Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Teaching and Learning
Kathryn F. Whitmore
Recent research about L2 writing indicates that L2 writers are likely to instruct themselves on how and what to do during the writing process, using both languages to do so. This constant switch between their L1 and their L2 during their L2 composing process is known as "language-switching" (L-S). In this qualitative clinical study my goals were mainly three: a) to describe and understand the purposes for which participants would potentially language-switch to their L1s, b) to depict the perceptions and understandings these four participants have about their personal L2 composing process and the use of their L1s, and c) to describe the tensions they experienced during the L2 writing tasks in the study. The participants in this study were four students in an American university who completed two L2 writing tasks using a think-aloud technique, in which students verbalized all their thoughts while they wrote. Data collected in this study included interview transcripts, think aloud protocols, reflection sessions, videotapes, students' written texts and observations. The Atlas TI computer software assisted a constant comparative method which implied a continuous comparison of all the data sources (Merriam, 2009). I matched language-switching instances with the participants' behaviors and assigned codes referring the writers' actual activities, behaviors and perceptions.
Findings suggest that the L2 composing process is a bilingual event in which L-S has a natural occurrence. The use of the writer's L1 during the L2 writing process is closely related to the writer's L2 proficiency, and the degree of proficiency can be related to the situational context (FL vs. SL) where the L2 is learned and used. Findings revealed that Generating L2 Content was the most recurring purpose for L-S during L2 writing, followed by Controlling the Process of Writing and Revising. It also revealed that participants transfer their L1 skills to the L2 writing process and that the writing expertise they bring to the L2 composing process may influence the L-S purpose frequency. One contribution of this study is the participants' perceptions about their L-S habits. Most were aware of the benefits that L-S brought to their L2 writing process. Their L1s helped them organize ideas, write better texts and understand the tasks given. This study also revealed that time frame, prompts, lack of L2 proficiency and think-aloud protocols can influence the participants' L2 writing process negatively.
Copyright 2012 Jose Miguel Plata Ramirez
Plata Ramirez, Jose Miguel. "Language switching: a qualitative clinical study of four second language learners' composing processes." PhD diss., University of Iowa, 2012.