Getting Closer to Native Speaker Competence: How Psycholinguistic Experiments Can Enrich Language Learning and Teaching

  • Mirja GruhnEmail author
  • Nina Reshöft
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


In the foreign language classroom, various exercises are carried out to bring students closer to native speaker competence. In order to avoid interference mistakes, traditional language teaching strongly focuses on lexical and grammatical phenomena. By contrast, conceptual transfer (Jarvis 1998) has received little attention in foreign language teaching, although experimental research has shown that learners have a strong tendency to transfer the habitual conceptualization patterns of their native language to their L2 (Jarvis 1998; Stutterheim and Nüse 2003; Jarvis and Pavlenko 2008). In order to sensitize L2 learners to different conceptualization patterns and to promote their language awareness, we argue for an integration of psycholinguistic experiments into the foreign language classroom. In this paper we will present the results from a school project in Germany in order to show how psycholinguistic experiments can be methodologically integrated into foreign language teaching. By reducing experiments to the core and adapting them to classroom use, students learn new ways of thinking about language. The procedure raises metalinguistic awareness and improves students’ skills through learning about specific contrasts between languages. Knowledge about language-specific conceptualization patterns leads to the awareness that competent speakers of a foreign language, on the one hand, are able to produce grammatically correct utterances, which, on the other hand, often differ from native speakers’ utterances with regard to preferences reflected by the conceptualization patterns.


Foreign Language Native Speaker Target Language Mother Tongue Language Acquisition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to express our thanks to the Deutsche Gesellschaft für das hochbegabte Kind (DGhK) for the cooperation during the JuniorAkademie 2010 in St. Peter-Ording. Our special thanks go to the participants of our course Psycholinguistik for their outstanding commitment: Felician Danquah, Annika Demuth, Kaja Falkenhain, Knut Göring, Andreas Hargens, Caren Jacobi, Sophie Koudmani, Merten Kröncke, Sharlaine Piel, Fabian Schmidt, Ronja Soppa, and Colin Thomas.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Saarland UniversitySaarbrueckenGermany
  2. 2.University of PaderbornPaderbornGermany

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