Communication and sharing information are now seen as the foundation of the development of humanity as well as the primary way for any person to succeed in their life. Therefore, foreign language learning is deeply integrated into the educational system of almost any country. English has become one of the primary (or even the major) language of international communication, which entices more and more people to learn it.
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Although English as a foreign language has been taught for decades, there are still numerous areas for further improvement. For instance, English grammar learning often draws researchers’ and practitioners’ attention as many learners find this aspect specifically challenging. Diverse approaches to teaching and learning grammar exist, but it is still possible and critical to come up with new methods and techniques.
The development of such areas as neuroscience and psychology has boosted the evolvement of various theories and approaches to foreign language learning. Modern educators have an understanding of different processes involved in language acquisition, which enables them to create effective methodologies and instruments facilitating language learning. At present, researchers and practitioners try to make use of learners’ cognitive and psychological peculiarities that are instrumental in enhancing people’s ability to learn (Richards & Rodgers, 2014).
Educators try to develop strategies that could be beneficial for visual, audial, or kinaesthetic learners. Some claim that extroversion and introversion can also shape the ways people acquire knowledge and skills. Of course, the majority of studies are associated with the analysis of the cognitive peculiarities of learners.
One of the methods aimed at improving students’ outcomes has become the utilization of color-coding. This cognitive instrument implies the use of color to highlight the target language units (Schneider & Kulmhofer, 2016). This technique has proved to be specifically effective in vocabulary acquisition and grammar learning where the focus on the form can make a difference. Educators highlight specific units (a phrase, a word, or even a part of the word) that are easily noticed.
Grammar learning has been regarded as a challenging process by many learners who tend to lose motivation and commitment due to the complexity of this aspect of a foreign language. Colour-coding can address these issues and make grammar learning more effective while making students more engaged. Certain colors, as well as combinations of tinges, attract people’s attention, and increase the likelihood of students’ noticing the studied forms.
Although these assumptions seem self-evident, some researchers argue that color-coding often has adverse effects on learning as the focus on the form deviates learners’ ability to pay the necessary attention to the meaning (Gascoigne, 2006; Winke, 2013). Moreover, some colors may deflect people’s attention while some hues can be improperly perceived by the human eye. All these details should be analyzed to provide the foundation for the development of effective teaching methods.
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Pam and Karimi (2016) state that the negative outcomes mentioned above can also be avoided if the educator provides clear and detailed instructions. Learners should remain focused, which can be achieved through the creation of the corresponding atmosphere. These findings and assumptions have become the basis of the present study that aims at exploring the use of color-coding in grammar teaching. The primary research question guiding this study can be formulated as follows: What kind of impact does color-coding have on English grammar learning?
This paper consists of five chapters that highlight the central aspects of the present study. Chapter 1 of this paper includes a detailed review of the existing literature on the matter. Such areas as the history of color and language, theoretical frameworks of foreign language learning, and the latest advances related to grammar learning are covered. Chapter 2 describes the primary details and methodology of this study. An experimental research design will be employed to address the established research question.
Apart from this, interviews with six participants will be held to elicit their views on the intervention. Learners’ perspectives are critical for the evaluation of the proposed teaching method. The use of the mixed research method will ensure the identification of a trend and exploration of people’s perspective on the matter. Chapter 3 provides the results of the study, and Chapter 4 includes the discussion of these results. In Chapter 5, conclusions based on the findings of the research are given, and the study implications and limitations are discussed.
Significance of the Study
Globalization and the increased focus on communication have shaped approaches to foreign language teaching and learning. New methods and tools are introduced to facilitate the learning process and make it more comfortable and enjoyable. As far as grammar acquisition is concerned, it is characterized by a certain dichotomy in academia as there are two major perspectives regarding this aspect of language (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Some researchers and practitioners believe that grammar should be taught explicitly while others emphasize that implicit instruction could be employed. It is suggested that the focus on communication and language functions is essential for foreign language learners while grammar structures can be simply memorized and drilled.
Moreover, the peculiarities of grammar learning make it quite different from such aspects as vocabulary, which calls for the use of advanced methods and instruments. For instance, grammar acquisition is often impaired due to the interference of learners’ mother tongue (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Students confuse grammar forms and structures that may be similar in the target and native language. Another difficulty is linked to the absence of certain grammatical units, so it can be challenging for learners to memorize, understand, and use these forms (Sabir, 2018). One of the conventional examples of such grammatical issues is the use of articles. Hence, educators attempt to address these peculiarities and develop efficient teaching strategies.
Color-coding is one of the methods that has been quite common in the provision of feedback and instruction, but it was limited to occasional use. Numerous findings suggest that color-coding can become an effective method to enhance grammar learning (Pam & Karimi, 2016; Schneider & Kulmhofer, 2016). It is also found that color-coding has different implications in teaching different aspects of language (Hamavandy & Golshan, 2015).
These observations make it obvious that each aspect and grammar structure should be studied in terms of the impact of color-coding on learning. Color-coding in article use learning has been under-researched, and it is still unclear whether this technique can be effective and whether it should be employed. This study addresses this area and attempts to explore the effects of color-coding on grammar acquisition in foreign language learning. Before implementing the experiment, it is necessary to review the existing literature related to foreign language acquisition and grammar learning.
The research in the sphere of language, color, and learning has developed for centuries, but these areas became closely interrelated in the twenty-first century, which affected the focus of the current research. The analysis of (or rather a reflection on) the nature of vision, language, and learning has started in the ancient times, but people were interested in the development of concepts, paradigms, and theoretical underpinnings rather than exact mechanisms and techniques (Ciani, 2014; Wind, 2014).
The 18th century saw an increase in researchers’ interest in the neurobiological and psychological aspects of language, color, and learning. The investigations concerning different brain areas became revolutionary and paved the way for numerous studies that unveil multiple processes involved in human cognition (Kemmerer, 2014). After several centuries of separate studies on color, language, and learning, researchers started incorporating these aspects, which contributed to the development of teaching.
The approaches to language learning are deeply rooted in the advances of such spheres as neurobiology and psychology. The focus of educators was on different aspects and functions depending on the needs of society. For instance, educators and theorists concentrated on linguistic features as people were interested in texts and written transition of knowledge (Richards & Rodgers, 2014).
The twentieth century was associated with considerable migration of people and the unwinding of globalization, which resulted in the focus on the functional feature of foreign language acquisition. Communication became the major value and teachers tried to ensure their students’ ability to use language to conduct numerous daily operations. At the same time, the twentieth century was also the era of various discoveries in the sphere of neurobiology and psychology.
The cognitive and psychological peculiarities of foreign language learners became a matter of extensive research (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Educators tried to use people’s cognitive and psychological traits to enhance the learning process. The most recent advances in education are the focus on interpersonal relationships and the role of the community in learning.
All these approaches to teaching and learning led to the creation of numerous methodologies and instruments. Grammar learning is often associated with such frameworks as linguistic and cognitive (Visroodi, 2015). Educators try to use the stimuli that enhance learners’ noticing and memorization of particular structures and language units. Input enhancement has become one of the most researched areas due to its effectiveness.
The results of numerous studies indicate that this technique is associated with improved learning outcomes and increased learners’ motivation. Input enhancement may take different forms as visual, audial, and kinaesthetic tools are utilized (Winke, 2013). Color-coding is one of the visual types of enhancement that has proved to be effective in grammar learning. It is important to note that the development of technology has equipped educators with numerous effective devices to enhance the learning process.
This literature review addresses the most relevant aspects of the existing research on grammar learning. The historical background and physiology of language and color research will be briefly considered first. This information is essential for the understanding of the creation of different methods and approaches. The major theoretical paradigms related to the field of foreign language learning will be discussed in more detail. Finally, the review of the most effective methodologies of grammar acquisition will be implemented.
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Historical Viewpoints of Language and Colour
The origin of language has been a topic of rather heated debate for centuries as speech is regarded as one of the major features that distinguish humans from other animals. Scientists have focused on various aspects and developed several theories and approaches that aim at explaining the mechanisms of the linguistic abilities of first humans. For instance, theorists suggest that language is a sort of by-product of gestural communication (Wind, 2014).
Prehistoric people used gestures to communicate and alongside they used sounds that gradually evolved into speech with its semantic and grammatic complexity. Adornetti and Ferretti (2015) claim that the motor system of anthropoids developed into the platform for the creation of “contextually-appropriate behavior” where certain gestures and movements were associated with certain objects, actions, and concepts (p. 71). It is noteworthy that the theorists supporting the idea of the link between movement and language refer to the physiological changes Homo sapiens underwent many thousands of years ago.
The biological aspect of the language origin has attracted attention in academia and is deeply rooted in Darwinism. The evolution of the skull, brain, larynx, and oral cavity made human speech possible (Ciani, 2014). Extensive research investigates the differences between the speech apparatus and brain of hominids and modern people (Laitman, Reidenberg, & Gannon, 2014). Numerous archaeological artifacts also enable scientists to trace the phases of the transformations humans saw in prehistoric times (Boë et al., 2013).
It is found that the length of the tongue, the form of the brain, the position of the larynx, the structure of the cortex, and the size of the skull are instrumental in ensuring people’s linguistic abilities. However, scientists cannot provide an exhaustive answer to the questions regarding the exact period when people started communicating verbally or how the speech evolved.
Remarkably, one of the widely acclaimed approaches is associated with an idea of immediate mutation. Noam Chomsky is one of the renowned linguists who supported the theory of single transformation (Ragir, 2014). Adornetti and Ferretti (2015) emphasize that Chomsky’s theory is questionable and has many limitations since it cannot explain the reasons for the transformation and the exact mechanisms and instruments involved. According to this approach, people developed their linguistic skills in the course of a single mutation, which is regarded as rather a debatable and simplistic view on the complex process (Adornetti & Ferretti, 2015). Nevertheless, this perspective is still referred to in many sources and is often provided as the central theory explaining the origin of language.
Irrespective of the theories and findings, there is no consensus on the matter. The history of human speech apparatus development is still obscure (Hauser et al., 2014). The primary gaps are associated with the factors that affected the evolvement of the systems and organs, the way first speakers’ linguistic skills developed, and the relation between cognition, perception, and the first linguistic attempts. Since the focus of this research is on the use of color in language learning, it is but natural that some details concerning the history of this feature should be discussed as well.
As far as the origin of color is concerned, the existing research is characterized by some blank pages. The areas of major interest of scientists include the ways first Homo sapiens perceived color when people had this ability, and why these features developed. Kaas and Preuss (2013) explore the evolution of the human brain and note that anthropoids’ organs of vision underwent a certain transformation that led to the loss of nocturnal vision and the development of color discrimination ability. Bird, Berens, Horner, and Franklin (2014) state that hominids could differentiate colors, but the range of perceived tinges was comparatively limited. It is believed that the spectrum of these colors was confined to red and green and associated tints.
Although biological aspects seem to be well-explored and void of doubt or much dispute, the reason for the development of this ability remains a topical issue. One of the central hypotheses is associated with survival as color discrimination was instrumental in locating better food (Kaas & Preuss, 2013; Hurlbert & Ling, 2017). Hurlbert and Ling (2017) also mention a theory based on the assumption that differentiating colors could help in deciphering “emotional states and social-sexual signals” (p. 172).
According to this theory, anthropoids could develop social links and create families. However, this assumption requires further investigation and more extensive evidence. These studies are mainly grounded on the analysis of archaeological discoveries and behaviors of modern primates and other animals. As mentioned above, it is still an open question of why hominids developed such abilities and to what extent emotions were relevant for their survival and evolution.
Physiology of Language and Colour
Compared to the origins of language and color, the study of the physiology of human linguistic abilities and color perception is quite comprehensive. Researchers focus on such areas as neurobiology, physiology, perception, as well as social aspects. For example, a lot of attention has been paid to the areas of the brain that control people’s ability to communicate verbally. The research in this area has been implemented for centuries, and people managed to identify exact areas of the human brain responsible for certain mechanisms related to the ability to produce language.
Rutten (2017) examines the major discoveries related to language physiology and notes that the first revolutionary ideas concerning perception, brain localization, and functions were made as far back as the 18th century. During that time, scientists developed brain maps that are still employed in slightly adjusted forms. The experiments involved people with visual or auditory impairments, which helped researchers to make quite remarkable discoveries.
As for the neuroscientific research of color, it unwound at a similar pace and also began with the identification of specific brain zones responsible for color perception. Reid and Usrey (2013) claim that scientists referred to brain localization approaches and such maps as Brodmann’s map that displayed major zones responsible for different functions. Researchers tried to categorize colors and explain the ways different hues and spectrums could be perceived.
Gregory (2015) mentions the scientific discoveries of Newton in this sphere. In 1801, Thomas Young suggested that people had a categorical perception, and this theory has been widely exploited until these days (Gregory, 2015). Nowadays, scientists have advanced technologies (such as screening) to explore these aspects, but the findings are consistent with the ideas articulated centuries ago.
Physiology of Language
Different systems and organs are involved in language production, and people now have quite a clear picture of the processes associated with speaking. The speech apparatus enables people to produce different languages depending on social differences (Hoff, 2013). It is important to note that organs of auditory and even visual systems are also instrumental in language production. Organs of vision are employed when written communication is in place (Rutten, 2017).
It is noteworthy that languages may be very different but the organs involved and processes that occur are quite similar. For example, in some languages, consonant sounds prevail while others are characterized by the prevalence of vowels, so the production of these languages involves different mechanisms. It has been agreed that the neurobiological characteristics of the process are similar in all humans irrespective of the language they speak, which is supported by extensive research based on brain mapping.
The major brain areas responsible for language are located near the lateral cerebral sulcus (Kemmerer, 2014). The comprehension of auditory, as well as visual, signals, is linked to the so-called Wernicke’s area that is located in superior temporal gyrus (its posterior end). The signals are projected to the frontal lobe (the so-called Broca’s area) where the information is processed and the corresponding involvement of speech apparatus is initiated (see Figure 1). The research in this area is still ongoing, and researchers try to trace individual differences, more definite boundaries of zones, stimuli that affect the process, and ways to enhance people’s perception.
One of the areas of specific interest for this study is linked to the Grounded Cognition Model. Kemmerer (2014) notes that this approach has received considerable attention as it unveils the mechanisms associated with perception and cognition (see Figure 2). In simple terms, various zones are involved as concepts are “anchored” by many systems including auditory, visual, somatomotor, and other areas (Kemmerer, 2014, p. 274). The idea of the involvement of different zones is relevant, and it is often utilized in learning enhancement.
Physiology of Colour
Vision is associated with such human systems as the organs of vision and brain as the primary signals are received through the eyes and the data is processed in the human brain. The visual cortex is divided into several zones where information concerning different stimuli is processed (Reid & Usrey, 2013). Researchers also note that different hues are perceived differently by people. Many studies have equipped scientists with knowledge concerning the ways colors affect people’s psychological states (Reid & Usrey, 2013).
For example, red tinges make people more alert while the hues of blue calm humans down. Hurlbert and Ling (2017) concentrated on the way colors were perceived and preferences were formed. The findings suggest that people process information and perform various tasks differently depending on the use of certain colors.
The psychology of color has become an extensive area of study. Elliot and Maier (2014) addressed the psychological aspects linked to color perception. The researchers emphasize that colors (and different combinations of hues) have an impact on people’s psychological and emotional states often shaping their behaviors. The results of numerous inquiries indicate that different color schemes used in certain tasks (quizzes, tests, questionnaires, or exams) influence students’ performance (Elliot & Maier, 2014).
Modern research is not confined to the analysis of brain functions associated with seeing objects or colors. Bird et al. (2014) focus on the categorical encoding of colors and stress that different categories of hues activate different brain zones. Apart from perceiving certain objects, some areas of the visual cortex are activated when people imagine and even mention some objects (Vernon, 2017). The findings in this area can be instrumental in developing the most effective learning enhancement strategies that will help students to perceive information and learn grammar more effectively.
The review of the literature related to the physiology of color has equipped the researchers with the necessary knowledge regarding the effects different colors have on people. The focus of this study is input enhancement in grammar learning, and the use of color is employed as the major instrument aimed at enhancing the learning process. For this study, it is beneficial to understand the mechanisms linked to color perception.
It is also important to have insights into the processes involved in language acquisition. The neurobiological aspects of color decoding and language learning overlap, which can be instrumental in the development of effective interventions for foreign language learners. The analysis of the information mentioned above contributes to the understanding of factors affecting language acquisition and the stimuli needed to facilitate this process.
Research in the Theoretical Field of Foreign Language Acquisition
The acquisition of a foreign language has been a topic of certain scientific inquiry for years. Ancient thinkers tried to explain the nature of the process and its cultural contexts, as well as develop effective teaching strategies or rather principles (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 2014). The in-depth research of a second language learning started in the middle of the 20th century when Pit Corder refuted the effectiveness of the behaviorist approach to teaching a foreign language. At present, scientists have different approaches to second language learning that are related to neurobiology and psychology. Such spheres as social and cultural are addressed in many studies.
Neuroscience has provided researchers with a substantial scope of data that shed light on the nature of human cognition, information processing, and skills acquisition. For example, the study into the composition of the brain shows that people have a different aptitude for learning languages, so it is essential to consider this aspect when developing teaching strategies (Schumann, 2014). Another relevant area of scientific inquiry is associated with the motivation that is seen as a pillar of “sustained deep learning” (Schumann & Wood, 2014, p. 23).
Specific brain zones responsible for motivation have been identified, and researchers note that these brain areas are closely related to other zones involved in language acquisition, which is an important finding (Koob, Everitt, & Robbins, 2013). The provision of stimuli can affect several brain areas, which will enhance people’s learning. For example, the brain zone linked to attention is also closely related to the areas associated with motivation (Schuchert, 2014). The use of this data can be instrumental in developing the corresponding teaching methods based on the way information is perceived and processed.
The psychological approach has been prevailing for decades compared to the neurobiological paradigm. As mentioned above, behaviorism, as applied to language acquisition, was refuted in the 1960s, but many researchers and practitioners still use certain elements of this perspective. Researchers often viewed motivation and cognition from the behaviorist perspective and emphasized that a set of stimuli inevitably led to certain responses that enhanced language acquisition (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 2014).
Another psychological framework that is often used as a basis for teaching methodology is related to the study of personality. Dörnyei (2014) explores the strategies aimed at identifying learners’ peculiarities and the relationship between their characteristic features and language acquisition. Such aspects as motivation and attention occupy a prominent place in such kind of psychological studies. It is noteworthy that the shift towards a learner-centered approach that took place at the end of the 20th century paved the way for the development of numerous theories and approaches to language teaching.
One of the common approaches to foreign language acquisition is deeply rooted in the concept of meaning. The supporters of the semantic approach stress that people learn a second language based on semantic, grammatic, lexical, and sociocultural meanings (Ortega, 2014). Researchers emphasize that concepts that are typical of the two languages are often compared and used as the platform for second language acquisition. The major focus of the studies based on this theory is on the ways meanings emerge and interact.
This approach is quite similar to the Universal Grammar Theory developed by Chomsky. Noam Chomsky created a model of certain features that are present in all languages (Myles & Mitchell, 2014). The supporters of this framework believe that it is important to establish certain key parameters for students to acquire a foreign language effectively. For instance, as far as word morphology is concerned, it is possible to set the universal features that are apparent in both (primary and second) languages.
An illustration of such parameters can be roots and inflictions in words. Therefore, learners, in a way, concentrate on meanings and concepts that help them to create a system for foreign language acquisition. O’Grady (2008) argues that the theory is often refuted or ignored by researchers although it provides a detailed picture of the central process in second language acquisition. O’Grady (2008) also states that this theory can be further refined into the so-called general nativism that extends the boundaries of grammar acquisitions. The parallels between the systems of different languages are instrumental in ensuring an effective acquisition process.
The input and interaction approach is a highly appreciated paradigm that is commonly used in academia. Stephen Krashen suggested his hypothesis in the late 1970s, and it has found many supporters since then (Myles & Mitchell, 2014). The theory is based on the assumption that language acquisition occurs if the input is consistent with the existing knowledge. In simple terms, a limited portion of input can transform into intake due to the peculiarities of people’s cognition and psychology.
Such concepts as positive and negative inputs, as well as attention, are critical to the theory (Gass, 2008). The proponents of this approach claim that people’s cognitive peculiarities ensure language acquisition under certain circumstances. People should be exposed to the target language in a positive or negative context, and both types of input are equally important. When learners see or hear some units, the input is positive, but it is negative when learners are shown their mistakes. Attention plays a central part in this process as noticing becomes vital for effective language acquisition.
It is important to add that the neurobiological and psychological perspectives are sometimes combined to explain certain aspects of foreign language acquisition. Martin (2016) examines the peculiarities of parsing and suggests that some principles of neurobiology and psychology can be employed to provide the basis for grammatical analysis. The researcher stresses that the peculiarities of people’s cognition should be considered when choosing a teaching methodology.
The proposed approach is based on the exploration of the ways cues help people acquire knowledge or interfere with this process. For example, Martin (2016) argues that prior knowledge is the basis for language acquisition as people use cues to interpret new structures. At the same time, these keys are also instrumental in developing expectations as to new structure or possible errors.
The study of bilingualism has equipped researchers with a vast amount of data that explains certain processes related to second language acquisition. The first attempts to explore the nature of bilingualism were made in the 1930s. However, the methodology of the conducted surveys was impaired, which resulted in the assumption that the cognitive abilities of bilingual children were inferior compared to monolingual children’s cognitive capacity (Hoff, 2013). The findings and conclusions suggested in the 1930s were refuted in the late 1960s. For researchers, bilingualism became a platform for the exploration of language acquisition.
Such concepts as systems, universal units, input, and attention are employed in the research associated with bilingualism. The social context is rather pronounced as it often shapes the way people acquire and use languages (Siegel, 2008).
The USA can be an illustration of the occurrence of such a concept as additive bilingualism. In countries where bilingualism is seen as an obstacle to assimilation (including the United States), immigrants (especially children) are encouraged to participate in numerous programs facilitating the learning of English (Siegel, 2008). As a result of such programs, people become more proficient in a second language while their proficiency in their first language tends to decline. All these features of bilingualism are studied meticulously to understand the nature of the process as well as develop effective methodologies of foreign language acquisition.
For this study, neurobiological and psychological perspectives will be incorporated into the intervention designed for learners. Apart from such concepts as attention and memory, it is vital to consider different learning styles as well as learners’ traits of character. Colour-coding will be used to draw the participants’ attention to certain grammatical units and facilitate the memorization of these structures.
The choice of the color scheme will not be random since colors have a different impact on people’s cognitive abilities and their emotional state. The emotional load of learning experiences is an influential factor influencing the learning process, so the colors associated with positive emotions will be utilized. Only a limited number of grammatical structures (highlighted in certain colors) will be included in the research due to the peculiarities of people’s cognition. The effectiveness of stimuli can be undermined if the number of these inputs is overwhelming.
Methodologies of Teaching Foreign/Second Languages
Based on the theories of foreign language acquisition, researchers and practitioners have developed several methods and approaches to teaching a second language. However, all these frameworks can be divided into four major groups including linguistic, cognitive, interpersonal, and functional (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Each of these categories can be characterized by a focus on a specific aspect. For instance, structural methods involve activities based on the isolation of units and structures, as well as the provision of meta-linguistic information. The cognitive approach encompasses the development of tools based on learners’ characteristic features and cognitive abilities. Such concepts as attention, memory, and performance are central to this paradigm.
The other two approaches are associated with the emphasis on interaction and non-linguistic aspects. The interpersonal methods integrate psychological and even counseling principles as the interaction between learners and teachers, as well as peers, is regarded as instrumental in effective language acquisition (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). The learning atmosphere is seen as one of the prerequisites of the effective acquisition of a foreign language, and the concept of motivation is central to this method.
The functional framework is also referred to as a natural method as people are exposed to the language they learn. The communicative methodology implies the focus on such aspects as input, comprehension, and output (Gu, 2017). Students try to solve certain communicative tasks, and the language they are trying to master is regarded as a tool to achieve their goals.
The grammar-translation approach is a conventional example of a linguistic method as the emphasis is on learning about grammar structures and memorizing vocabulary units. The instructor explains grammar rules, and students’ first language is used extensively especially when new material is given (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Although reading texts is a common task, the content receives quite modest attention as grammar structure analysis prevails.
Students learn vocabulary and grammar rules (or units) by heart and do not have oral practice at all, or it is quite minimal, so almost no attention is paid to pronunciation. This methodology was widely used for centuries for learning Latin and was quite common up to the 1930s. Xia (2014) claims that although modern educators find grammar-translation ineffective as it lacks the functional component and poorly equips learners with conversational skills, it has played an important role in the development of foreign language teaching methods.
The reading method is also an example of linguistic models. The emphasis is on text comprehension, so vocabulary development is regarded as the primary goal of teaching (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Grammar units are discussed to ensure students’ ability to understand the content properly, while pronunciation is barely taught at all. Pronunciation falls out from the discourse almost completely.
This framework can be regarded as content-based since the focus is on the culture of the target language, so numerous texts include relevant data concerning the country or people speaking this language. Choudhury (2014) argues that although the debate regarding the benefits of cultural aspects in foreign language learning is still a matter of debate, the incorporation of culture into the curriculum has proved to be effective. Students’ motivation increases as they expand their knowledge of the peculiarities of other people’s lives.
It is noteworthy that this approach is mainly seen as ineffective in modern foreign language teaching practice due to its limited attention to communicative skills development. However, Lee, Schallert, and Kim (2015) found that modern students benefit from reading and translating texts in terms of grammar acquisition. The researchers add that the two activities (reading and translating) have a different impact on students’ satisfaction and their attitude towards classes.
The audiolingual approach was commonly used in the 20th century. Although it is less common at present, its elements are still employed in foreign language teaching (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Dialogues are used to introduce new material, and the emphasis is on the development of communicative skills. Xia (2014) argues that the audiolingual approach is deeply rooted in the assumption that languages have certain patterns that can be memorized and utilized as the basis for language acquisition. Memorization, exposure to certain situations, mimicry, drills, and over-learning are primary techniques typical of this method.
The concepts of input and attention are critical for this framework, and learners are given numerous visual, audial, and kinaesthetic assignments. Students also receive an abundance of visual aids to reinforce their learning. New material is heavily based on the sets learned previously, and the major emphasis is on vocabulary while grammar is taught with the help of inductive tools. The development of native-like pronunciation is an important part of the process. The first language is utilized (especially when teachers explain new material), but students are discouraged from speaking their first language.
Suggestopedia is a model developed in the 1970s that implies the focus on people’s cognitive peculiarities. Georgi Lozanov suggested that language could be acquired if an appropriate (relaxed) atmosphere is created (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Various audial and visual stimuli are employed to facilitate learning. Music is regarded as one of the most potent instruments to make the learning process effective.
Classrooms are equipped with numerous posters revealing vocabulary, grammar units, and other elements that can be challenging for students. Such activities as discussions, dialogues, acting out are common for this teaching method. The use of mother tongue and errors are tolerated, but the learners are still encouraged to use the target language. Suggestopedia is associated with the incorporation of cultural aspects as they can also boost foreign language acquisition.
Community language learning is quite a specific methodology as it is characterized by the use of counseling tools. A native speaker is usually an instructor who ensures the creation of an appropriate atmosphere for comfortable foreign language acquisition (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). The educator is called a counselor, and the learners are referred to as clients. The teacher helps learners to address their anxiety or other negative emotions related to foreign language learning. The instructor attempts to develop an empathic environment and help learners to become confident users of a target language.
This model encompasses five stages that are characterized by a different degree of instructor’s aid. During the first stages, learners rely quite heavily on the teacher. They do not use their mother tongue, but they consult with the educator each time they need to say something to the class. The instructor helps the student to employ correct structures and phrases. At the fifth stage, students are confident and proficient users of English, and they can even become counselors for learners who are in the initial phases. Halimah (2018) utilized an action research methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of community language learning and found that the use of this teaching approach had promising results. The participants of the study displayed improved performance, increased confidence, and enhanced motivation. Therefore, psychological and emotional aspects of learning come to the fore in the process and pave the way for reaching the primary teaching goals.
The direct approach can be regarded as an excellent illustration of the functional methodology. The central focus is on the development of conversational skills in the target language (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). The first language is not used even when new material is presented. Dialogues are the most common activities utilized to present new information or practice skills. The teacher provides plenty of visual aids, and action is also encouraged as students often act out their dialogues. It is noteworthy that although this model is content-based, cultural aspects of a second language are addressed improperly.
Xia (2014) states that communicative models are the most effective frameworks to teach a second language, and this perspective is supported by extensive research in this field. The benefit of this methodology lies in its proximity to real-life situations. Students develop the skills they need to address the primary communicative purpose, which is to share information. Nevertheless, this approach is associated with several weaknesses including the lack of clear descriptions of language functions. Teaching grammar is another considerable limitation of the model as it is taught inductively.
Task-based language learning is another model within the scope of the functional approach. The emphasis is on various projects and the use of language as a way to complete a given task (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). The projects can take different forms as they can be posters, drama, or even short videos. The learners are equipped with the linguistic units that can be necessary for the successful completion of their assignments.
Combinations of Models
Modern educators have a plethora of teaching models to choose from and often combine some elements of different approaches. Schneider and Kulmhofer (2016) claim that a combination of linguistic and cognitive frameworks can help struggle with students. The researchers describe the benefits of the multidisciplinary and cross-linguistic strategies that are mainly based on the principles of the two methodologies mentioned above.
The total physical response is a method characterized by the use of communicative and cognitive paradigms (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). The kinaesthetic sensory system is heavily employed as students often move, act out, and perform various tasks. The emphasis is on the functional aspect as learners are encouraged to use language (and movement if necessary) to achieve numerous communicative objectives. In many cases, researchers and practitioners employ the aspects of different models to develop their theoretical frameworks or specific interventions and programs.
The silent way method mainly pertains to the communicative models as the emphasis is on problem-solving and communication. The teacher is as silent as possible and intervenes when it is necessary (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). However, this approach possesses some elements of other teaching paradigms. For instance, the silent way is characterized by some components of the linguistic framework since the instructor pays much attention to pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
Also, some technics typical of cognitive methods are utilized. The instructor introduced learners to color Charts and rods that stand for sounds or other linguistic units. Such concepts as attention and memory are essential for this teaching method. A wide range of activities is employed including drills, discussions, written assignments, reading, and the like. It is noteworthy that this methodology’s effectiveness depends on the learners’ culture (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). For example, Americans tend to disapprove of the silent way as they see the silent portions of classes ineffective. Hence, it is essential to consider some cultural peculiarities of learners when applying this method.
The present study will be based on a combination of approaches since this method has proved to be effective in many settings. Functional and cognitive methodologies, as well as some elements of the linguistic model, will be employed to address the research question of this study. The focus on different learning styles and cognitive peculiarities of learners will make the intervention more effective. The functional method will help students to associate grammar learning with other aspects of language and enhance their motivation since they will see practical implications of grammar learning. The linguistic approach will be instrumental in the development and provision of effective instructions to the participants of this study.
L2 Grammar Acquisition
Grammar is one of the language aspects that is often associated with certain difficulties due to the differences between languages. Students often make errors and cannot use grammatical structures correctly as their mother tongue interferes with the target language learning process (Lopez & Sabir, 2017). Educators employ various strategies and approaches to help learners to develop certain skills. According to Visroodi (2015), the cognitive approach prevails in grammar teaching. Instructors concentrate on the cognitive peculiarities of their students to facilitate the learning process.
However, the use of a more humanistic approach can benefit learners and make grammar acquisition more effective (Visroodi, 2015). It is essential to consider students’ preferences and attitudes when developing activities. The use of color is one of the ways to enhance the emotional component of the process. Colour-coding can help students to pay attention to target forms and rules as well as make the learning process more entertaining and enjoyable.
Input Enhancement and Teaching Grammar
Input enhancement has been a topic of quite heated debate for decades as some educators believe it is unnecessary and distracting while others emphasize the benefits of the technique. Richards and Reppen (2014) claim that noticing is the first phase of transforming novel linguistic units into learners’ language competence. The researchers note that input enhancement can be beneficial in both deductive and inductive approaches to teaching grammar.
However, research shows that this technique should be utilized in combination with different forms of instruction. It is also important to make sure that learners’ attention is concentrated on one or a minimal set of grammar units. Otherwise, their attention will be distracted by multiple stimuli, which will lead to the disruption of the learning process and students’ feeling overwhelmed.
Winke (2013) explored the effects input enhancement could have on grammar learning. The researcher aimed at assessing the relevance of the suggested earlier findings that textual enhancement helped students to notice grammar structures, but comprehension significantly deteriorated. Winke (2013) used a similar experiment but analyzed students’ eye movements.
It was found that input enhancement improved students’ noticing (which is the primary goal of the tool) but needed further explicit instruction to make sure that students could use grammar structures correctly. Therefore, it is clear that the instrument under discussion is effective when used properly. It is insufficient to ensure that students will pay attention to some grammar units. Students should remember all the given details concerning the grammar structure to use this knowledge properly.
The way input enhancement associates with different types of instruction has been researched extensively. Ghavamnia, Eslami-Rasekh, and Vahid Dastjerdi (2014) state that input enhancement is critical for teaching grammar as it significantly improves students’ learning. In a series of experiments, the researchers assessed learners’ performance on a specific grammar assignment. Ghavamnia et al. (2014) evaluated the effectiveness of input enhancement compared to non-enhanced instruction as well as the efficacy of different types of enhancement.
The researchers argue that although some do not employ this instrument when deductive teaching methods are used, explicit instruction can be enhanced by the tool in question. Sabir (2018) emphasizes that explicit and detailed instruction is specifically beneficial for teaching English articles. Hence, input enhancement employed in combination with explicit instruction can facilitate grammar learning and mastering the use of English articles, in particular.
Input enhancement has been evaluated in terms of its applicability to different types of skills formation (reading, listening, and others). Various enhancement methods have also been analyzed in detail to identify their relevance and possible uses. Fatemipour and Moharamzadeh (2015), for instance, explored the effectiveness of oral and textual enhancement and claimed that the former type proved to be more effective than the written form.
The findings show that oral enhancement can be a valuable technique, but it is often ignored by educators. At the same time, the researchers add that this tool can be more effective when used after the provision of some textual and other types of enhancement. Gascoigne (2006) brings out the need to introduce new enhancement tools as students become accustomed to certain stimuli and do not pay attention to them anymore. Various modes to enhance students’ noticing should be used to facilitate their grammar learning.
These findings are instrumental in the development of the intervention for the present study. The focus on only three structures (an indefinite article and determiners) is beneficial as it will ensure effective learning and positive outcomes. The value of detailed instruction is obvious, so input enhancement will be facilitated by the provision of clear and comprehensive details regarding the assignment. Finally, some elements of the cognitive approach will be utilized, and different types of stimuli will be provided. Although visual enhancement is central to this study, the audial enhancement will be provided to ensure that the needs of students with different learning styles will be met. The audial impetus will be mainly rested upon the provision of detailed instructions and some examples.
Colour-Coding and Grammar Learning
The use of color is a typical technique used within the scope of the multisensory approach (Schneider & Kulmhofer, 2016). Grammar is taught with the help of colorful rods, blocks, and grids aimed at drawing learners’ attention and helping them to memorize certain data. Pam and Karimi (2016) argue that color-coding has become a common practice in grammar learning as modern research offers a substantial bulk of evidence of the effectiveness of this tool. Teachers incorporate color in different activities including but not confined to the material introduction, tests, and feedback.
Researchers describe some of the possible activities learners are encouraged to conduct when learning grammar. The focus is on the utilization of color and verbalization of new grammatical forms. Schneider and Kulmhofer (2016) emphasize that this instrument is effective with struggling students and students who are at the initial stages of foreign language learning. At the same time, Hamavandy and Golshan (2015) found no statistically significant evidence concerning the effectiveness of output or a combination of input and output.
Students displayed better results when exposed to the proper input, and poor performance of the learners exposed to output indicates that input enhancement is a helpful facilitator of grammar learning. The ineffectiveness of the combined input and output activities can be rooted in the peculiarities of activities as the output assignments could be misunderstood or too difficult for the participants.
Apart from the incorporation of color-coding into activities and assignments, this technique is widely used in teachers’ feedback that is regarded as an important part of the teaching process. Hosseini (2015) focused on the association between the utilization of color in explicit and implicit corrective feedback and students’ use of English articles. Importantly, colorful explicit feedback proved to be effective in teaching indefinite articles while the positive correlation was absent for the definite article use. As far as implicit feedback is concerned, the use of color did not affect as students failed to use articles correctly.
Hosseini (2015) suggests that such results can be rooted in the participants’ low level of knowledge. The students noticed the errors but were unable to correct them. Therefore, it is possible to state that color-coding is highly effective in explicit feedback and has a positive influence on students’ learning in implicit feedback. In the latter case, color-coding facilitates students’ noticing, which is one of the premises for learning.
The use of technology in grammar learning is one of the topics of inquiry as technological advances are now being incorporated into the academic domain. Input enhancement has acquired various forms with the utilization of information and computer technologies (ICT). It is believed that the young generation associates many spheres of their life with the digital world so education should also become a part of their reality (Rezaei & Sayadian, 2015).
Moghadam and Talafian (2015) stress that such instruments as PowerPoint Presentations enhance students’ motivation and make the learning process more interesting. Besides, technology enables the educator to enhance students’ input in a comparatively easy and cost-effective way. For instance, PowerPoint Presentations are colorful and appealing, and educators can use color-coding to introduce some grammatical structures or assess learners’ ability to use them.
Another effective tool to help students gain the necessary skills and knowledge has proved to be infographics. Rezaei and Sayadian (2015) found that students performed better if educators employed infographics for the introduction of new grammatical material. Again, learners’ interest and, hence, motivation were improved, but their attention and memory were also enhanced. Colorful pictures and highlighted grammatical units were perceived and memorized in a more effective model. Moreover, students are becoming accustomed to such instruments as they are exposed to various infographics available online.
An important area of contemporary inquiry into the use of technology in EFL is linked to certain cautions and limitations. Schenck (2014) emphasizes that computer-based interventions and methods are not a panacea and should be employed with the careful consideration of students’ peculiarities. The author argues that students about different cultural groups process information and acquire skills differently, so the developers of EFL software should address these populations’ specific needs.
It is necessary to note that research related to the use of technology in grammar learning is not confined to the evaluation of the effectiveness of certain programs and interventions. Ziegler et al. (2017) provide insights into the methodological implications of the use of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) tools. The integration of technology in educational settings has deepened significantly, and CALL is becoming an indispensable part of the instruction (Ziegler et al., 2017).
Technology enables researchers to trace the particular ways language acquisition happens equipping practitioners with more information that can be used to facilitate the learning process. Therefore, it is clear that the use of technology has manifold implications and is shaping the way educational services are provided and certain knowledge is acquired.
As far as the present research is concerned, the review of the literature on color-coding in grammar learning provides numerous valuable insights into the matter. The intervention will incorporate some of the elements of previous studies. For instance, in this inquiry, the use of colors will be associated with cognitive and emotional domains. The color scheme will aim at the development of a relaxed and positive atmosphere to facilitate the learning process. Technology use will be limited to the provision of instructions with some use of computer software. Since modern learners rely heavily on technology and their devices, in particular, it is necessary to use this feature when developing the intervention.
Field Dependent / Field Independent Learners and Group Embedded Figures Test
As mentioned above, it is important to consider learners’ peculiarities when choosing teaching techniques to facilitate their learning. This study will be narrowed down to two types of learners: field-dependent (FD) and field independent (FI) learners. Before explaining the reasons for the focus on these cognitive styles, it is necessary to define them. FD learners are people who are dependent on the environment and perceive information as a whole without looking into details or dividing them into smaller units (Nozari & Siamian, 2015). Such people are interested in the whole idea without any considerable attention to specifics.
Dissimilar to these students, FI learners tend to implement an analytical procedure and break the data into smaller units, as well as synthesize the received information. FI concentrates on their knowledge and experience rather than refer to their environment. Numerous studies show that FI learners often outperform FD learners in the academic setting (Nozari & Siamian, 2015). Foreign language learning is also the area where field-independent learners are more successful than those who depend on the environment.
According to Nozari and Siamian (2015), FD and FI learners display better results if they are provided with materials and instructions consistent with their cognitive styles. Moreover, it was found that FD and FI achieved better outcomes if they were placed in homogeneous groups by their cognitive peculiarities. These cognitive styles have an impact on language learning as well as other disciplines. Nozari and Siamian (2015) explored the way these cognitive styles affect English learning and reading comprehension, in particular. The researchers argue that the higher level of field independence is revealed the better reading comprehension is apparent.
To measure the level of field dependence and independence, Nozari and Siamian (2015) employed the Group Embedded Figures Test (GEFT). This test implies the exploitation of 25 geometrical figures that should be found and traced by participants. Learners should trace simple figures (they previously have seen) within a more complex figure containing several obscured figures. Based on their ability to trace objects, the level of their field dependence and independence is revealed in the form of a scale. The validity of this test has been proved as this tool has been widely used in numerous studies (Nozari & Siamian, 2015). The GEFT will be employed in this research, and the participants will be divided into different groups by their cognitive styles.
As mentioned above, color-coding is still under-researched although this tool has been utilized for decades. Educators often employed the color to correct learners’ errors and draw their attention to the areas of major concern. However, the use of color for the introduction of new material and, to a larger extent, training new skills is in its infancy. Researchers are yet to address various aspects of the problem.
For example, the impact of specific colors on learners’ ability to memorize or notice grammar units requires further research. Neurobiologists have identified certain colors that are most noticeable or can evoke certain emotions (Reid & Usrey, 2013). Nevertheless, the application of these findings to foreign language acquisition has received little attention. It can be necessary to pay attention to the influence of color on the emotional state of people as the emotional load plays an important role in language acquisition.
Researchers agree that people of different cultural backgrounds tend to benefit from dissimilar teaching methods (Choudhury, 2014; Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Such demographic characteristics as age and gender can be influential, so they should become a matter of study. Some research has already been implemented, and the peculiarities of certain groups have been identified, but this field is far from being exhausted (Schenck, 2014).
The peculiarities of every language that is being taught should be considered in terms of the most effective use of color-coding. Although the association between the cognitive style (FD and FI) have been documented, it was not analyzed about grammar learning. It is also necessary to dig deeper into the benefits of homogeneous groups of FD or FI learners in terms of the acquisition of English (as foreign language) grammar.
The effectiveness of color-coding in English indefinite articles and determiners learning is not explored in detail. It has been acknowledged that only a limited number of stimuli should be highlighted so that effective learning could occur (Richards & Reppen, 2014). In the case of articles training, this can be a challenge for the instructor who will have to decide whether all target grammar units should be stressed. It is also essential to remember the semantic aspects of article use. Educators may be enticed to highlight articles that have different meanings while others may try to concentrate on a single connotation. In either case, the implications for learners are obscure and need further investigation.
It is necessary to note that foreign language teaching has undergone numerous changes during the past centuries. These transformations are mainly due to the changing needs of the society and new roles communication acquires. The development of neuroscience research in the 18th century lay the foundation of the novelties in teaching that took place in the twentieth century. People discovered that different brain areas were involved in various functions, which enabled people to influence numerous processes such as memory, attention, and learning.
Teaching practice and associated research saw several major shifts in the twentieth century as educators concentrated on different perspectives of language. The focus on specific language units was substituted by the attempts to incorporate neurobiology into foreign language acquisition. Simultaneously, educators tried to ensure learners’ ability to communicate and solve daily issues with the help of their linguistic skills, as the language was regarded as a means of interaction. Lately, educators pay much attention to the interpersonal component of learning and advocate for the development of a proper atmosphere rather than emphasizing language units and structures. Modern educators tend to combine different approaches and develop interventions and programs that could ensure the best outcomes for learners.
As far as modern foreign language learning is concerned, input enhancement in grammar acquisition is acquiring momentum these days. Neurobiological and psychological peculiarities of people are often brought to the fore when it comes to the development of methods and tools to teach a foreign language. Such concepts as attention, memory, motivation, and emotional state are entailed in the learning process. Color-coding is one of the techniques aimed at enhancing learners’ input and facilitating language acquisition. Research in this area has started to unwind, but there are still various gaps in the knowledge base related to color-coding in grammar learning. Such domains as learners’ demographic peculiarities, different language units, and neurobiological and psychological effects require further investigation.
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