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Volume 15 Number 4, Winter 2018, Pages 900-1238 PDF Download

The Effects of Cognitive Grammar-grounded Instruction and Formal-Traditional Grammar Instruction on Learning Simple Past and Past Perfect

    David Wijaya & Anderson Hidarto

The English tense and aspect system has long posed great difficulty to second language (L2) learners due to their underlying complex concepts. This difficulty is compounded by oversimplified grammatical descriptions found in many ELT textbooks. Cognitive Grammar (CG) offers comprehensive accounts of tenses that could be useful for learners. This paper reports a quasi-experimental study investigating the differential effects of CG-informed form-focused instruction and formalist-traditional form-focused instruction on the acquisition of two English tenses, namely the simple past and the past perfect. Secondary school EFL learners (final pool: N = 36) were assigned to two groups (CG and Traditional). Learners in the CG group were exposed to CG-grounded grammatical descriptions of the tenses while learners in the traditional group received traditional accounts. Both groups performed awareness-raising tasks to enhance learning. Data were gathered from the learners' performance in a cloze narrative task. Results from an immediate post-test revealed that CG-based descriptions helped learners improve significantly and outperform learners in the traditional group. These findings indicate the superiority of a CG approach to a formalist approach to teaching the tenses and lend support to the applicability and efficacy of CG-grounded form-focused instruction in the classroom.

Keywords: cognitive grammar, EFL learners, the past perfect, the simple past, narratives