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An institution-based enquiry into concepts of proficiency, automaticity and second-language learning among dyslexic students

It is, for some, 'common knowledge' that dyslexic students cannot master a foreign language 'because' they cannot master their own. This study enquires into the assumption, and the 'because', above, and seeks other explanatory routes for dyslexic university students' difficulties with foreign language learning. Building on earlier work concerned with notions of 'automaticity' in relation to concepts of 'proficiency' in proficiency and dyslexia literatures, it relates these directly to second language teaching/learning concepts and discusses this in relation to 'phronetic', 'professional' and tacit' views of knowledge. The empirical part of the study comprises cross-comparison of four narrative sources: the narratives of a dozen dyslexic students engaged in a semi-structured, in-depth interview concerning their language difficulty and how they view it; a second narrative relating the voices of the advisors most directly linked to dyslexic language learners in the institution, also including past and future difficulties of some dyslexic students who may face a study year abroad, e.g. on Erasmus and similar schemes; a third interview with the then current head of the unit dealing with both English as a Foreign Language, and Modern Foreign Languages; and the over-arching narrative of the researcher – his story in conducting this study. Within this framework, the research uncovers how, at a practical level as well as theoretically, phronetic, teaching-learning and exceptional language-acquisition 'knowledge' may be open to subversion from several quarters: the pragmatics and economics of 3rd-level EFL and MFL1 language teaching; transposing child language acquisition concepts onto adult language learning ones; the cross- and/or mismatching of these with dyslexia ones; and the possible collision between some areas of professional knowledge – tacit or otherwise. The research shows how for the 'institutional dyslexics' concerned, and sometimes despite their advisors, the unit's academic director and the institution, automaticity is anterior to proficiency and agency is anterior to automaticity. Moreover reversing this, discovering or rediscovering their sense of agency allows certain of the dyslexic participants to attain a qualified measure of automaticity in their language studies and hence, of proficiency. These findings have important implications for those engaged in second language teaching and learning. The organisation of the thesis is as follows: in a first chapter which the researcher introduces with a short autobiography and an account of how the research came about, a broadly descriptive and factual introduction to the piece then summarises previous work in the doctoral degree particularly the critical analytical study, focusing the research questions, and discussing the relationship between methodology and methods, and begins a consideration of what a 'case' is, and what is the case here. Chapter 2 expands the theoretical focus with a discussion of the notion of coherentism and the notion of 'fit', and introduces issues in narrativity and in phronesis. Chapter 3 addresses understandings and terminologies in 'communicative' language teaching, cross-mapping these to both dyslexia and 'proficiency' issues previously discussed. Chapter 4 explores the data, and begins an assessment of the 'fit' between the respondents. Finally, Chapter 5 summarises and discusses the 'findings' of the research – what emerges from the research questions and what from their interpretation; how theoretical understandings now 'fit', or not; what else emerged during the study; what constitutes a finding; and returning to Chapter 1, asks to what extent the study is a foundationalist 'case' which can or should be 'generalisable'. A short discussion of further research avenues is presented.
Date January 2012
CreatorsLe Juen, Yves-Jean Gabriel
PublisherUniversity of Sussex
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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