The Effects of English Grammar Tests on German Students’ Learning Development and Use of Learning Strategies in a Communicative Setting
Dirker, Danny L.
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This mixed-method study examined the effects of short English grammar pre-tests containing contrastive linguistic input on learners’ cross-linguistic awareness and German acquisition in a communicative, target language-only environment. The tests attempted to prompt participants to notice the linguistic similarities between German and English with regard to specific grammatical structures and, subsequently, to realize the learning strategy of positive language transfer. Two Elementary German 1020 classes (n = 18) at a liberal arts college in Wisconsin were separated into two equal groups, of which the experimental group received an English grammar test on the day the corresponding and structurally similar German grammar feature was introduced. The error rates on the German post-test given in the following class constituted the quantitative variable. Qualitative interviews conducted with the experimental group gave insights about students’ attitudes towards communicative language instruction, their perceptions of the relationships between German and English, and their learning strategy use. The results showed that learners draw on NL knowledge to make sense of the FL and their FL learning (p < .10), even if the strategy of transfer can only remove part of the learning effort. Whether this strategy improved their learning seemed to depend on the particular grammar feature and individual student qualities. It was concluded that the English tests are a safe way for German teachers to raise awareness about English grammar rules while maintaining the standards of a target language-only, communicative classroom.
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