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The Use of L1 and the TL in Focus on Form and Its Impact on Uptake, Noticing and Language Development

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posted on 2021-11-12, 10:56 authored by Truong, Hong Hue Minh

Since Long's (1991) coinage of the term focus on form (FonF) to refer to brief attention to form in a meaning-oriented classroom, a substantial amount of research has been conducted on the role of FonF in second language learning. Evidence from this research supports the beneficial effects of FonF on learner noticing and language development (e.g. Doughty & Varela, 1998; Ellis, Basturkmen, & Loewen, 2001a; Loewen, 2005; Lyster & Ranta, 1997; Mackey, 2006). However, some other aspects of FonF, especially in an English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) setting, have received less attention. For example, it has been widely observed that in EFL settings where the teacher and learners usually share the first language (L1), teacher use of L1 to correct learners' errors is frequent (Anton & DiCamilla, 1999; Crawford, 2004; Gabrielatos, 2001; Macaro, 2001; Turnbull & Arnett, 2002). The effect of L1 versus the target language (TL) use on second language learning in the language classroom has long been an issue of concern for both teachers and researchers (Anton & DiCamilla, 1999; E. Chau, 2007; Crawford, 2004; Gabrielatos, 2001; Swain & Lapkin, 2000; Turnbull & Arnett, 2002). However, choice of the language of form-focused episodes (FFEs) by EFL teachers has received little attention in the FonF research literature. This research study investigates teacher use of L1 and the TL in FonF in an EFL setting in Vietnam and its impact on learner uptake, noticing and language development. The research consists of two studies: an observational/descriptive study followed by an experimental study. The observational study sought to identify general patterns of teacher use of L1 and the TL during FFEs in EFL classes through a close analysis of FFEs occurring in EFL classes in two private language institutions in Vietnam. Twelve class sessions across two proficiency levels with six Vietnamese EFL teachers were observed, audio-recorded and analysed. The results revealed that the amount of FonF and uptake in this setting was similar to amounts reported in other research although there was wide variation across the six class groups and the two proficiency levels. Over 18% of the teacher feedback moves were in L1, although again there was wide variety across classes and proficiency levels. When the L1 Vietnamese teachers gave explicit information to learners in multi-move FFEs, particularly on morphosyntax and lexical FFEs, they were more likely to use L1. These findings informed the experimental study which explored the relationship between the use of L1 and the TL in FFEs and learner uptake, noticing and language development. In this study, three interactive dyadic tasks were performed by individuals from two groups of learner participants with the researcher as interlocutor. Learners from one group received feedback in L1 (n= 20), learners from the other group in the TL (n=23). The analysis revealed that, overall, the amount of uptake was similar between the two groups, suggesting that choice of the language of FonF does not influence learner uptake. Furthermore, the results for noticing and learning suggest that the language of FonF (L1 or the TL) does not strongly influence learning outcomes. By shedding light on teacher use of L1 and the TL in FonF and how this affects uptake, noticing, and learning, this research increases our understanding of the efficacy of FonF in the under-researched setting of non-native English teachers teaching in an EFL context.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Applied Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Newton, Jonathan; Adams, Rebecca