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First Language versus Foreign Language

Fluency, Errors and Revision Processes in Foreign Language Academic Writing


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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4 Methods


4  Methods

Most people’s relationship to the process of writing is one of helplessness. First, they can’t write satisfactorily or even at all. Worse yet, their efforts to improve don’t seem to help. It always seems that the amount of effort and energy put into a piece of writing has no relation to the results. (Elbow 1973: 12)

As was outlined in Chapters 2 and 3, the cognitive demands on FL writers in general, and on FL writers of academic papers in particular, are large: this is because the linguistic structures of the L1 and the FL in the Bilingual Tripartite Architecture (Chapter 2.2.2) are active in the FL writer at the same time and to different degrees (Abutalebi and Green 2007: 243, Sharwood Smith and Truscott 2008: 63), and because the writer has to subconsciously or consciously fight down the ‘wrong’ language when it attacks the FL language production (Francis 2011: 78). Moreover, wording, syntax, and orthography pose extra difficulties in FL writing (Chapters 2.2 and 2.3). In academic writing, the writers need to set goals for their writing, they need to analyse the context (for example the target group) and the task to be fulfilled and they need to activate as well as transform their knowledge in the ideal case (Bereiter and Scardamalia 1987: 12). In addition, they write in a genre that is in many ways quite different from the vernacular language (Chapter 2.4.1). In FL academic writing, furthermore, the genres as understood...

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