The processes involved in second language acquisition (SLA) can be depicted as follows (Lee and Vanpatten, 2003):
Input → Intake → Developing System → Output
Input is the language itself the learner encounters. The point is that most of the ‘raw input data’ (Lee and Vanpatten, 2003) need to be comprehensible. While the learner’s focus is basically on “meaning,” he/she also pays attention to “form,” linguistic features of language, and holds them in working memory. This process is called intake, and the linguistic data collected in the intake eventually construct a system which the learner refers to when he/she actually speaks or writes (i.e. in the output).
Hibizaki Municipal Elementary School in Onomichi City has been involved in foreign language activities since 2005. In 2013 I visited Hibizaki five times in total and, as an advisor, attended foreign language activities-related classes. This paper focuses on a class I attended on 1 October 2013. The class was for the 5th grade (31 pupils), and was on what Hibizaki teachers “can do.” The activities were conducted in such a way as to follow the SLA processes described above. The output performance the pupils voluntarily showed towards the end of the class was especially noteworthy.
Foreign language activities were formally introduced in Japanese elementary schools in April 2011. The discussion has already started whether we should treat English as a “subject,” not as activities. Although Hibizaki has taught English as “foreign language activities” so far, the class examined in this paper might help to bridge a gap between activities and a subject.