Oral English performance in Danish primary school children: An interactional usage-based approach

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Søren W. Eskildsen
Teresa Cadierno


Following the call in Sandlund, Sundqvist, and Nyroos (2016) for incorporating discursive approaches into the field of oral second language (L2) testing, this paper proposes an interactional usage-based approach to the analysis of oral L2 performance. Based on Eskildsen (2018a), we combine analytic tools from usage-based linguistics and conversation analysis. We draw on usage-based linguistics to analyze performance in terms of test-takers’ inventories of linguistic constructions and on conversation analysis to understand their interactional competence in terms of the relation between the linguistic constructions and the actions they are used to accomplish. Performance assessment is thus constructional and interactional. Participants in this pilot study were two Danish primary school children who performed two consecutive oral tasks: a semi-guided interview and a picture-elicited narrative task. Data were analyzed by means of cross-child comparisons and cross-task comparisons within each child. Our data confirm the observation from previous research that simple question-answer(-assessment) sequences dominate oral test formats, but also that the format is sometimes abandoned, which allows for the accomplishment of new social actions. Moreover, the picture-description task affords a different speech exchange system with the interviewer participating more as an active listener when the children do not voluntarily carry out the requested task.


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Eskildsen, S. W., & Cadierno, T. (2020). Oral English performance in Danish primary school children: An interactional usage-based approach. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 10(3), 523-546. https://doi.org/10.14746/ssllt.2020.10.3.6
Author Biographies

Søren W. Eskildsen, University of Southern Denmark, Sønderborg

Søren Wind Eskildsen, PhD, is Associate Professor of Second Language (L2) Acquisition at the University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg. His primary research interest concerns the usage-based processes and practices in L2 learning, in situ and over time, as seen through the lenses of usage-based models of language and conversation analysis. Other interests include the role of gestures and other embodied conduct in L2 learning and interaction. He works with both in- and out-of-class L2 data and with both adult and child L2 learning. His recent publications include the coedited volume Conversation Analytic Research on Learning-in-Action: The Complex Ecology of Second Language Interaction ‘in the Wild’ (2019, Springer). He is the founding co-editor of the book-series Routledge Advances in Second Language Studies.

Contact details: University of Southern Denmark, Department of Design and Communication, Alsion 2, 6400 Sønderborg, Denmark (swe@sdu.dk)

Teresa Cadierno, University of Southern Denmark, Odense

Teresa Cadierno, PhD, is Professor of Second Language Acquisition and director of the Center for Language Learning at the University of Southern Denmark. Her research interests include instructed second language acquisition, with special focus on the acquisition of grammar by L2 learners, the role of formal instruction in L2 learning and more recently, the role of age in foreign language learning; and the investigation of L2 acquisition from cognitive/usage-based perspectives, with special focus on the development of thinking-for-speaking patterns in second languages. She has co-edited Linguistic Relativity in SLA: Thinking for Speaking (2010, Multilingual Matters), Usage-Based Perspectives on Second Language Learning (2016, Mouton de Gruyter) and Lingüística cognitiva y español LE/L2 (2019, Routledge). In 1996 she received the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages – Modern Language Journal (ACTFL – MLJ) Paul Pimsleur Award for Research in Foreign Language Education. Her research has been financed by funding bodies such as the Velux Foundation, the Danish Research Council for Independent Research and the Marie Curie Multi-Partner ITN program.

Contact details: Department of Language and Communication, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, DK 5230 Odense M, Denmark (cadierno@sdu.dk)


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