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First Language versus Foreign Language

Fluency, Errors and Revision Processes in Foreign Language Academic Writing

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Esther Odilia Breuer

First Language versus Foreign Language deals with the «battle» that takes place in writers’ heads when writing in a foreign language. Most academics today need to write in another language than in their first language (L1) in order to publish in internationally recognized journals. However, as writing research has shown, writing in a foreign language (FL) presents difficulties. The study compares L1 and FL writing, analysing written texts and the writing processes in terms of fluency, errors and revision. It takes a closer look at the «battle» between the L1 and the FL and offers useful insight. The findings allow a glimpse at the processes that take place in the brain, calling for new didactic approaches to FL writing.
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3 Cognitive Aspects of Writing

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3  Cognitive Aspects of Writing

Our literature, our science, our philosophy, our law, our religion, are, in an important way, literate artefacts. We see ourselves, our ideas and our world in terms of these artefacts…The topic of literacy is all about the special, indeed peculiar properties of these artefacts…and about the kinds of competence, the forms of thought and the modes of perception that are involved in coping with, indeed exploiting, this world on paper. (Olson 1994: xii–xiv)

As was shown in chapter 2, the purely linguistic components of FL writing in general, and of academic writing in particular are cognitively very demanding. Since this book looks at how the L1 battles with FL linguistic competency in writing, it is important to look at the underlying processes that take place during writing, and how they differ in the L1 and in the FL. In the following chapter, a short overview of the theory and of the studies in writing of the last decades will be given. Chapter 3.1 introduces the different components of the internal writing process, while Chapter 3.2 explores the external factors of the writing process, and the working memory. Just exactly how these processes work and are interrelated (Chapter 3.3), as well as how these processes differ in the first language (L1) and in a foreign language (FL; Chapter 3.4) is explored here. Chapter 3.5 introduces an important element in writing research, namely the analysis of the fluency of the...

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