 1996) this thesis brings the EFL teacher’s classroom speech to the fore. Through the exploration of the CONNEcT corpus (Corpus of Native and Non-native Classroom Teacher Talk), I set out to highlight the linguistic features of native-speaker teachers in comparison with those of French-speaking EFL teachers’ speech (in particular, those teaching in the French-speaking Community of Belgium). Two common teaching functions are investigated: ‘explaining language’ and ‘instruction-giving’. While the analysis of these functions is broken down into the traditional areas of lexis and grammar, specific attention is given to the language used beyond the sentence structure level. The prosody of the teacher’s classroom speech as conveyor of attitude and information is also examined. The study is corpus-led, which provides a description of teacher talk as it actually spoken in the EFL classroom. The methodology used is at times corpus-based, allowing us to validate pre-existing hypotheses, and at times corpus-driven, where the observation of certain patterns lead to a hypothesis (Tognini-Bonelli 2001). A few major lines of thought emerge from the study. Firstly, teacher talk occupies mid-position between informal and formal speech. Secondly, non-native teacher talk is more directive than native talk, which is peppered with hedging devices. Overall, native English teacher talk shows both a higher frequency level and variety of linguistic forms in all areas of language. Drawing on these conclusions, practical implications…