Not to be overlooked: agency in informal language contact

Lyrigkou, Christina (2019). Not to be overlooked: agency in informal language contact. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 13(3) pp. 237–252.



Easy and rapid access to the Internet, the affordances of Web 2.0 tools and technological advances, such as smartphone applications, have rendered informal contact with English an undisputed reality. This out-of-class contact without the primary or conscious objective of language learning has been the focus of recent research into the field of second language acquisition (e.g. Jarvis and Krashen 2014. “Is CALL Obsolete? Language Acquisition and Language Learning Revisited in a Digital age.” TESL-EJ 17 (4): 1–6; Sockett 2014. The Online Informal Learning of English. UK: Palgrave Macmillan). However, being in its infancy, the phenomenon is under-explored, while the learner, as a complex individual, is not examined in depth. Focusing on the skill of speaking, which is not sufficiently studied in research into informal learning, the present study investigated 76 Greek adolescent learners of English between the ages of 13 and 16, and used a speaking test, a questionnaire and a semi-structured interview to examine participants’: speaking performance, frequency of interaction with English through a range of media, and their agency and exerted effort during informal contact with the language. Findings showed that students’ lack of agency and their attitudes towards informal learning appeared to hinder their active engagement with informal sources, impeding further linguistic benefits. The present study underlines the importance of examining different individual and contextual factors before drawing conclusions regarding the effect of informal, out-of-class interaction with the target language.

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