Maximizing Language Learning Through Interpersonal Communication


Imagine you're strolling through a bustling market, and suddenly, you spot a rare gem hidden among the stalls. That's what noticing is all about – becoming aware of those language gems in the midst of communication chaos.

Michelle Olah

Instructional Strategist, Wayside Publishing

Hey there language enthusiasts! Today, let's dive into the exciting world of language acquisition and explore how we can maximize our students' output through interpersonal communication. These strategies are sure to bring some linguistic magic to your classroom!

Understanding the Purpose of Output

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's talk about why language output is so important. According to Merrill Swain's Output Hypothesis, when students produce language – whether spoken or written – they're not just talking the talk; they're also walking the walk of language acquisition. Output serves three main purposes: noticing, hypothesis testing, and metalinguistic feedback. Think of it as a journey where students not only learn the rules but also actively engage with the language in meaningful ways.


Imagine you're strolling through a bustling market, and suddenly, you spot a rare gem hidden among the stalls. That's what noticing is all about – becoming aware of those language gems in the midst of communication chaos. Pair and group activities, role-playing scenarios, and collaborative projects are like treasure hunts for language gaps and errors. By engaging students in authentic conversations about school life or identity-related topics for example, we're giving them the tools to spot those linguistic treasures and polish their communication skills.

Hypothesis Testing

Now, let's put those language gems to the test! Hypothesis testing is like a science experiment for language learners. Structured language tasks, explicit language focus, and feedback with language guidance provide the perfect laboratory for students to experiment with language rules and structures. It's like giving them a recipe and watching them whip up their linguistic masterpieces. With a sprinkle of grammar-focused activities and a dash of error analysis discussions, students refine their language hypotheses and emerge as linguistic wizards.

Metalinguistic Feedback

Ever wish you had a language mentor guiding you through the twists and turns of grammar and syntax? Well, metalinguistic feedback is the next best thing! Language reflection journals, peer feedback sessions, and post-activity reflection discussions serve as compasses, helping students navigate the vast sea of language learning. Through guided reflection questions and interactive feedback platforms, students chart their course towards linguistic mastery, one reflection at a time.

Interpersonal Communication in Action

Now, let's bring these strategies to life in the classroom through interpersonal tasks! Picture a thematic unit on identity titled "Who am I?" Students embark on a journey of self-discovery through role-playing scenarios, peer interviews, collaborative projects, and comparative language analysis. As they explore the question, "How does what I do define who I am?" they engage in authentic conversations, sharing personal stories and perspectives. Through these interactions, students not only enhance their language skills but also deepen their understanding of identity and self-expression. Let’s look at some possibilities.

1. Role-Playing Scenario

Objective: Through role-playing scenarios, students engage in authentic conversations about how their roles and actions contribute to their sense of self.
Students participate in role-playing scenarios where they take on different roles representing various aspects of identity, such as a student, athlete, artist, or volunteer.

Peer Interviews

Objective: By sharing personal stories and perspectives, students explore how their individual experiences shape their identities and how they perceive themselves.
Students pair up and conduct interviews where they ask each other questions related to their interests, hobbies, aspirations, and experiences.

3. Collaborative Projects

Objective: Through collaboration and communication, students not only deepen their understanding of their own identities but also gain insight into the diverse identities of their peers.
Students work in groups to create multimedia presentations or posters showcasing different aspects of their identities, including cultural background, family traditions, and personal values.

4. Comparative Language Analysis

Objective: By comparing their language output with models, students gain a better understanding of how language reflects and shapes identity, allowing them to refine their communication skills.
After engaging in discussions about personal identities, students analyze sample conversations or texts to identify language patterns used to express identity-related concepts.


So, there you have it – a whirlwind tour of maximizing language learning through interpersonal communication. By incorporating these strategies into your classroom dynamics, you're not just teaching language; you're fostering a vibrant community of language learners who thrive on communication and collaboration. So, let's empower our students to unleash their linguistic potential and embark on a journey of discovery, one conversation at a time.

Resource: Swain, M. (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning. In G. Cook & B. Seidlhofer (Eds.), Principle and practice in applied linguistics: Studies in honour of H. G. Widdowson (pp. 125-144). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Michelle Olah

Michelle Olah

Michelle Olah was inspired to be a language educator by her own experience taking Spanish 1 as a student in Minnesota. Upon seeing a photograph of the painting "Las Meninas", Michelle convinced her family to go to Spain to see it in person, and came home a lifelong devotee of Spanish language and culture.

Michelle applies that same passion to her work as an Instructional Strategist for Wayside Publishing, where she blends current research and tech tools with personal experiences gleaned from over seventeen years of experience working with students and teachers in Florida. Michelle's past experience includes virtual instruction, which has lended itself well to coaching educators new to the virtual classroom environment.
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