Investigating The Use Of Naturally Occurring Spoken French In Adult Foreign Language Learning

Vialleton, Élodie (2013). Investigating The Use Of Naturally Occurring Spoken French In Adult Foreign Language Learning. EdD thesis The Open University.



This study explores the feasibility and desirability of introducing samples of naturally occurring spoken French to adult language learners at an early stage of the learning process to develop perception and listening skills.

The literature review examines the status of the spoken language, the notion of authenticity of materials, and the development of listening skills in the context of past and present language teaching methodologies, including recent ecological and data-driven approaches. Linguistic theories and descriptions of the spoken French language are also reviewed.

The research is based on an experimental study, set in the context of distance language learning at the Open University, and makes use of mixed methods. Students were asked to work with experimental teaching materials comprising self-study activities based on recorded samples of naturally occurring spoken French matching the topics and structures of the Open University beginners’ French module. A test was then administered to participants and their performance was compared to that of members of a control group. Their reaction to the experimental approach was gauged using semi-structured interviews. The data analysis demonstrates that the students were able to engage with the speech samples and related tasks, and with their specific linguistic features. It also reveals that students found the approach challenging but useful in developing listening skills.

Taking into account cognitive, affective and contextual dimensions, and bearing in mind the constraints inherent to the typically mixed context of adult language learning, the study concludes that naturally occurring spoken French and activities aimed at developing awareness of its features should be introduced as part of a mix of materials, striking a balance between ecological and reductionist approaches, offering students a chance to exercise choice between types of materials and providing tools they can reuse when exposed to naturally occurring spoken French autonomously.

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