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2018 | 25/2 | 107-121
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What Foreign Language Teachers Should Know about Language Attrition

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The long-term goal of foreign language (FL) learners is to reach communicative competence. The objective of language teachers is to assist and support learners in accomplishing this goal. However, the task may be challenging, especially, when considering foreign language taught in the context of instructed learning. The advent of new technologies, the emergence of learner-centered teaching, and the emphasis on authentic language do not always warrant a desirable outcome. Foreign language learners often reach a plateau and do not progress as expected. Loss of non-native language skills in the L1 environment, e.g. loss of foreign languages learned at school, is a fact. Foreign language learners may be prone to attrition due to insufficient input, low frequency of language use outside the classroom or lack of adequate motivation. Therefore, it is imperative to raise FL teachers’ awareness and draw their attention to the problem of language loss occurring in a formal context. Teachers should not only facilitate language learning but also prevent language forgetting which, if prolonged, may cease development and lead to attrition. By drawing attention to FL attrition, we aspire to bridge the gap between linguistic research and language classroom pedagogy. The aim of the current paper is to identify and discuss some of the instructional, cognitive, and personal factors contributing to foreign language attrition. Practical implications are discussed that could not only improve language teaching, but also influence more efficient, attrition-free curriculum design.
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