Universiteit Leiden

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How does implicit vs. explicit language instruction impact fluency?

  • Karen Lichtman (Northern Illinois University)
Thursday 4 October 2018
Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden


In order to have a conversation in a second language, you need implicit language knowledge—knowledge that can be accessed quickly and easily.  Quick access is central to the definition of implicit language knowledge; yet most studies on implicit vs. explicit language instruction do not test fluency.  This study tested the impact of different training conditions on children’s and adults’ learning of an artificial mini-language, measuring both accuracy (correctness) and fluency (sentence production time and pause length).  

Results showed that the groups who received explicit grammar rule instruction were less fluent—but no more accurate—than the groups who were only exposed to sentences.  Surprisingly, this was true of both adults and children.  The implication for adult second language instruction is that the difficulty adults have in becoming fluent in a new language may be partly caused by overemphasis on grammatical accuracy.

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