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Is It Fun? Language Play in a Fifth-Grade Spanish Immersion Classroom

Maggie A. Broner and Elaine E. Tarone
The Modern Language Journal
Vol. 85, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 363-379
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1193106
Page Count: 17
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Is It Fun? Language Play in a Fifth-Grade Spanish Immersion Classroom
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Abstract

In this article, we use an approach to the study of interlanguage that challenges prevailing models of second language acquisition (SLA) which assume that negotiation of meaning is the only causal variable in SLA. Ludic language play may also play a role in the development of interlanguage (Tarone, 2000a). In this article, we examine two notions of language play as they have been presented in the applied linguistics literature: ludic language play, as defined in Cook (2000), and language play as rehearsal in private speech, as considered by Lantolf (1997), and its relationship to SLA. Through the analysis of classroom interactions among children attending a full immersion program, we show that these two types of play can be distinguished in classroom discourse by the presence or absence of five channel cues: presence/absence of laughter, shifts in voice quality and pitch versus shifts in loudness/whispering, use of language forms that are well-known versus forms that are new; presence/absence of a fictional world of reference, and presence/absence of an audience other than the self. It is also argued that the distinction between the two types of language play in learner language allows us to study their distinct roles in the process of SLA. Child: Do machines ever play? Data: Yes! I play the violin and my chess routines are quite advanced. Child: No, I mean. Haven't you ever played... for fun? Data: Androids do not have fun. Child: Look. If you want to know what it's like to be a child, you need to learn to play. from Star Trek, the Movie: a conversation between Data, a robot that looks human, and a human child

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