Tokyo JALT:

Investigating second language fluency

Date: Friday, September 29th, 2023 Time: 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Speaker: Judit Kormos (Lancaster University) and Shungo Suzuki (Waseda University)

In the context of the learning and teaching of second language (L2) speaking skills, oral fluency is commonly regarded as one of the major learning goals, due to its important role in real-world communication. A certain level of fluency is necessary to maintain the interlocuter's attention in oral communication and to be able to save speakers' own face (Lennon, 2000), and oral fluency is also a significant factor in the comprehensibility of L2 speech (Suzuki & Kormos, 2020). Fluency constitutes an important aspect of the assessment of speaking skills in a variety of high-stakes oral proficiency tests and is also a robust indicator of L2 proficiency (Tavakoli et al., 2020). Therefore, it is essential to better understand L2 oral fluency as a construct particularly in the Japanese higher education context where learners need to develop spoken language proficiency for use in future workplace contexts.

In this presentation, we report two studies forming part of a larger project that has investigated predictors and variability in L2 oral fluency among 128 Japanese university students. Speech data were elicited using four speaking tasks: argumentative task, picture narrative task, and reading-to-speaking, and reading-while-listening-to-speaking task. We assessed utterance fluency (observable temporal features of speech) using measures of speed, breakdown and repair fluency. We measured cognitive fluency, which is defined as speaker's ability to manipulate L2 knowledge efficiently (see Segalowitz, 2010), by means of vocabulary size and grammaticality tests and lexical retrieval, sentence construction and articulatory speed. In the first study, we examined the relationship between the utterance and cognitive fluency, and in the second study we analysed variations in temporal features of fluency across tasks.

Our findings yield insights into what L2 skills and knowledge areas learners need to develop to become fluent L2 speakers and how cognitive demands of different types of task can exert an impact on the fluency of students' performance. The findings can assist in syllabus and curriculum design for university-level language teaching as well as inform the assessment of Japanese university students' oral communication skills.

Organization: Tokyo Chapter of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (Tokyo JALT)

Cost: free

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