L2 users and L2 learners
'An L2 user is any person who uses another language than their first language (L1), that is to say, the one they learnt first as a child.'
Home languages of London schoolchildren
rank: language: percentage of children
Interlanguage and multi-competence
'Facts' that SLA research needs to explain
Multi-competence: A declaration of independence for the L2 user
The concept of
multi-competence, defined as 'the compound state of a mind with two
grammars', started as part of an argument that UG-oriented SLA research
had ignored the problem of two co-existing grammars in the same mind
(Cook, 1991). It became clear that this concept could be used in many
aspects of language knowledge such as the relationships between the two or
more phonological systems, lexicons (Laufer, to appear), pragmatic systems
(Pavlenko, 2002), syntactic processes (Cook et al, 2003) sets of concepts
(Cook et al, 2002), leading to the idea of an integration continuum
between the two or more languages in multi-competence (Cook, 2002).
Particular developments from multi-competence were:
- seeing transfer as a two-way process in which the L1 in the L2 user's mind is affected by the L2 as well as the reverse (Jarvis, to appear)
- looking at the benefits of L2 acquisition on other aspects of the user's linguistic competence and cognition (Kesckes & Papp, 200).
This has had repercussions for language teaching, in particular seeing its goal as being successful L2 use, not imitation L1 use, and re-instating the valued role of the first language in the classroom. A distinctive research methodology has evolved of comparing L2 users with native monolinguals in both L1 and L2 with a view to establishing the uniqueness of L2 users rather than their deficiencies. Going back to its origins, the power of the concept is, however, that it essentially describes the potential state of any human mind: approaches in linguistics or psychology that restrict language acquisition and use to monolinguals fail to account for what any human mind can do (Satterfield, 1999) and what statistically probably the majority of minds in the world have done.
Cook, V.J. (1991), 'The poverty-of-the-stimulus argument and multi-competence', Second Language Research, 7, 2, 103-117, 1991
Cook, V.J. (2002), 'Background to the L2 user', in V.J. Cook (ed.) Portraits of the L2 User, Clevedon, Multilingual Matters (2002), 1-28
Cook, V.J. et al (2002), 'Bilingual Cognition', panel presented to the EUROSLA conference, Basel
Cook, V.J., Iarossi, E. Stellakis, N. & Tokumaru, Y. (2003), 'Effects of the second language on the syntactic processing of the first language' in V.J. Cook (ed.), Effects of the L2 on the L1, Clevedon, Multilingual Matters, 193-213
Jarvis, S. (in press), 'Probing the limits of L2 effects in the L1: A case study' in V. Cook (ed.), Effects of the L2 on the L1, Clevedon, Multilingual Matters, 81-102
Kecskes, I. & Papp, T. (2000), Foreign Language and Mother Tongue. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Laufer, B. (2003), 'The influence of L2 on L1 collocational knowledge and on L1 lexical diversity in free written expression', in V. Cook (ed.), Effects of the L2 on the L1, Clevedon, Multilingual Matters 19-31
Satterfield, T. (1999), Bilingual Selection of Syntactic Knowledge: Extending the Principles and Parameters Approach, Kluwer