Contextual factors and the instructional acquisition of a second language

Alex Housen, Daniel Coste (Editor), Daniel Véronique (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper provides an overview of findings from two recent empirical studies, each exploring the relationships between extra-curricular and curricular aspects of the guided language learning environment, the kind of L2 learning opportunities which these create, and the L2 learning outcomes that they result in. Both studies involve young L2 learners from a variety of L1 backgrounds learning L2-English in a carefully chosen range of socio-educational learning contexts. The analytic focus is on lexical, morphological and syntactic aspects of the learners' communicative competence in their second language as manifested in their performance on a variety of oral production task.
The first study compared levels of L2 achievement in the early phases of L2 learning (after 250 hours of classroom contact) by Italian children in four different socio-educational contexts: English-Foreign Language classes in mainstream Italian schools in Bologna, and the English-L2 sections in the European Schools of Varese, Brussels, and Culham. These four contexts differ in the role and status of the L1 (Italian) and L2 (English) inside and outside the school context and thus, it was hypothesized, in the rate and outcome of L2 development.
The second study compared patterns of English L2 development by three groups of Dutch, French, and Greek L2 learners across five different grade levels in the European School in Brussels. Although the three groups all learn English under the same curricular conditions, their respective first languages differ in their status as vehicular languages inside and outside the Brussels school. Again it was hypothesised that these extra-curricular contextual factors differentially affect L2 learning outcomes in this particular learning context.
Results are presented and comparisons are made between the process of guided second language learning in the different contexts investigated as well as with what is known from other studies of L2 development in both guided and naturalistic contexts.
Translated title of the contributionContextual factors and the instructional acquisition of a second language
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)73-96
Number of pages24
JournalAcquisition et Interaction en Langue Étrangère (AILE)
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Daniel Coste & Daniel Véronique


  • second language acquisition
  • language teaching


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