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CARLA offers a number of resources to language teachers including a battery of second language proficiency assessments and a working paper series.


Resources for Teachers of Spanish

The Learner Language: Tools for Teachers website was expanded to include video materials featuring the oral and written learner language produced by two learners of Spanish: one a foreign language learner, and one a heritage learner of Spanish.

The website includes videos of the learners, along with transcriptions of their oral language, samples of their written language, and multimedia activities that provide language teachers with a deeper understanding of the way the language of such learners develops.

Screenshot of videos of Henry and Raul

Why Should Teachers Focus on Developing Learner Language?

Second language acquisition research has shown that learners have a "built-in syllabus" that guides the development of a second language when the language is used in unrehearsed communication. Just as the growth of a plant is guided by its DNA, so the growth of the second language linguistic system is guided by this built-in syllabus.

Teachers can nurture the growth of their students' learner language by assigning engaging puzzle-solving communicative tasks in which learners use that language in spontaneous and innovative ways, often surprising their teachers and themselves with what they can do. Teachers support their students' second language acquisition by analyzing the accuracy, complexity, and fluency of their learner language in order to shape ongoing instructional input, scaffolding, and corrective feedback.

How Does the Website Work?

Using the theoretical framework of Exploratory Practice (Allwright &Hanks, 2009), teachers first view videos of learners doing unrehearsed communication tasks. Then, aided by transcripts and interactive online activities, teachers learn how to analyze learner language from six different perspectives, and to consider ways to support its development:

  • Learner Characteristics: Individual differences among leaners that may affect their success
  • Error Analysis: Systematic errors in learner language and their typical patterns
  • Interlanguage: Developmental sequences of the linguistic systems in learner language
  • Learning in Interaction: Scaffolding, co-construction, and corrective feedback in interaction
  • Referential Communication: Use of language to identify things, actions, and locations
  • Complexity: measures of form and function in syntactic complexity and lexical variety

The website includes general information on learner language that is valuable for teachers of all languages. The new video samples and accompanying learning modules for teachers of Spanish were recently added to extensive resources available for teachers of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Persian.


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Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 - 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414