A case study of native speakers of English composing in German as a foreign language

Ulrike H Jannausch, Purdue University


The goal of this study was to explore the writing processes of six American college students, all native speakers of English, who were writing in German as a foreign language. The participants were students in my German composition class; one participant was enrolled at the advanced level and five at the beginning level. In order to examine the factors involved in my participants' writing processes, I used four methods of data collection: (1) think-aloud protocols; (2) questionnaires exploring their motivation, L2 learning history, experience in L1 and L2 writing, and foreign writing anxiety; (3) the written products; and (4) my observations of their behavior in class. ^ An analysis of the data showed that my participants shared some behaviors. They all relied extensively on their native language to plan, compose and revise, and most of them exhibited a lack of global planning and neglect of audience and purpose. But there were also great individual differences in the areas of translating from L1, backtranslating into L1, and attention to grammatical correctness. ^ These differences cannot be explained by L2 linguistic proficiency alone. Although the student at the advanced level did not engage in as much translating and backtranslating as the other participants and wrote the highest-rated essay with the fewest grammatical problems, the ratings of the essays and the writing behaviors of the participants at the beginning level varied greatly. Therefore, motivation, writing anxiety, as well as formal and informal contact with native speakers, also seemed to influence their composing processes and the quality of the resulting essays. ^




Major Professor: Tony Silva, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Language, Linguistics|Language, Modern|Language, Rhetoric and Composition

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