Developing casual conversation skills of pre-school children learning English as a foreign language in the home context

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2008
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Thumbnail01Front_Vol-1.pdf4.31 MB
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Thumbnail01Front_Vol-2.pdf3.97 MB
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Thumbnail02Whole_Vol-1.pdf177.43 MB
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Thumbnail02Whole_Vol-2.pdf81.65 MB
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The broad aim of this thesis is to investigate the development of the English conversation of two, pre-school children, who are learning English as a foreign language in the home context, by focusing on their language skills and their learning processes. In order to do this, there are two major aims: first, to describe the development of the children's English conversational language skills over a four year period, by focusing on their construction of five genres of casual conversation. And second, to describe the key learning processes involved in the development of the children's English conversational skills, in particular focusing on the role of the scaffolding process. The procedure involves the analysis of spoken data collected from the two children. The data is arranged according to genre. Data from the modeling and joint negotiation stages of the pedagogical cycle focuses on the role of the scaffolding process in the children's learning. Data from these two phases has been analyzed within the theoretical framework of sociocultural learning theory, arguing that this framework provides a description of the scaffolding process, which is fundamental to learning. Data from this phase is analyzed for mediation, contingency, the scaffolding steps, and the father's role as the teacher in the ZPD. However, data from the independent construction phase focuses on the language skills the children have independently produced, when the scaffolding has been removed. Language in this phase has been described and analyzed within the theoretical framework of systemic functional linguistics, arguing that this framework provides a systematic description of the children's conversational language. Data from this phase is analyzed for generic structure, mood and appraisal. The data set has been collected at random over a four year period. This focuses on the father's explicit teaching of five genres of casual conversation to his two daughters. The data set has been taken from the periods of explicit teaching, which occurs at set times of the day, mainly during 'dinner time talk', 'bed time talk', and 'before school study time'. In order to investigate the two aims of the thesis, the research questions focus on two main areas - questions related to the development of language skills, and questions related to the learning process. The four research questions related to the development of language skills are: • What is the extent to which the children can independently construct texts with appropriate generic structure? • What is the extent to which the children can structure their texts to reflect their speaking purposes? • What is the extent to which the children can give and exchange information appropriately within the five genres, using the interpersonal resources of mood? • What is the extent to which the children can express attitudes and take a stance by using the interpersonal resources of appraisal? The four research questions related to the learning process are: • What is the role of scaffolding in the children's learning? • What is the role of mediation in the children's learning? • What is the role of contingency in the children's learning? • What is the role of the teacher in the children's learning? The results of the study are based on the data findings in chapters 4, 5, and 6. Each text is analyzed and the findings are interpreted. Conclusions are then presented for each genre, and discussed in relation to the children's language skills and learning processes. The main conclusions of the thesis, incorporating all five genres, are presented in the final chapter. The significance of the thesis is discussed in terms of its implications for the fields of linguistics, second and foreign language education, and bilingualism. In terms of linguistics, it is argued that the thesis contributes to the descriptions and theorizing of casual conversation; for second and foreign language education, it illustrates the need for pedagogy to be based on functional and explicit theories of language and learning; and for bilingualism, it focuses on the importance of models in the development of identity. It is argued that the thesis makes a multidisciplinary contribution to each of these three academic fields. Also, by adopting an integrated theoretical stance to the data analysis, the thesis highlights the importance of providing different but complementary insights into the discourses of foreign language learning. These contributions reflect the significance of the thesis, which aims to merge language theory with learning pedagogy, relevant to children learning conversational English in a foreign language context.
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