Annotated Bibliography: Acquisition of French as a Second Language

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18th May 2020 Languages Reference this

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Acquisition of French as a Second Language

Research on acquisition of second language has reported two conclusions. First, acquisition of second language is a highly systematic process, as illustrated the stages or sequences that learners from different backgrounds go through during the acquisition process. Second, the acquisition of a second language varies widely, and individuals tend to acquire different levels of proficiency. While the two conclusions are contradictory, they indicate how complex it is to acquire language, and the multiple aspects of language acquisition (Myles, 2004). Yet, majority of research on language acquisition and the stages that second language learners go through has largely been dominated by studies focusing on acquisition of English language (Geiger & Straesser, 2015). The trend is largely driven by increased immigration of individuals who do not speak English as a native language to countries that use English as the primary language, especially United States of America. Thus, there is a key gap in the existing literature on the process of acquisition of other languages, such as French. Given that there are wide variations in language acquisition, there is a need to understand the dynamics of second language acquisition of other languages.

Myles, F. (2004). French second language acquisition research: Setting the scene. French Language Studies, 14(1), 211-232.

 In this article, Myles (2004) seeks to map the field of acquisition of French as a second language. Myles argues that research on second language acquisition has led to two conclusions, the acquisition process is highly variable, although the sequences of the process is similar for individuals from different backgrounds. A review of the literature on second language acquisition shows that English as second language learners acquire 14 grammatical morphemes in the same order, although at a varying pace and rate. There is research according to Myles (2004) that the French language acquisition involves similar morphemes. The developmental route for majority of learners can be modelled as a series of interlocking linguistic systems. Myles (2004) further notes that the variability in second language acquisition can be caused by several factors. First, variability in route from one language to another. For example, Italian speakers will learn French objective pronouns more quickly than English language due to similarities between Italian and French. Route variability also arises from chucks that are generated by learners before they gain sufficient proficiency to develop second language structures. Variability can also be affected by speed and rate of acquisition.

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 The work of Myles (2004) is essential in understanding second language acquisition as it illustrates the various variability in acquisition that occur during the process. Furthermore, it reiterates the importance of understanding the kind of learner environment and social background that affects the development of a learner. It raises important issues in acquisition of French as a second language,and thatwill be an important addition to my research.

Herschensohn, J. and Gess, R. (2018). Acquisition of L2 French object pronouns by advanced Anglophone learners. Languages, 3(15), 1-20.

 According to Herschensohn and Gess (2018), learners of second language tend to suffer from insensitivity to french prosodic and morphosyntactic constraints. Such deficiencies can impede proficiency in the language. The authors argue that learners tend to adapt their native prosodic structures when learning second language prosodic structures. To prove the hypothesis, the researchers conducted a study involving a sample of three Anglophone advanced learners to determine their acquisition of French object pronouns. Findings from the study indicate that the learners were able to stack critics and were not using flipped affixal clitic analysis, but rather were treating leftward affixal clitic as infected, while treating infinitival verbs as free clitics. Given the differences between French and English pronoun prosodic realization, the difficulty among English native speakers is not due to comprehension of object prosody in early and intermediate stages, but rather the difficulty to comprehend the phonological, syntactic, and morphological differences between English and French pronouns among early learners. Thus, transfer of prosodic structures requires a certain degree of proficiency in English language. The findings provide evidence that proficiency in French free clitics can be achieved even when learners miss inflection during the new pre-verbal stage through licensing of pronominal free clitics. The article is essential in understanding the process of language acquisition of French among native English speakers.

Mondada, L., and Doehler, S. (2004). Second language acquisition as situated practice: Task accomplishment in the French second Language classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 88 (iv), 502-518

 In this article, Mondada and Doehler (2005) use the social interactionist perspective to evaluate how tasks are accomplished in a French second language classroom. They argue that conservation analysis of students and instructors in such classroom can yield information on how tasks accomplishment is influenced by social interactions. To prove the hypothesis, the researchers examined data from two studies by the Swiss National Foundation that focused on French language acquisition. According to the findings, the approach that students and teachers use to accomplish a task is determined by institutional, interaction and linguistic competencies in the learning environment. Thus, rather than emphasizing the role of social-interactional factors in the development of proficiency, scholars of language acquisition should focus on social interaction, cognitive efforts and the activities that occur within the classroom, as it determines how the problems are solved.

 The findings of the study have important implications for instructors of second language French learners. First, it provides evidences that the resulting competencies from instruction is not determined solely by the cognitive capacities of an individual but rather the interactions that occur during the learning process. Second, acquisition of language should be understood as a collective process where learners combine their competencies to inform task accomplishment. Thus, the article expands the view about second language acquisition from the perspective that it is determined by individual cognition, to a more integral view that it is a collaborative process.

Shimanskaya, E. On the role of input in second language acquisition: The case of French pronouns. Language Learning, 68 (3), 780-812

 Shimanskaya (2018) reports on the finding of a mixed study on the acquisition of French pronouns among second language learners. The author argues that there is consensus that input is essential to second language acquisition. However, second language learners often lack enough inputs or are exposed to misinterpreted inputs. In order to evaluate the role of input, the researcher used three methods, experimental study with native and second language French speakers, review of pedagogical materials and corpus analysis. The research found that even native speakers are not exposed to sufficient input necessary for learning strong pronouns, and often use those pronouns to refer to inanimate objects. Some prepositions such as lui/elle are hard to learn for Anglophone French learners, as there is little input from native speakers, and there are limited instructions for such pronouns. However, second language learners can gain target like interpretation of the pronouns regardless of lack of input, negative transfer from first language and lack of explicit instruction.

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 While there is no evidence on how second language learners acquire target like interpretations, the participants demonstrated such competency suggesting it is possible to learn those interpretations. The article provides evidence that learners may improve their proficiency through other mechanisms other than input or instruction. The article is important to the research as it provides a basis for further research on how proficiency in acquisition of French as a second language other than input and explicit instruction.

Dupuy, B., Krashen, S. (1993). Incidental vocabulary acquisition in French as a foreign language. Applied Language Learning, 4(1), 55-63.

 According to authors of this article, the acquisition of second language is understood as a process that involves input such as reading, seeing or listening to native speakers. However, there is a possibility that incidental acquisition is present. Dupuy and Krashen (1993) sought to test this hypothesis by comparing 3rd Semester students who watched a film and read the scenes in a class, and a control of advanced students who did not watch the film. The subjects were then examined for vocabulary acquisition containing 30 words. The experimental group had a score of 15, while advanced control and 3rd semester control had a score of 9 and 13 respectively. Findings of the study show that comprehensive input is essential for second language acquisition. Thus, exposure to input, other than instruction may be integral to vocabulary acquisition among second language learners of French, as it can lead to accidental vocabulary acquisition.

 The article is important to the current research, as it shows that exposure to other inputs than instruction can be effective in improving proficiency in second language instruction. However, it raises the question to the extent to which the approach can be used for novice learners. Thus, it is possible to combine both active instruction and other forms of instruction to improve proficiency.


 An analysis of the literature suggests that French language acquisition among second language learners is a complex process that is variable, although the process can be mapped into distinct stages (Myles, 2004). The role of input in the acquisition process cannot be overestimated. Input can lead to accidental acquisition of vocabulary, even if such input does not involve direct instruction (Dupuy & Krashen, 1993). This could explain how students are able to learn complex pronouns, although the input is minimum (Shimanskaya, 2018). In addition to indirect and direct input, interactions between learners is important, as it determines how problems are solved and task accomplished (Mondada&Doehler, 2005).


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