Discussion (1)

Weaknesses

Her model bears similarities to the Interactionist Hypothesis, especially in regard to the Output Hypothesis. The latter demands processing language through writing and speaking, a natural foundation for active interaction. It also posits a gap, similar to the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) proposed by Vigotsky (1978: 33) through which the learner moves in acquiring language with the help of scaffolding.  Because the learner’s IC interacts with SC, which constitutes other learners with similar ambitions, the input he or she receives is comprehensible in the form of input at a step above the learner’s competence ( i+1). However, it is clear that Tseng takes the view that i+2 or 3 creates greater “tension” and therefore drives the individual to learn TC more intensely and faster. This seems to dismiss the idea that the “affective barrier”, or gap in understanding and motivation caused by incomprehensible input that delays or blocks acquisition, proposed by Krashen’s input hypothesis needs to be lowered for language acquisition to take place. We see, then, that Tseng’s model is not backed up fully by either of the theories above.

Furthermore, although she starts from the premises that new cognition is determined by earlier cognitions, the process involved in recognition/exploration, transaction and reflection does not explain the way language is represented, how transition from below threshold capability to above it takes place, nor how the low level L2 learner is able to analyze and make comparisons in the target language. Rather, it assumes that these occur naturally because of embedding tasks in situations that encourage cultural comparison.

In addition, it is also unclear to what extent the new perspective differs from other socio-cultural views on culture. Tseng regards culture in language teaching heretofore as a collection of facts to be acquired in order to facilitate understanding and acquisition of the target language, and contrasts this to her vision of culture as being dynamically created by the individual learners themselves as they seek to find meaning by interacting with the other individuals within the social culture they inhabit. Yet these earlier views on culture do not deny that the learner possesses intrinsic cultural preferences. Interaction and socio-cultural theorists both postulate that the learner perceives gaps between his current state of interlanguage dividing him or her from the culturally competent, and that overcoming or closing the gap involves processing and reflection. Given the similarities between the models above, it begs the question of how much her theory is a new interpretation that constitutes a fresh vision or whether it is simply development from older theories coining new words and terms of reference.

Finally, Tseng herself questions the benefit of her approach if the members of a class lack a broad SC base. If that is the case, is it beneficial to adopt the approach to the practical teaching her theory suggests in a monolingual and mono-cultural class?

Read on: Strengths

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