Language Engagement at the Level of Syntax: Assessing Metatalk and Task Types in SLA

Ali Akbar Ansarin, Zohre Mohamadi


While task-based instruction is considered as the one of the most effective way to learn a language, it is oversimplified on various grounds especially in teachers’ implementation of the approach in practical terms. Different variables may affect how students are engaged with the language and also with the task. The present study was designed to investigate language related engagement on the basis of metatalk; talk about the language, and task typology. To this end, 80 intermediate participants were assigned to four homogeneous groups on the basis of their proficiency level. The groups were given four different types of the tasks namely; jigsaw, dictogloss, test reconstruction, and translation in order to examine the role of metatalk and task-typology in creation of language engagement opportunity. Participants’ language related engagements were measured by evaluating syntactic devices used in language related episodes in their performances. The statistical analysis revealed that there were significant differences across groups. Specifically, the translation task had the most potential for creating language engagement opportunity and jigsaw task created the least language engagement opportunity. It is concluded that task implementation and task design affect learners’ language engagement at the level of syntax. Implications for testing and material development are provided.



Language engagement, syntactic devices, metatalk, task types and focus on form

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