Beginning Learners' Development of Interactional Competence: Alignment Activity

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6 Scopus citations


This study examined the development of interactional competence (Hall, 1993; He & Young, 1998) by beginning learners of Spanish as indexed by their use of alignment moves. Discourse analysis techniques and quantitative data analysis were used to explore how 52 learners expressed alignment and changes in participation patterns in two sets of instructional peer-to-peer conversations. The results of the analyses show that, although subject to great individual variability and not always following native-like standards, English native speakers in the early stages of learning Spanish are able to express varying degrees of alignment in conversations with a peer of a similar proficiency level. As they strive to create a sphere of mutual understanding, they test different options from their linguistic repertoire and learn not only from their own attempts but also from those of their interlocutor. These results suggest that repeated engagement in interactional practice does provide the linguistic, social, and pedagogical affordances learners need to develop the interactional skills that will serve them well not only to build confidence and competence in the classroom learning context, but also hopefully in the world outside the classroom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-41
Number of pages19
JournalForeign Language Annals
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Alignment
  • Interactional competence
  • Interactions with peers
  • Spanish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language


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