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The Learning of the Second Language


The most important reason for learning a new language is to convey information in a certain language. Acquisition of language skills does not entail the use of extensively conscious grammatical regulations or hard drilling as many would think. It instead requires one to be patient since the process is gradual. Just the same way a child learns, the listening skills are attained before speaking ability. Fluency and proficiency come later when one starts to specialize in the subject matter. Swain (2005) defines four functions of output as the fluency or skill-building function, the noticing or generating function which evokes the conscious mind for reaction, the hypothesis-testing function and the Meta-linguistic function which deals with deep thoughts. These useful utilities for second language learners assist them to improve their learning easily and most importantly enjoyably. (Swain, 2005)

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A good listener should be aware of language grammar and stylistics. One major effort that is required and almost definite is motivation. Most people will suffer from anxiety because they lack patience for their attempts. According to Krashen (1981), the effective way of learning a second language is to recognize that improvements are only achievable if the contribution is comprehensible to the learner and not forcible for a target. The input and output for the second language student learner are the core targets, which should be considered and identified.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss how target contributes to second language learning. The paper highlights some theories and several investigated studies to argue out various opinions which exist concerning the input and output in the process of acquiring a new language. The conclusion of this paper involves a personal opinion based on the research and about input and output. Rhetorically one would question if the output is the most essential aspect for learners of a second language, what would one require for professionalism and proficiency?

Background and Definition

According to Van Patten (2003), input is identified as, “the communicative language a learner hears or reads in context and to which he or she attends for its meaning” (p.117). This definition indicates that second language learners are in a position to acquire knowledge of the language from an interactive environment by listening and reading. On the other hand, the output is “language the learners produce to communicate or express meaning” (Van Patten, 2003, p.117). It means that learners first learn the language. Then they acquire knowledge pertaining, showing that they understand it or they are in a position to manipulate or formulate their meanings during the interaction.

Based on Swain’s research (2005) of “output Hypothesis” (p.473), which identifies the activities, the student is occupied with during his/her learning of the second language, students fail to obtain second language grammatical accurateness because they fail to use this grammatical accurateness in the class and outdoor setting just as they would with their fast language learning, which they are comfortable in (Swain, 2005). Practice makes perfect and this applies to learning too.

Referencing Swain’s (2005) interpretation of learning a second language, students will refuse to or lack interest in using the language in class because the grammar foundation is too poor. Students’ refusal for the general use of a second language forces them to have more output to overcome failure and to facilitate better teaching and acquisition.

Additionally, in 2005, Swain offered an output Hypothesis indicating that second language learners need to incorporate the aspect of intensive output, which is obtained. For students to prosper in acquiring the language, they ought to have extra knowledge about it as opposed to only receiving the inputs for the language, in other words, students need more output.

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Swain (2005) discerns four functions of output, and “noticing the gap” is one of them. The “noticing triggering function”, which is also acknowledged for its role of raising the consciousness of the user, indicates that in the process of using the second language, the language learners can understand the gap between what they need to say about their competence, and what is required of them to be said. The function, which is discussed, indicated the possibilities for the learner to get a triggering factor to gaining extra language knowledge or improve the knowledge that already exists in students’ understanding, or what they are in process of comprehending (Swain, 2005).

The “hypothesis-testing function” is another function output in SLA and indicates that the output received offers a method to test language learners to try out their hypotheses about language and receive feedback clearly or implicitly in the comprehension process. The learners have the chance to try out their understanding or objectives regarding the language and receive instant feedback clearly or perfectly during the comprehension procedure. Swain (2005) indicates that second language learners are in a position of connecting easily with the second language operational hypothesis, which is discussed.

Meta-linguistic function denotes that the second language learners can use it as a target of considering a language. Consequently, the output has the meta-linguistic effect that assists the student in controlling or producing knowledge of the second language, the education is meant (Swain, 2005).

Swain’s researches (2005; 2007) indicated that participants learn the new language and at the same time they improve the knowledge they have attained about the language now. The language is leaned for communication and in the process, the “languaging” or “collaborative dialogue” is “the process of comprehending and reshaping experience as part of what constitutes learning” (Swain, 2005, p.7). Swain (2005) tried to stress that communication using dialogues and collaboration with other students is the core aspect in the learning of the second language.

According to Swain’s research studies (2005) regarding the immersion context which were conducted in Canada, the conclusions on the findings indicated that even after being offered the Interlingua (intermediate language) ability, the immersion students were not in a position of giving a rich source of comprehensible input, as this language is not native for them. They were easily identified as non-native speakers or writers in the interactive process. Moreover, Swain (2005) found that their expressive performance was weaker than their counterparts, who were French native speakers. Therefore, the conclusion for the research findings was evidence of lack of awareness or control over the complexity of grammar, inaccuracy in the use of vocabulary or morphed syntax, and low precise words pronunciation.

Consequently, Swain (2005) believes that learners ought to be given time and opportunity to produce this language characteristic because the issue of understanding new structures is not quite enough for their learning. In other words, students need to produce the output because just receiving comprehensive input is not enough.

Swain (2005) presented another key belief that second language learners ought to be given a chance of increased opportunity to understand second language output and advance their comprehension skills. This understanding would assist them in overcoming problems which mostly include that of their grammar, the accentuated pronunciations, and the immersion programs during the learning process. The problem overcoming saves the focus created on comprehension of efforts. Moreover, as a mechanism of helping in the language, Swain (2005) also articulated that they need to increase the desire to output such as preciseness, coherent and appropriate utterances.

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In addition, Swain’s (2005) particular emphasis was on the role of “pushed output”. Many research studies (Kowal & Swain, 1997; Swain & Lapkin, 1998; Izumi et al, (1999) have been conducted to identify the role of output in second language acquisition, especially on the issue of enhancing grammatical competence. On the other hand, Kashen’s (1985) major theory and major purpose was “comprehensible input”. He argued that inputs requirements in the process of language acquisition need to be comprehensible since the process entails receiving signals and messages during communication.

Alternatively, Long (1996) argues that output is just a method where negotiation has not required the meaning that negotiation works as a channel of communication for linking the output to the input. The learners must collect a lot of information regarding the competency in the learning process for them to communicate efficiently with other native speakers.

Pica (1996) defines negotiation as the state when second language learners have to use language interfaces to bring out understandable messages. Some significances are conveyed to other speakers throughout the communication activities. From this aspect, the learners can change the originality of the message to fit their rendition for the sake of understanding.

Pica’s studies (1996) also confirm the existence of indirect feedback where learners modify their utterances for better understanding using interaction and negotiation. Additionally, interacting and negotiating is a source of “stretched interlingua” or “pushed output” that would greatly assist second language learners to achieve better lexical and grammatical knowledge concerning output even during those times when communication is poor. Therefore, learning a new language is a process where learners need to interact properly by connecting proper input with modified output, which will improve second language learning in the educational process.

According to Izumi (2002), pushed output plays an important role in production because it can set language learners to create a cognitive contrast in a perfect position between the Interlingua and target language types. To improve on the Interlingua development, learners need to use the pushed output since it encourages the building of meta-linguistic consciousness. During this process of communication, speakers need to understand clearly what is required of them during the learning process. More attention ought to be focused on the form of communication in use. They must also understand the gap between what they need to learn and the difficulty to achieve it because of the complications in utilizing other language learning (Izumi, 2000).

According to Gass (2002), comprehensible output means that pushed output encourages language learners to understand both meaning and language form. Only combining these two notions, meaning and grammar, the student will be able to communicate using the second language and to understand foreign speech. According to Ellis (1994), there are no clear or precise results of research about “Pushed output on lexical development”. The study (Ellis, 1994) is not exact with sufficient evidence on the pushed output. The existence of a clear path on the pushed output can assist the second language learners to succeed in their acquisition.

According to Nation’s (2001) research study about the acquisition of the vocabularies on a second language,’ the effects of ‘pushed output’ can encourage learners in the process of gaining more vocabulary. Research on the teaching methods indicated that the use of certain learning conditions such as being aware of the output or ability to retrieve and generate output is indicative that “push output” really contributes to second language learning. In other words, the situation, when the language is learned, environment or surrounding is significant for the second language comprehension (Nation, 2001).

The research results of Swain and Lapkin (1997) also point towards more examples represented through a “picture jigsaw” masterpiece, which discusses the focus was on the effects of dialogue between participants where the learners ought to communicate through the second language they learn. Moreover, in their “jigsaw” study, Swain and Lapkin (1997) found encouraging results of some negotiated forms about post-test scores. In this study, the participating students can widely re-evaluate their understanding of the acquisition process and determine their progress by considering or analyzing the role played by output and dialogue. The process is identified by the consideration of the dialogue, which is held, in the learned second language.

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Toyoda & Harrison (2002) consider that Swain’s method (using a second language both in class and out of it) is rather appropriate in studying Japanese, in particular. It is so due to the illumination of main priorities, which the Output Hypothesis has “at its disposal”. L2 learning becomes predictive and planned when making glimpses at the perspectives of output production in language. “Comprehensible input and modified output” in the reference to the second language learning, nevertheless, should be pointed out with mere attention on their destination in the discourse (Toyoda & Harrison, 2002, p. 82).

As a result of these findings, Swain’s (2005) research indicated the analysis and presentation of how accurate students can be in a communicative framework. With regards to this research finding, teachers can encourage more discussion through the newly acquired language and also increase more activities, which pertain to the use of the language to generate more accurate outcomes on the learning process. This study supports the hypothesis of dialogue based on the second language being the key to the acquisition of it (Swain and Lapkin, 1997).

Implication for Second Language learners

Research studies have articulated the input and output as essential aspects in the acquisition of the second language. Interaction is also a minor but important aspect that has been outlaid. The input stands for the contribution or participation effort of the learner while the output is productivity or results received from the learner in this case the ability to comprehend and use the language. Swain (2005) incorporates another hypothesis on to the researched or suggested factors by emphasizing the importance for the learners to comprehend and be in a position to thoroughly understand the language as well present a different view of logical outputs. Personal interpretation of the language is considered as the key unit to communicate effectively, as language learning comes through the person and the level of understanding depends on the personal abilities. If learners take her opinion they would be in a better position of acquiring more opportunities. This would be considered as real-time communications where learners make use of their target language to learn it as opposed to receiving the classroom input knowledge concerning their study.


In conclusion, it should be mentioned that to build students’ second language proficiency the output should be provided for learners. They are the primary comprehensible input and output to encourage learning or acquisition of a language. The problems being faced fall on the difference between acquisition and learning. Both input and output play a significant role in second language acquisition and learning, according to Swain’s (2005) hypothesis. After thorough research, it was proved that output is of the highest importance than input in the second learning process. According to Krashen (1989), as was stressed above, learners will acquire comprehensible input, that will help the second language learning to get a great amount of language knowledge. Output hypothesis dwells upon the meaning that second language learners should not only possess the speaking and writing skills through the input knowledge of the language but also to become a comprehensible possessor of the second language students should also practically train and use knowledge, they have received during learning. Therefore, according to Swain’s (2005) opinion, four functions of output (fluency or skill-building function, the noticing or generating function, the hypothesis-testing function, and the Meta-linguistic function) for students’ second language acquisition should be used to receive more knowledge during learning the second language and to be able to operate it perfectly.


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