Execution Processes in L1 and FL writing

Submitted by: Esther Breuer
Abstract: Different studies have shown that writing in a foreign language (FL) is a process which is cognitively demanding. Writers experience difficulties in the (conscious) subprocesses of generating ideas, of planning, of translating and of revising (Breuer, 2015, 2016, Van Weijen, 2008). However, up to now the aspect of execution has not been of central interest in FL writing research. Execution processes are usually automatised in the L1, and it is often proposed that at least in languages which use the same alphabet, the execution process should not have an effect on the success of the writing process.
In order to analyse whether this proposition is true, a study was set up in which 330 students at a German university were asked to copy German and English sentences and phrases. The material was presented to them in a special setting of InputLog, which was created for generating copytask studies. The phrases consisted of words which were different in terms of bigram frequency, in order to see whether more frequent bigrams were executed faster and with less errors in both languages. The participants were also asked to copy senseless consonant strings as well as non-words which, if you moved two letters, would be sensible words. The latter was done in order to see whether whole-word reading and/or writing would take place in both languages, or whether writing mistakes would be related to writing words instead of non-words.
The analysis has shown that there are indeed differences in the executing processes between the L1 and the FL students, but also betwenn L1, FL and L2 students, whom we definec as participants whose first spoken language was not German, but whose first written language it was. Copying L2/FL words and phrases is more laborious than doing this in the L1, more errors take place, and the working memory resources are smaller in the FL as well as in the L2 than in the L1. The automatised processes of execution are thus not as profound in the L2/FL as they are in the L1, which means that this subprocess allocates perceptible demands, having negative effects on L2/FL writing.

Breuer, E.O. (2015). First Language versus Foreign Language. Fluency, Errors and Revision Processes in Foreign Language Academic Writing. Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang.
Breuer, E.O. (2016). Effects of Planning and Language on the Construction of Meaning. Double Helix, 4, 1-19. <http://qudoublehelixjournal.org/index.php/dh/article/view/91/291>.
Van Weijen, Daphne. (2008). Writing processes, text, quality, and task effects: Empirical studies in first and second language writing. Utrecht: LOT.

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