As one of my trainees asked about how she can help her student with his errors I thought about the concept of noticing. She mentioned that he keeps making mistakes in his written work despite having pointed these out and worked on these so he knows about them but continues. She has tried through correct usage exercises but also helped him spot his own mistakes.
So let’s take a closer look. Noticing first coined by Richard Schmidt is a condition which is necessary if the language a student is exposed to is to become the language they take in (language intake) (Schmidt (1). Unless the student sees the patterns or oddities of the new language, he or she is unlikely to process it, learn it or use it, comments Harmer (2). According to Schmidt, second language learners notice a language construction if they see it often enough or if it stands out in some way. They may come across it in lessons however, outside the classroom the student needs to have reached a certain language level to notice these patterns on his or her own. One way to support the student might be to provide tasks where certain language naturally occurs with frequency so with or without the teacher’s assistance, the student will notice it.
Noticed language does not mean instant learning of it and it may take several or numerous trials of the language in controlled practice activities. Consequently, spontaneous production of the learnt language seems to take longer, usually once the language point has been processed enough times for it to become more natural.
This does link quite directly to error correction and the type of errors our students make and how we correct them (or not!) During a speaking class would you correct an error you hear immediately, after a few minutes, at the end of the activity, later in the lesson, at the end of the class or term or perhaps maybe never?! Do you point out the error to the individual or anonymously?! There is quite a lot to consider. More details in the next blog.
(1)Schmidt. R. 1990 The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics 11/2
(2)Harmer. J. 2001. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Longman 3rd edition