Focus on Form through a Comparison between an Original Literary Text and its Retold Version <Article>
Lee and VanPatten (2003) depicts the processes of second language acquisition (SLA) as follows:
Input → Intake → Developing System → Output
Input refers to‘ the language the learner is exposed to.’ While the learner tries to take meaning out of the language, he/she also pays attention to form, that is, linguistic features. Intake happens when the features are stored in the learner’s working memory. So, in the processes of SLA focus on form (F on F) helps the learner develop his/her interlanguage, which is described as ‘System’ in the above chart.
Literature might contribute to the development of the learner’s interlanguage, because literary language tends to draw his/her attention to its form. There can, however, be a problem in the input. ‘The most important characteristic of input’ is that ‘most of what the speaker (or writer) is saying’ needs to be‘ comprehensible.’ (1)Literary language, if it is too difficult, might be beyond the learner’s comprehension.
One option to solve the problem (1) is to use literature simple enough for the learner to read. There can, however, be another problem. (2)Literary language, if it is too easy, might not attract the learner’s attention to its form.
In order to solve the problems (1) and (2), this paper proposes to combine an original literary text which is easy enough to read and its retold version which is even easier than the original. The text chosen in this paper is “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde. Its retold version is published by Oxford University Press as Dominoes: The Happy Prince. This paper has two research questions:
RQ1: In how many cases does the retold version of“ The Happy Prince” help the learner pay attention to form of the original text?
RQ2: Suppose the retold version of “The Happy Prince” helps the learner pay attention to form of the original text, how does it affect the learner’s reading of the original text?
To answer the two research questions I asked 10 Japanese university students to compare “The Happy Prince” and its retold version. 42 comments were submitted in total, and 16 of them were judged to be on form (answer to RQ1). Analysis of the 16 comments shows that focus on form triggered by the comparison affects the ways in which the students take the meaning of the original text (answer to RQ2).