Arab World English Journal
Volume 2, Number 1 2011 pp.72-122
Linguistic Aspects of the Narrative and Persuasive Written Productions of Arabic and Spanish Speakers:
Focus on the Role of Explicit Knowledge of Grammar
Hosney M. El-daly, PhD
Department of Linguistics
Faculty of Humanities and
United Arab Emirates
This study was undertaken to investigate the written performance of ten foreign students – five native Arabic speakers and five native Spanish speakers – at the University of Pittsburgh, USA. The purpose was to better understand the role of grammar knowledge in the written productions of foreign students. The data were obtained from: a questionnaire, two writing tasks, focused and unfocused error correction tasks, and interviews. The questions that guided the analyses were (1) what is the relationship between students’ knowledge of grammar and the accuracy of their written productions?; (2) what does the change in students’ performance tell us about the depth of their knowledge and strategies in correcting grammar errors? and finally, (3) what factors affect L2 learners’ accurate performance in writing, apart from their level of morphosyntactic competence? Results showed that assessing L2 learners’ performance in writing is not an easy task and, therefore, we need to consider it from more than one perspective. It should encompass both elements of fluency, represented in their ability to demonstrate facility in producing language; and accuracy, represented in their ability not to make errors. The subjects’ performance in writing and correction tasks was not systematic or unitary. This suggests that L2 learners’ proficiency is not an absolute construct and, that the learner who performs highly in one task will not necessarily perform at the same high level in another task. Students’ errors in writing appeared to be due to their incomplete knowledge of grammar, their focus on the meaning, and the complexity of writing as a multi-dimensional activity. Drawing students’ attention to the location of errors appeared to positively affect their abilities to correct them.
Key words: Grammar Knowledge, Narrative, Persuasive Writing.