March 2008
Volume 11, Number 4

Contents  |   TESL-EJ Top


Input for Instructed L2 Learners

Author: Anna Nizegorodcew (2007)
Publisher: Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters
Pp. ix + 182 978-1-85359-937-8 (paper) £18.36 GBP; $34.36 US

Input for Instructed L2 Learners makes a significant attempt to apply relevance theory (RT), a general theory of human cognition and communication, to verbal input for instructed foreign language learners. As such it is an excellent contribution to the literature on L2 classroom discourse. The book consists of a preface, six chapters, an author and a subject index. In the preface, Nizegorodcew clearly defines what she means by input: "the language intentionally presented to the learners by the teacher or other learners in order to facilitate the process of L2 learning/acquisition" (p. x). RT, which she defines as a theory of interpreting incoming messages, claims that "all human beings automatically aim for the most efficient information processing, that is why the information they pay attention to in the input must be optimally relevant, which means requiring the least processing effort to comprehend" (p. 12). Throughout the book, the author's intention is to conceptualize teachers' or peers' input within the light of RT.

In the first chapter, the author discusses differences in how the term "input" is understood in SLA theory and in RT. This first chapter is the most comprehensive and complex since it exposes the reader to a rich overview of a wide range of SLA theories and models (for example, Krashen's Input, Long's Interaction, Swain's Output, Gass's model, Ellis's model, the cognitive focus-on-form approach, sociolinguistic and sociocultural approaches, etc.). Although such models and theories are very extensive in nature, the author successfully provides a brief and concise overview of each by focusing on its significance and its strengths and weaknesses. The chapter further includes the author's main claims for applying RT to classroom input for instructed L2 learners in a foreign language context--with a specific focus on optimal relevance. Cited levels of expected optimal relevance in L2 classroom input is illustrated in chapter 5 through interactional discourse samples from a corpus of L2 classroom data recorded in L2 English classrooms in Polish secondary schools. However, before this analysis in chapter 5, chapters 2 and 3 provide an overview of two perspectives on the role of L2 classroom input.

Chapter 2 provides an L2 teaching perspective on the role of instructional input with an emphasis on fluency and accuracy practice, feedback and error correction, and L1 use in the monolingual L2 classroom. The changing status of L2 teaching methods is presented together with a brief history of Communicative Language Teaching.

The third chapter gives a short overview of the differences between naturalistic and L2 classroom discourse. According to the author, L2 classroom discourse is different than L2 naturalistic discourse for the following reasons:

1) The L2 teacher is the manager of classroom discourse, 2) the L2 teacher is the main provider of L2 input, 3) communicative intentions of L2 teachers and L2 learners are embedded in a complex framework of institutional, curriculum and task demands. (p. 40).

She briefly argues for different frameworks or systems for classroom discourse analysis proposed by various L2 classroom discourse analysts, from either a sociolinguistically oriented or a pedagogically oriented conversation analysis perspective. The rest of the chapter includes a discussion of related major studies on patterns of participation in L2 classroom discourse, teacher and peer talk in L2 classroom discourse and L2 classroom discourse modifications (for example, Ellis, 1994; Long, 1983; Majer, 2003).

Seven M.A. research projects exploring qualitative and quantitative aspects of L2 English classroom interaction and teacher-talk input in Polish secondary schools settings are presented in chapter 4. Aims, research subjects, methodologies and findings of each project are clearly reported.

Chapter 4's data are analyzed in chapter 5 according to various functional teaching categories:

  1. Explicit teaching with a specific focus on explicit presentation of the linguistic data to the learners and teacher corrections of learners' language
  2. L2 classroom communication with an emphasis on real communication and simulated communication
  3. Raw and corrective linguistic data

The final chapter formulates some L2 teaching implications of the RT approach to L2 classroom discourse. According to the author, a teacher should act as a monitor, corrector, and participant in L2 classroom activities if fluency and accuracy are aimed for in students' learning. To illustrate these goals, the author provides some brief student-teacher dialogues. She points out the weak and strong points of feedback provided during the interaction and the roles of students and teacher in each conversation. The chapter, and the book, concludes with the teacher's roles described under five headings.

One of the major strengths of the book is that the text is richly illustrated with close analyses of samples from classroom discourse data recorded in a variety of contexts (specifically in chapter four). Being Polish herself, it is not surprising that the author gives numerous examples from Polish and European contexts. For instance, an example of how politics influences language teaching in Poland can be found in chapter 2, where she also talks about native and non-native teachers. Also, as mentioned before, although the focus is on interpreting teachers' input within the light of RT, the author also references SLA, the communicative L2 teaching perspective, and the L2 classroom discourse approach.

As Nizegorodcew herself suggests, this text can be a useful resource for L2 teacher educators, L2 teachers, L2 pre-service and in-service teacher trainees, and SLA researchers. EFL teachers will assuredly benefit given the fact that non-native speaker teachers in foreign language contexts and their L2 use are a particular focus of this book. And though the author provides a thorough review of related studies throughout the book, a short summary at the end of each chapter might have been very useful, as the information presented in each chapter is very dense. Furthermore, a glossary comprising definitions of the terms mentioned in the chapters, but not defined there, would have been helpful for the audience who are students in L2 teacher education programs. This book is very to the point, engaging, and serves as an excellent reference on applying RT in classroom settings.

Special thanks to Dr. John Beavers, an assistant professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Texas, Austin, for his critical remarks and insightful comments.


Ellis, R. (1994). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Long, M. (1983). Linguistic and conversational adjustments to non-native speakers. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 5(2), 177-193.

Majer, J. (2003). Interactive discourse in the foreign language classroom. Lodz: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Lodzkiego.

Hayriye Kayi
University of Texas, Austin

Comment/view comments on this article. There are currently comments.

© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.

Editor's Note: The HTML version contains no page numbers. Please use the PDF version of this article for citations.