The Influence of Visual Input Enhancement on the Acquisition of English Embedded Questions

  • Agnieszka PietrzykowskaEmail author
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


The purpose of this article is to report the findings of a study the aim of which was to examine the potential effectiveness of visual input enhancement in teaching embedded questions. According to Sharwood Smith (1991, 1993, 1994), and in line with the tenets of the Noticing Hypothesis put forward by Schmidt (1990, 1995), augmenting the “noticeability” of input, for example by means of underlining or capitalizing certain language forms, increases the chance of its being turned into intake. The research project took the form of a quasi-experimental study with a pretest-posttest design. The members of the experimental group were exposed to three treatment sessions during which the subjects read three texts in which the targeted structure was made salient by means of using three typographical cues, namely a different type of font, a different size of font, and boldfacing (an elaborate, non-explicit strategy (Sharwood Smith 1991). The students in the control group read the same texts, but the structure in focus was not highlighted in any way. The data-collection instruments enabled the researcher to measure the students’ implicit and explicit knowledge operationalised in terms of both production and reception. Despite being rather inconclusive, the results of the study suggest, among other things, that using textual enhancement is more likely to exert facilitative effects on implicit rather than explicit knowledge. Also, they raise numerous questions concerning the application of this kind of attention-drawing technique.


  1. Alanen, R. 1995. Input enhancement and rule presentation in second language acquisition. In Attention and awareness in foreign language learning, ed. R. Schmidt, 259–302. Honolulu, Hawai’i: University of Hawai’i.Google Scholar
  2. Burgess, J. and S. Etherington. 2002. Focus on grammatical form: Explicit or implicit? System 30: 433–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Choi, S. 2005. Cognitive efficiency of animated pedagogical agents for learning English as a second language. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California.Google Scholar
  4. Corder, S. P. 1976. The study of interlanguage. In Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference of Applied Linguistics. Munich: Hochschulverlag.Google Scholar
  5. DeKeyser, R. 2001. Automaticity and automatization. In Cognition and second language instruction, ed. P. Robinson, 125–151. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. DeKeyser, R. 2003. Implicit and explicit learning. In The handbook of second language acquisition, eds. C. Doughty and M. H. Long, 313–349. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  7. Doughty, C. J. 2003. Instructed SLA: Constraints, compensation and enhancement. In The handbook of second language acquisition, eds. C. J. Doughty and M. H. Long, 256–310. Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ellis, R. 2005. Measuring implicit and explicit knowledge of a second language: A psychometric study. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 27: 141–172.Google Scholar
  9. Ellis, R. 2008. Investigating grammatical difficulty in second language learning: Implications for second language acquisition research and language testing. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 18: 4–22. Google Scholar
  10. Foster, J. and P. Coles. 1977. An experimental study of typographic cueing in printed materials. Ergonomics 20: 57–66.Google Scholar
  11. Fowler, R. L. and A. S. Barker. 1974. Effectiveness of highlighting for retention of text material. Journal of Applied Psychology 59: 358–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gass, S. and A. Mackey. 2007. Data elicitation for second and foreign language research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  13. Gass, S., I. Svetics and S. Lemelin. 2003. Differential effects of attention. Language Learning 53: 497–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Han, Z., E. S. Park and C. Combs. 2008. Textual enhancement of input: Issues and possibilities. Applied Linguistics 8: 597–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hershberger, W. A. and D. F. Terry. 1965. Typographical cueing in conventional and programmed texts. Journal of Applied Psychology 49: 55–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hulstijn, J. H. and R. de Graaff. 1994. Under what conditions does explicit knowledge of a second language facilitate the acquisition of implicit knowledge? A research proposal. AILA Review 11: 97–112.Google Scholar
  17. Jourdenais, R., O. Mitsuhiko, S. Stauffer, B. Boyson and C.J. Doughty. 1995. Does textual enhancement promote noticing? A think-aloud protocol analysis. In Attention and awareness in foreign language learning, ed. R. Schmidt, 183–216. Honoulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii, Second Language Teaching & Curriculum Center.Google Scholar
  18. Lee, S. K. 2007. Effects of textual enhancement and topic familiarity on Korean EFL students’ reading comprehension and learning of passive voice. Language Learning 57: 87–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Leow, R. 1997. Attention, awareness, and foreign language behavior. Language Learning 47: 467–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Leow, R. 2000. A study of the role of awareness in foreign language behavior: Aware versus unaware learners. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 22: 557584.Google Scholar
  21. Leow, R. 2001. Do learners notice enhanced forms while interacting with the L2? An on-line and off-line study of the role of written input enhancement in L2 reading. Hispania 84: 496–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Long, M. H. 1991. Focus on form: A design feature in language teaching methodology. In Foreign language research in cross-cultural perspective, eds. K. de Bot, R. Ginsberg and C. Kramsch, 39–52. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  23. Long, M. H. and P. Robinson. 1998. Focus on form: Theory, research, and practice. In Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition, eds. C. J. Doughty and J. Williams, 15–63. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Lyster, R. 1998. Negotiation of form, recasts, and explicit correction in relation to error types and learner repair in immersion classrooms. Language Learning 48: 183–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Marks, M. B. 1966. Improve reading through better format. The Journal of Educational Research 60: 147–150.Google Scholar
  26. Overstreet, M. 1998. Text enhancement and content familiarity: The focus of learner attention. Applied Linguistics 2: 229–258.Google Scholar
  27. Park, E. S. 2004. Constraints of implicit focus on form: Insights from a study of input enhancement. Teachers College, Columbia University Working Papers in TESOL and Applied Linguistics 42. (
  28. Reber, A. S. 1989. Implicit learning and tacit knowledge. Journal of Experimental Psychology 118: 219235.Google Scholar
  29. Rosa, E. and M. O’Neill. 1999. Explicitness, intake, and the issue of awareness. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 21: 511–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schmidt, R. 1990. The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics 11: 129–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schmidt, R. 1994. Deconstructing consciousness in search of useful definitions for applied linguistics. AILA Review 11: 1126.Google Scholar
  32. Schmidt, R. 1995. Consciousness and foreign language learning: A tutorial on the role of attention and awareness in learning. In Attention and awareness in foreign language learning, ed. R. Schmidt, 1–64. Honolulu, Hawai’i: University of Hawai’i.Google Scholar
  33. Schmidt, R. 2001. Attention. In Cognition and second language instruction, ed. P. Robinson, 3–32. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sharwood Smith, M. 1991. Speaking to many minds: On the relevance of different types of language information for the L2 learner. Second Language Research 7: 118–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sharwood Smith, M. 1993. Input enhancement in instructed SLA: Theoretical bases. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 15: 165–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sharwood Smith, M. 1994. Second language learning: Theoretical foundations. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  37. Shook, D. 1999. What foreign language reading recalls reveal about the input-to-intake phenomenon. Applied Language Learning 10: 39–76.Google Scholar
  38. Simard, D. 2009. Differential effects of textual enhancement formats on intake. System 37: 124–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tomlin, R. and V. Villa. 1994. Attention in cognitive science and second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 16: 183–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Williams, J. and J. Evans. 1998. What kind of focus and on which forms? In Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition, eds. C.J. Doughty and J. Williams, 139–155. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Wong, W. 2005. Input enhancement. From theory and research to the classroom. McGraw-Hill, Boston.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Adam Mickiewicz UniversityKaliszPoland

Personalised recommendations