Vera Regan -

Vera Regan -

Learning Mobility, Language

Acquisition and Employability

exploring the need to improve the

linguistic competence of Irish students

6 December 2012

Professor Vera Regan

UCD School of Languages &


Scoil na dTeangacha agus na

Litríochta UCD.

Second Language Learning

• not just one big block

• for example: talking, reading, pronouncing

• In relation to employability, some aspects of

language are more important.

• sociolinguistics: choice of what is said has

social implications

• Sociolinguistic competence:

– being able to say the right thing in the right way at

the right time

examples of native speaker variation

• “I was walking to the


• “I was walkin to school”

• ‘tu vas aller au cinéma”

• “on ira à la messe


• “j’y vas demain matin

chez vous”

The differences between these phrases carry social

implications that native speakers understand and react to

Is it possible to acquire it?

• Yes it is – is the general answer

• Two major dimensions:

– individual motivation

– context in which individual is learning:

• naturalistic context

• an extended period abroad

• immersion in a school

• short holiday settings

• class room instruction

• individual (isolated) learning

Year Abroad:

Irish-English speakers in France

• Students in third year of Irish University

– French as major, spending one year in France, age

19-21, middle class

• Longitudinal Study, three phases

– six students, interviewed before departure,

immediately after return, and one year later

• variable studied: variable deletion of ne

(Regan 1995, 2005)

Rates of Ne deletion for the three years

Varbrul probability figures for deletion

rates for the three years:

Year 1 .36

Year 2 .59

Year 3 .54

% of lexemes

The effect of a year abroad on % of colloquial

lexem es









colloquial lexemes

Time 1

Time 2

Dewaele and Regan 2001


• Year Abroad works for the acquisition of

sociolinguistic competence

• contact with native speakers was an important

factor in the process

• length of time abroad?

– even 3 months in France made a big difference

alternative strategies?

• Will an extended period abroad always work?

– depends on engagement (do they want to be

there, do they have a lot of social contact?)

• Is extended time abroad the only strategy that

will work?

– other strategies have also been studied

– answer is other strategies work, but not as well…

Ne deletion in L2 speech

• Immersion Classroom

(Canadian Immersion

in Ontario)

Mougeon, Rehner and Nadasdi (2001)

– 28% ‘ne’ deletion

• Canadian Anglophone

speakers in naturalistic

setting in Montreal

Thibault and Sankoff (1997)

– 89% ‘ne’ deletion

• Irish Year Abroad


Regan (1996)

– .32 deletion rate in preyear

abroad speakers

– .67 deletion rate post year

abroad speakers

Classroom instruction

• While less effective, can still help

– beneficial but it must be over some time - not just

a once off lesson

– students gain more from explicit instruction than

simple exposure

• Teachers need to make the learner aware of

– which features are variable and what the variants


– the sociostylistic values associated with the


context matters, but

motivation is also important

• students on Erasmus programmes who throw

themselves into the experience do best

– particularly if they seek contact with native


• students’ attitude to the language and the

speakers of the language counts also, as well

as their own investment in what they think

learning the language will mean to them

also true in classroom: 3 groups

1. ‘new Irish’ second level students who were very

invested in succeeding in their careers and viewed

languages as a means to this end

– these were very proficient in the acquisition of sociolinguistic


2. ‘traditional’ Irish who viewed French as a pleasurable

experience associated with holidays in France

– less proficient but still reasonably competent

3. ‘new Irish’ not invested in their academic careers and

saw no reason to study French

– least proficient

extends to language maintenance

• Polish families who want their children to retain Polish

– make enormous efforts to organise their lives round

complementary schools

– classes taught by voluntary teachers

– crucially -> send children to grandparents in Poland for the


• children benefit from the opportunity to acquire the

subtle vernacular patterns from native speakers of


(Regan and Nestor 2010, 2011)

Second Language Research

• much of the research cited comes from a

Second Language Acquisition research group

at University College Dublin

• this research has been funded by the Irish

Research Council for the Humanities and

Social Sciences

• for further information, see:


• Dewaele, J.-M. and V. Regan (2001). The use of colloquial words in advanced French

interlanguage. EUROSLA Yearbook 1. S. Foster-Cohen and A. Nizegorodcew. Amsterdam and

Philadelphia, Benjamins: 51-67.

• Lyster, R. (1994). "The effect of functional-analytic teaching on aspects of French immersion

students' sociolinguistic competence." Applied Linguistics 15: 263-287.

• Ni Chasaide, C. and V. Regan (2010). 'Sociostylistic variation in the L3 French and L2 Irish

speech of adolescents in an Irish language immersion school. Language Practices and

Identity Construction in French. V. Regan and C. Ni Chasaide. Bern, Peter Lang.

Regan, V. (1995). The Acquisition of Sociolinguistic Native Speech Norms: Effects of a Year

Abroad on Second Language Learners of French. Second language acquisition in a study

abroad context. B. Freed. Amsterdam; Philadelphia, Benjamins Publishing Co: 245-267.

Regan, V. (2005). From Speech Community Back to Classroom: What Variation Analysis Can

Tell Us About the Role of Context in the Acquisition of French as a Foreign Language. Focus

on French as a Foreign Language: Multidisciplinary Approaches. J.-M. Dewaele, Multilingual

Matters: 191-210.

Regan, V. and N. Nestor (2010). French Poles, language and identity: an intergenerational

snapshot. Language practices and identity construction by multlingual speakers of French L2.

The acquisition of sociolinguistic variation. V. Regan and C. Ni Chasaide. New York, Peter

Lang. 80: 145-158.

Regan, V. and N. Nestor (2011). Les Polonnais Français, l’acquisition de langue, le maintien, la

perte et l’identité. Le Francais en Contact. F. Martineau and T. Nadasdi. Quebec, Presses de

Université Laval: 281-298.

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