A Socio-cognitive Approach to Developing Oral Fluency and Naturalness in Iranian EFL Learners

Farahman Farrokhi, Asgar Mahmoudi


Learning spoken English in situations like Iran that do not support adequate and rich exposure results in English which is slow-paced and reduced regarding all aspects. The purpose of this study was to explore the ways by which these two problems can be accounted for to some extent. The theoretical bases upon which the study was founded were sociocultural and cognitive approaches to language learning. Sociocultural theorists emphasize learners’ involvement in social activities and believe that it is enough for learning a language. Cognitive theorists, on the other hand, emphasize the role of memory and the rote learning of instances of language. Adopting an integrative approach, this study employed interaction and rote learning activities in the experimental classes as its independent variables and measured their effects on students’ fluency and naturalness, which were the dependent variables of the study. While fluency was defined as the speed of speech and gauged mostly by aggregating the number of syllables produced in the unit of time and the syllable number/phonation time ratio multiplied by one hundred minus the negative values assigned to pauses, naturalness was defined as fluency plus formulaicity. Formulaicity scores were measured by assigning forty points to each formulaic expression produced by participants. Findings from integrated interaction and rote learning activities in the experimental classes were compared with findings from the control class in addition to being compared with each other. The performances of participants in the experimental classes were compared with each other because the rote-learned materials were offered to them in different formats. One of the experimental classes received decontextualized formulas with their meanings in Persian while the other class received contextualized formulas without meanings. Students in the control class were required to reproduce oral texts of short movies in lieu of memorizing formulas. Findings from the study revealed that while interaction alone is enough for developing fluency, it is not enough for developing naturalness. The experimental class receiving decontextualized formulas with meanings outperformed the other two classes in developing naturalness. The ultimate conclusions reached were of two types. First, getting involved in interaction is sufficient for developing fluency, because there was no significant difference among groups with regard to this variable, but it is not enough for developing high levels of naturalness. Second, to reach acceptable levels of naturalness, participants need to memorize formulas whose meanings are provided for them.    



Idiom/formula, Fluency, Naturalness, Pause

Full Text:



Aitchison, J. (2012). Words in the mind. Sussex: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Anderson, J. R. (1995). Learning and memory: An integrated approach. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Axwell, K. et al. (1998). Cambridge international dictionary of idioms. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of spoken and written English. Harlow: Longman.

Bley–Vroman, R. (1989). What is the logical problem of foreign language learning? In S. M. Gass & J. Shachter (Eds.), Linguistic perspectives on second language acquisition. (pp. 41–69). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Boers, F., & Lindstromberg, S. (2005). Finding ways to make phrase–learning feasible: The mnemonic effect of alliteration. System, 33(2), 225–238.

Brown, H. D. (2007). Principles of language learning and teaching (5th ed.). New York: Pearson Education Inc.

Brumfit, C. (1984). Communicative methodology in language teaching: The roles of fluency and accuracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Burns, A. (2012). Text-based Teaching. In A. Burns & J. C. Richards (Eds.), Pedagogy and practice in second language teaching. (pp. 140–148). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bybee, J. (2002). Phonological evidence for exemplar storage of multiword sequences. SSLA, 24(2), pp. 215–221.

Candlin, C. N., & Mercer, N. (2001). English language teaching in its social context. London: Routledge.

Carroll, D. W. (2008). Psychology of language. Belmont: Thomson Corporation.

Conklin, K., & Schmidt, N. (2008). Formulaic sequences: Are they processed more quickly than nonformulaic language by native and nonnative speakers? Applied Linguistics, 29(1), 72–89.

Corrigan, R., Moravcsik, E. A., Ouali, H., & Wheatley, K. M. (2009). Introduction: Approaches to the study of formulae. In R. Corrigan, E. A. Moravcsik, H. Ouali & K. M. Wheatley (Eds.), Formulaic Language (1st Volume). (pp. XI– XXIV). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Davies, A. (2006). The native speaker in applied linguistics. In A. Davies & C. Elder (Eds.), The handbook of applied linguistics. (pp. 431–450). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

De Jong, N., & Perfetti, C. A. (2011). Fluency training in the ESL classroom: An experimental study of fluency development and proceduralization. Language Learning, 61(2), 333–368.

DeKeyser, R. M. (2001). Automaticity and automatization. In Robinson, P. (Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction. (pp. 125–151 ). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dörnyei, Z. (2009). The psychology of second language acquisition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, N. C. (2001). Memory for language. In P. Robinson (Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction. (pp. 3–32). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, N. C. (2009). Optimizing the input: Frequency and sampling in usage-based and form-focused learning. In M. H. Long & C. J. Doughty (Eds.), The handbook of language teaching. (pp. 139–159). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Ellis, N. C., Simpson–Vlach, R., & Maynard, C. (2008). Formulaic language in native and second language speakers: Psycholinguistics, corpus linguistics, and TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 42(3), 375–396.

Ellis, R. (2004). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis. N. C. (2003). Constructions, chunking, and connectionism: The emergence of second language structure. In C. J. Doughty & M. H. Long (Eds.), The handbook of second language acquisition. (pp. 63–104). Victoria: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Erman, B., & Warren, B. (2000).The idiom principle and the open choice principle. Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse, 20(1), 29–62.

Farrokhi, F., & Mahmoudi, A. (2011). An innovative way of finding best or least matching pairs or groups. English Language and Literature Studies, 1(2), pp.129–141.

Farrokhi, F., & Mahmoudi, A. (2012). Rethinking convenience sampling: Defining quality criteria. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 2(4), pp.784–793.

Fillmore, C. J. (1979). On fluency. In C. J. Fillmore, D. Kempler & W. S. Y. Wang (Eds.), Individual differences in language ability and language behavior. (pp. 85–101). New York: Academic Press.

Flowerdew, J., & Miller, L. (2005). Second language listening: Theory and practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Flowerdew, J. (2008). Corpora in language teaching. In M. H. Long & C. J. Doughty (Eds.), The handbook of language teaching. (pp. 327–351). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Foster, P., Tonkyn, A., & Wigglesworth, G. (2000). Measuring spoken language: A unit for all reasons, Applied Linguistics, 21(3), 354–375.

Grant, L., & Bauer, L. (2004). Criteria for re-defining idioms: Are we barking up the wrong tree? Applied Linguistics, 25(1), 38–61.

Gries, S. T. (2008). Corpus–based methods in analyses of second language acquisition data. In P. Robinson & N. C. Ellis (Eds.), A handbook of cognitive linguistics and second language acquisition. (pp. 406–432). New York: Routledge.

Harmer, J. (2008). How to teach English. Essex: Pearson Education Ltd.

Hellermann, J. (2008). Social actions for classroom language learning: New perspectives on language & education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Howarth, P. (1998). Phraseology and second language proficiency. Applied Linguistics, 19(1), pp. 24–44.

Iwashita, N., Brown, A., McNamara, T., & O’Hagan, S. (2008). Assessed levels of second language speaking proficiency: How distinct? Applied Linguistics, 29(1), 24–49.

Johnson, J., & Newport, E. (1991). Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language. Cognitive Psychology, 21(1), 60–99.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003). Beyond methods: Macrostrategies for language teaching. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Understanding language teaching. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Lantolf, J. P. (2000). Introducing sociocultural theory. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language acquisition. (pp. 1–27). New York: Oxford University Press.

Lantolf, J. P., & Thorne, S. L. (2006). Sociocultural Theory and the genesis of second language development. New York: Oxford University Press.

Laufer, B., & Hulstijn, J. (2001). Incidental vocabulary acquisition in a second language: The construct of task-induced involvement. Applied Linguistics, 22(1), 1–26.

Leaver, B. L., Ehrman, M., & Shekhtman, B. (2005). Achieving success in second language acquisition. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, M., & Hill, J. (1985). Practical techniques for language teaching. London: Language Teaching Publications.

Liontas, J. I. (2008). Toward a critical pedagogy of idiomaticity. Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 34(1), pp. 11–27.

Logan, G. D. (1988). Toward an instance theory of automatization. Psychological review, 95(4), 492–527.

McLaughlin, B. (1987). Theories of second language learning. New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Inc.

Mitchell, R., & Myles, F. (2004). Second language learning theories. New York: Oxford University Press.

Musumeci, D. (2009). History of language teaching. In M. H. Long & C. J. Doughty (Eds.), The handbook of language teaching. (pp. 42–63 ). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Myles, f. Hooper, J., & Mitchell, R. (1998). Rote or rule? Exploring the role of formulaic language in classroom foreign language learning. Language Learning, 48(3), 323–363.

Nation, P., & Meara, P. (2010). Vocabulary. In N. Schmidt (Ed.), An introduction to applied linguistics. (2nd ed.). (pp. 34–53). New York: Oxford University press.

Ohta, A. S. (2000). Rethinking interaction in SLA: Developmentally appropriate assistance in the zone of proximal development and the acquisition of L2 grammar. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language learning. (pp. 51–79). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pawley, A., & Syder, F. (1983). Two puzzles for linguistic theory: Nativelike selection and nativelike fluency. In J. Richards & R. Schmidt (Eds.), Language and communication. (192–225). London: Longman.

Pawley, A., (2009). Grammarians’ languages versus humanists’ languages. In R. Corrigan, E. A. Moravcsik, H. Ouali & K. M. Wheatley (Eds.), Formulaic Language (1st Volume). (pp. 3– 27). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Randall, M. (2007).Memory, psychology, and second language learning. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co.

Roebuck, R. (2000). Subjects speak out: How learners position themselves in a psycholinguistic task. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language learning. (pp. 79–97). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schmitt, N., & Carter, R. (2004). Formulaic sequences in action: An introduction. In N. Schmidt (Ed.), Formulaic sequences: Acquisition, process and use. (pp. 1–23). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co.

Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning theories: An educational perspective. Boston: Pearson.

Scovel, T. (2001). Psycholinguistics. In R. Carter & D. Nunan (Eds.), The Cambridge guide to teaching English to speakers of other languages. (pp. 87–93). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scrivener, J. (2011). Learning teaching: The essential guide to English language teaching. New York: MacMillan.

Segalowitz, N. (2003). Automaticity and second languages. In C. J. Doughty & M. H. Long (Eds.), The handbook of second language acquisition. (pp. 382–409). Victoria: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Sinclair, J. (1991). Corpus, concordance, collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stillings, N. A., Weisler, S. E., Chase, C. H., Feinstein, M. H., Garfield, J. L., & Rissland, E. L. (1995). Cognitive science: An introduction. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Swain, M., & Lapkin, S. (1998). Interaction and second language learning: Two adolescent French immersion students working together. The modern Language Journal, 82(3), pp. 320–338.

Tharp, R. G., & Gallimore, R. (1988). Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning and schooling in a social context. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2012). Speaking Instruction. In A. Burns & J. C. Richards (Eds.), Pedagogy and practice in second language teaching. (pp. 198–207). New York: Cambridge University Press.

vanLier, L. (2004). The ecology and semiotics of language learning. Massachusetts: Kluwer Academic Publisher.

vanPatten, B., & Benati, A. G. (2010). Key Terms in Second Language Acquisition. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard: By the President and Fellows of Harvard University.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and language. (Newly revised & edited by A. Kozulin). Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Walsh, S. (2010). What features of spoken and written corpora can be exploited in creating language teaching materials and syllabuses? In A. O’Keeffe & M. McCarthy (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of corpus linguistics. (pp. 333–345). New York: Routledge.

Wood, D. (2006). Uses and functions of formulaic sequences in second language speech: An exploration of the foundations of fluency. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 63(1), 13–33.

Wray, A. (2002). Formulaic language and lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wright, J. (1999). Idioms organizer. London: Thomson Learning, Inc.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.3n.2p.1


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2019 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.