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Empirical Research in English Applied Linguistics

15 June 2012

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Ivana Lučića 3, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia



Balenović Katica

University of Zadar (balenovick@net.hr)

Marta Medved Krajnović

University of Zagreb (mmedved@ffzg.hr)


THE and A in the interlanguage of Croatian primary school learners


The development of the native-like use of the English definite and indefinite articles in EFL learners’ interlanguage has been found to be a long process with pronounced variability (Jarvis, 2002). This is even more so for the learners whose first language does not contain articles (Trenkic, 2002; Zergollern-Miletić, 2008).

            Prompted by these findings, we have analysed the development of the use of the definite and indefinite articles in two sets of recorded and transcribed oral learner production. The first set consisted of the recordings of spontaneous classroom interaction in five classes of primary school students. The recordings were taken during three consecutive years when the students were at the end of grades one, two and three. The second set consisted of the recordings of individual interviews of 12 students from two different classes, administered also during three consecutive years – in grades five, six and seven, i.e. towards the end of the second, third and fourth years of EFL learning.

The analysis shows results which are very much in line with previous research findings and the so-called Fluctuation Hypothesis (Ionin, 2008). Although in both groups the students’ overall language development showed clear progress (e.g. measured in terms of MLU, type-token ratio), the development of the correct use of definite and indefinite articles remained very variable. There is progress in the sense that throughout the years the use of both types of articles increases, meaning that the students are becoming aware of its existence and the need to use it, but the incorrect usage (e.g. substitution of the definite article by indefinite and vice versa) is still very frequent, especially in novel lexico-grammatical contexts.




Barabás  Mariann

University of Pécs (softlaw.kft@gmail.com)


Psychological resilience and self-perceived success in foreign language learning


In my research I examined the relationship between learners’ psychological resilience and their second language learning success. To investigate the correlation between secondary school students’ resilience and proficiency in a foreign language, a short two-part questionnaire was compiled. The 105 in-class questionnaires were administered in a Hungarian high school in October 2011 to secondary school students of EFL. 

The initial hypothesis was that more resilient individuals are better at language learning and judge their own language proficiency level (subjective success) more positively than non-resilient learners. The correlation of the scores obtained on the resilience scale and the objective success based on language exams was -0.13304. The low negative correlation did not support the hypothesis that resilient students are better language learners or that their achievement is significantly better than that of less resilient students; however, more resilient participants’ self-perceived subjective success tends to be better. The students judge their second language knowledge and achievement better, which is in accordance with the original hypothesis.

On the basis of the correlation, it is reasonable to assume that the language learning process can be easier for more resilient students. Therefore, if we develop resilience, it may have manyfold effects besides enhancing the overall psychological well-being of the language learner; it may facilitate learning as well. Although further research is needed, a long term outcome could be not only enhancement of the learning process in accordance with individual needs, but the application of language teaching as a therapeutic tool as well.




Bradičić Ana

Italian Secondary School Rijeka (abradicic@net.hr)


Crosslinguistic influence on the production of collocations in L3 English


Since much of natural language consists of prefabricated chunks, learning words in isolation does not necessarily help FL learners become successful communicators. In fact, learners also have to acquire a large number of collocations to be able to produce and comprehend ideas accurately and fluently. Although collocations have recently received increased attention in applied linguistics research, most studies examined lexical operations between the learner’s L1 and L2. However, not only the knowledge of a first language, but also all other languages known to a person might facilitate subsequent acquisition processes. This is also the case with languages belonging to different language families such as English and Italian, which, nonetheless, have many conspicuous lexical similarities. The present paper presents research into the production of collocations by Croatian-Italian bilingual learners of L3 English. The aim of this study is to gain insight into the multilinguals’ phraseological competence in L3 English by answering the question about whether there is crosslinguistic influence between L2 Italian and L3 English in the production of EFL collocations and whether Croatian-Italian bilingual learners of English make use of interlingual word searches as of a conscious communication strategy. A gap-filling task testing productive knowledge of English collocations and an introspection task giving insight into interlingual lexical searches were administered to 30 EFL students. The relationships of the participants' collocational competence with crosslinguistic influence and L1-L2-L3 congruency effect were also examined. Results are presented and the potential of exploiting crosslinguistic similarity discussed.




Cergol Kovačević Kristina

University of Zagreb (k.cergol@gmail.com)

Mikulec Alenka

University of Zagreb (mikulec@vusp.hr)


Future teachers and English as a Lingua Franca: lexico-grammatical aspects


The paper presents a small-scale research study of accuracy and acceptability in terms of prescribed grammatical and lexical correctness in the use of English by Croatian university students studying to become future teachers. The study draws on Seidlhofer’s points on some lexico-grammatical aspects of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) which are traditionally considered to be grammatically incorrect although they supposedly do not impede communication (Seidlhofer, 2004). Two groups of participants, future generalist teachers with a qualification to teach primary English and future generalist teachers without a qualification to English were given a questionnaire inquiring about their ability to comprehend a text written in English and designed to display some lexico-grammatical characteristics of ELF. They were also asked to provide their opinion on the acceptability of the given text. Finally, they were asked about their attitudes towards ELF, as well as their opinion on what type of English should be taught to primary school pupils. In an earlier study English majors in Croatia had been found to have traditional views on the native-like target preference for English language pronunciation, while other majors had expressed more liberal views as their main concern was to achieve communicative competence in English (Stanojević & Josipović Smojver, 2011). Similar results were expected to be found at the lexico-grammatical level of analysis in the present research.




Čurković Kalebić Sanja

University of Split (sanja.kalebic@st.t-com.hr)


EFL classroom interaction: Learner questions and teacher answers


Learner questions in foreign language classroom discourse are potentially facilitative of language acquisition. Research findings in the area suggest that how teachers handle student questions varies and depends on their cultural background or the training they have experienced (Ohta and Nakone, 2004). Here, learner questions and teacher response strategies were analysed in 30 transcribed recordings of teacher-fronted English lessons in Croatian elementary schools (grades 2-7). The following questions were used in analysing the corpus: 1. What is the presence of learner questions in teacher-fronted classes? 2. What strategies do teachers use when answering learner questions? 3. What is the distribution of teacher response strategies?; 4. What impact do different teacher response strategies have on learner immediate verbal production?

Quantitative analyses were made to identify the occurrence of learner language-related questions and the frequency of teacher response strategies. Qualitative analyses were made to identify the types of teacher response strategies and to investigate the influence of teacher strategies upon learner learning. Discussion is based on the comparison of the findings with the results from similar studies in different instructional contexts. The implications of this study for the teaching practice are considered in the concluding part of the paper.




Davies Mark

University of Zagreb (mark@davies.hr)

Cindrić Ivana

Univeristy of Zagreb (ivana.cindric@ufzg.hr)

Cergol Kovačević Kristina

University of Zagreb (kcergol@gmail.com)


Assessing writing: striking a balance in the assessment of accuracy and effectiveness


This paper continues research conducted on assessing the effectiveness and accuracy of student discursive writing. Two hypotheses deriving from previous studies are posed: a) a writer who is strong in mechanical accuracy is likely to be strong in other writing skills (such as task achievement and coherence); b) weakness in mechanical accuracy is likely to adversely affect the assessment of other writing skills. To test these hypotheses, we assessed essays written by all the members of a group of students who had completed an advanced writing course. One analytical assessment scale was designed to measure task effectiveness, another was produced to evaluate accuracy, and a holistic scale was designed to measure effectiveness and accuracy combined. The results of the assessment conducted independently by three assessors are analysed and compared to see whether the hypotheses posed are proven. It is hoped first that the outcomes of the study will inform us whether our assessment scales suitably balance the assessment of accuracy and effectiveness in discursive writing. Second, in raising such issues with the subjects of our study, our students, we attempt to provide them with a sound basis to assess their own pupils in an objective and principled way in their future roles as teachers.




Dombi Judit

University of Pécs (judit_dombi@yahoo.co.uk)

Turányi Zsófia

University of Pécs (turanyizs@hotmail.com)


My favourite day: Young learners on cultural practices


How do young learners (YLs) perceive other cultures? How do they relate to members of other cultures? In what terms do they represent and define their cultural identities? How does acquaintance with different cultural practices affect their motivation and attitude to study English as a foreign language (EFL)?

Findings of our empirical inquiry provide answers to these research questions and consider possible ways of how the EFL classroom can be a suitable place for developing intercultural communicative competence (Byram, 1997).

The study follows traditions of the qualitative research paradigm, and as such it aims to provide an in-depth understanding (Duff, 2008) of YLs’ experiences, ideas and feelings. 

Participants of the study were 16 fifth graders from a prestigious private primary school from Budapest, six girls and ten boys.

Data collection took place in March-April, 2012. Data were collected through classroom observation, and a structured focus-group interview with the children subsequent to classes. The qualitative content analysis of the interview revealed that YLs draw on their previous intercultural experiences, they are open to acquaint with members of diverse cultures and they regard English as an important tool in gapping the bridge between them and Others.




Farkas Gergely

University of Pécs (farkasgergely001@gmail.com)


New Englishes on YouTube


In my presentation I will discuss characteristic features of New Englishes in comments retrieved from YouTube. The comments had been entered as reflections on different video clips on various topics. The categories that comprise linguistic characteristics of New Englishes (Crystal, 2003) are to be understood as deviations in their structure and / or semantics from what may be called standard variants of English.

For the purposes of the research 1,200 comments written by 755 commenters were retrieved for 13 different video clips between October 25 and November 4, 2011. 

As the corpus was derived from an online context, the characteristics of written Internet language had to be taken into consideration, which led to the extension of the categories of New Englishes mentioned above. Besides the apparent instances of New Englishes evidenced in the corpus, findings have shown that out of the 1,200 comments the most frequent occurrences are closely connected to the phenomena of the language used in texting, be it the Internet or other electronic media. Such phenomena include the use of capital letters, apostrophe, emoticons, irregular spelling.

            In addition to the analysis of this corpus, parallels are to be drawn between these texts and the corpora found on VOICE (Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English). However, since this online corpus has a large sample size, the phase of analysis is still in progress.




Gergely Zsuzsanna

University of Pécs (gergely.zsuzsanna@pte.hu)


Inexperienced in writing?


The paper analyses the writing in English of a schoolboy who is a Hungarian - English bilingual from birth. His bilingual development has been documented to exhibit transfer phenomena at the morpho-syntactic level. The subject is currently 18 years old, an experienced reader of English, with the language learning history of German in primary school. He is attending a French dual language class preceded by a YILL, and is having Italian as his second foreign language at grammar school. The subject has no experience in writing in English and has not been given any prior instruction (either formal or informal) in writing in English.

The expectation is that his writing will demonstrate transfer of the writing skills; more specifically, it will show evidence of the ability of meta-awareness about writing, which is regarded as the most transfer-encouraging behaviour.  




Horvacki Mirjana

University of Zagreb (mirjanahorvacki@gmail.com)

Mihaljević Djigunović Jelena

University of Zagreb (jdjigunovic@gmail.com)


Perception of teacher interpersonal behavior and EFL achievement


Starting from the hypothesis that FL achievement may be associated with the nature of teacher-student relationship (den Brok et al., 2001; Shuell, 1996), in this study we looked into learner perception of teacher interpersonal behaviour in the English as a foreign language (EFL) classroom as well as teacher self-perception of such behaviour. Using the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI) (Wubbels, Créton and Hooymayers, 1985) and the end-of-the-semester grade in EFL, we aimed at establishing possible convergences and divergences of teachers’ and learners’ perceptions, the average interpersonal EFL teacher profile and the relationship between student EFL achievement and scores on the eight scales of the QTI (Leadership, Helpful/Friendly, Understanding, Student Responsibility/Freedom, Uncertain, Dissatisfied, Admonishing, Strict). Our sample included 463 Croatian secondary school EFL students and their 19 EFL teachers. The results indicated a considerable amount of divergence between the perceptions of teachers and their learners. The average type of interpersonal behaviour pattern in the Croatian EFL classroom based on this sample was found to be somewhere between the Authoritative and Tolerant/Authoritative types. With respect to EFL achievement of students, when learner perceptions were used significant correlations were found between the eight scales of the QTI and end-of-the-semester English grade. Interpersonal teacher behaviour seemed to have a significant effect on student achievement, though primarily in terms of what individual learners perceived as important for themselves.





Horvatić Tea

Strahoninec Primary School (teahorvatic@gmail.com)


How often do young learners in Međimurje use reading strategies in English?


This study is going to show how frequently pupils in the fourth grade of primary schools in Međimurje use reading strategies in English. Since reading in a foreign language is encouraged from the earliest age, it is necessary to examine which reading strategies pupils use or are aware of, and which should be additionally developed.

The participants in this study were 60 fourth grade pupils from three different areas in Međimurje - rural, suburban and urban. The study was conducted within regular English classes by using a reading journal about reading habits and strategies which the pupils kept for two months, a questionnaire developed by Pavičić Takač and Radišić (2007), which examines the frequency of using reading strategies, and the focus group interviews conducted by the researcher.

Since previous research suggests grouping the reading strategies in two groups – independent and external information using strategies, the results will show which group of strategies has been used more frequently. It is expected that more successful pupils will use independent reading strategies more frequently than the less successful pupils, who will use external sources of information while reading in English.

This study will give insight into young Croatian learners’ reading strategies in English as a foreign language. It will also provide some teaching implications about which strategies should be taught additionally, so that the pupils become more successful readers.





Kovačić Andreja

University of Zagreb (andreja.kovacic@foi.hr)


Willingness to communicate, writing anxiety and self-efficacy: How do they relate to students' online writing activities perception?


In investigating the nature of students’ engagement in online speaking and writing activities, an appropriate combination of measures needs to be selected. This talk explores the relationships among students’ self-perceived individual differences – willingness to communicate in the classroom, foreign language writing anxiety and self-efficacy - as well as their respective relationships with students’ perception of their online writing activities. The first part of this talk discusses these constructs as defined and addressed in the applied linguistics literature. Observations are made regarding contextual interpretation of these measures in the hybrid foreign language learning environment. The results of the author’s empirical analysis of the willingness to communicate in the classroom, foreign language writing anxiety and self-efficacy as multidimensional constructs are presented in the second part of this talk. The quantitative data used in the analysis was collected by means of a self-report questionnaire administered among 87 Croatian undergraduate students of Information Science. The instrument was comprised of the existing scales for investigating the afore-mentioned constructs (Mihaljević Djigunović and Letica, 2008; Cheng, 2004; Cotterall, 1999), some of which were adapted for the purpose of this research. Finally, these variables were correlated with the students’ perception of their use of an online tool in writing activities with the aim to establish whether the differences in the students’ self-reported perception of conducted online writing activities can be associated with any of the dimensions that constitute the examined variables.




Legac Vladimir

University of Zagreb (vladimir.legac@gmail.com)


Foreign language anxiety and speaking skill of Croatian monolingual and bilingual learners of EFL


According to Young (1992), speaking is considered to be the most stressful skill among the four language skills, both from the perspective of foreign language teachers and learners. According to Jessner (2008), bilingual learners might have some advantages over monolingual learners when learning additional languages. Anxiety has been researched extensively, but there have been no studies of the relationship between anxiety and achievement in oral production comparing monolingual and bilingual learners of English as a foreign language (EFL) in Croatia. Therefore, in 2010 the presenter of this talk started researching this topic in several Croatian counties.

The study was carried out on a sample of 71 monolingual and 57 bilingual Croatian learners of EFL. At the time of the study the participants were about 14 years old. The results point to a significantly higher level of language anxiety among monolingual than among bilingual learners, and significantly higher achievement in the speaking skill of bilingual learners compared to monolingual learners. A significant negative relationship between language anxiety and achievement in speaking EFL was established in both of studied groups.




Lehmann Magdolna

University of Pécs (lehmann.magdolna@pte.hu)


Lexical bundles in student essays


This paper reports on a corpus-based analysis of the productive vocabulary use of first-year students of English in a Hungarian university. Previous studies have found significant correlations between receptive vocabulary size and reading, writing, listening and speaking skills, as well as general language proficiency and academic success (Doró, 2008; Lehmann, 2007). However, the development of receptive and productive vocabulary in SLA does not go parallel (Laufer, 2001), the latter lagging behind. Investigations into the use of lexical bundles, i.e. four-words collocations, in written and oral academic discourse seem to indicate differences between native speakers and foreign language learners. As university course requirements essentially include essay writing tasks, investigating the free productive vocabulary of students may help spot future difficulties and areas to be improved.

            A student essay corpus of 136 texts of 400 words on average was compiled for data collection and analysis. The corpus was divided into four sub-corpora based on the topic of the essays available for students to choose from. Procedures in the analyses involved lexical frequency profiling, identification of keywords, running concordances and examining the distribution of lexical bundles in the texts. Findings were then compared to the findings of international studies on native speakers. Results imply that our foreign language learners make use of lexical bundles to a lesser extent than native speaker students do.




Letica Krevelj Stela

University of Zagreb (stela.letica@gmail.com)


Multilinguals’ exploitation of affordances: Evidence from the use of compensatory strategies


The present paper aims to explore the type and pattern of compensatory strategy use in the L3 production of multilingual users of three typologically unrelated languages. Preliminary results in this study provide a strong evidence of cross-linguistic interaction and awareness in users with three or more language systems at their disposal. However, none of the factors discussed within the general context of conditioning cross-linguistic interaction seems to be able to account alone for the variation in the types of strategies used and language systems these strategies are based on. We propose that an interplay of a whole array of learner-, learning-, and word- based factors attribute to the patterns found in the type of strategy used, as well as that the pattern is severely restricted by multilinguals' metalinguistic awareness. The participants in the study were 30 Croatian L1 speakers studying English and Italian at Zagreb University who had fairly high levels of proficiency and fluency in both non-native languages as measured by an oral picture description task. Information on participants’ language learning background was obtained through a questionnaire which also elicited participants' perception of distance between the three languages. In order to get access to their use of compensatory strategies we used an oral translation task from L1 to L3 and, for a better insight into the impact of metalinguistic awareness, a stimulated recall interview was performed with a part of the sample to gauge the level of consciousness employed and the intentions underlying particular strategic behaviour.




Lopriore Lucilla

University of Rome III (lloprio@tin.it, llopriore@uniroma3.it)


Norm and use in the language classroom: The case of corpora


Grammar, dictionaries and course-books have traditionally been used by learners and teachers as the only ‘norm’- providing sources. Corpus linguistics has recently provided a new perspective to foreign language (FL) teaching (Sinclair, 1991; 2004; Granger et al. 2002; 2003; 2009; Tognini Bonelli, 2001; Biber et al. 2004; O’Keefe et al. 2007; O’Keefe & McCarthy, 2010; Flowerdew, 2012). Language corpora represent a new resource for teachers and learners, they are a powerful pedagogic tool to encourage learners to individually explore language ‘in use’. The advantages of the use of corpora in language teaching are also linked to the idea that the student becomes a researcher into language, forming hypotheses and testing them against the data provided by the corpus as well as by manuals. Do language corpora provide an effective learning tool for foreign language (FL) learners? 

The main aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness of the parallel use of corpus-based and traditional teaching materials and practices. The participants in this study were 25 first year university students enrolled in a 36-hour FL course. The participants were exposed to both traditional norm-providing sources – manuals and monolingual dictionaries - and corpus-based materials. They were required to explore deviations from the norm, particularly in spoken language. The reference corpus was the 100-million-word BNC consulted through Mark Davies’ BYU interface. The students’ response to this approach was investigated through questionnaires and interviews. Activities and applications of language corpora will be presented and learners’ responses to this approach will be discussed.




Lugossy Réka

University of Pécs  (lugossy.reka@gmail.com)


“I read what I wanted to read” or “Ten minutes of Heaven”:

Reading for pleasure in the Reading and Writing course


Studies have consistently shown that those who read more show development in language and literacy, as well as increased motivation to read (Hall & Coles, 1999; Krashen 2007). The talk reports on the preliminary findings of a qualitative study which involved first year BA students of English in reading for pleasure in the framework of their Reading and Writing course at the University of Pécs (Hungary). Fifty students enrolled in the course focusing on developing reading and writing skills were asked to read self-selected novels in English as part of the course. While the in-class reading slots (10-15 minutes) were included regularly at the beginning of every session, students were also asked to read the books they chose outside the sessions, whenever they felt like it.

            The study aimed to explore:

•          how first year students of English experience reading for pleasure as part of their Reading and Writing course;

•          what factors influence students’ choice of books;

•          what reading strategies students rely on when reading for pleasure in English;

•          how students think they have benefited from the experience.

Data concerning the processes involved were collected through ongoing discussions with the students and through semi-structured questionnaires filled in by course participants at the end of the semester.




Mardešić Sandra

University of Zagreb (smardesi@ffzg.hr)

Vičević Sanja

Belvedere – Italian Primary School (sanjavicevic@gmail.com)


Linguistic and teaching competence in the foreign language classroom


Over the last 15 years the number of studies in foreign language (FL) teaching education has increased and resulted in defining FL teaching competencies that should be developed through teacher education (European Profile for Language Teacher Education, 2004). Since previous studies have indicated that student teachers and practicing teachers differ in their evaluation of the importance of some categories of FL teaching competencies, the aim of this study was to investigate differences between student teachers and practicing teachers’ evaluation of the FL lessons.

            In the first part of the study 66 student teachers of English, French and Italian evaluated the success of their own lessons using the same checklist by which their teachers or mentors graded their performance. Our results indicate that the students’ and practicing teachers’ evaluations differed. While the mentors seemed to focus on the level of linguistic competence and elements related to it, as well as the choice and implementation of different teaching methods, the student teachers seemed to focus more on the quality of interaction, choice of teaching materials and lesson planning.

The second part of the study included a larger sample of both teachers and student teachers, and examined their attitudes to the importance of certain teaching competencies in the classroom. The results indicate that the evaluation categories need to be discussed and agreed on by teachers and student teachers at the beginning of the practical part of teacher education.




Martinović Anna

University of Zadar (amartino@unizd.hr)


The acquisition of English as a second language: motivational aspects


English language learning and teaching has been affected by two important changes. Globalisation and the introduction of the Bologna process to European universities have led to an increased demand in learning English. In Croatia, many non-language university students are now required to take English as part of their course programmes. However, although the majority of students have studied English in high school, many appear to lack motivation for learning English at university. As a result, there is a need to investigate motivation among this sample of students within the new context.

The aim of this talk is to present the preliminary results of research being carried out for a doctoral dissertation. The research will attempt to investigate second language (L2) motivation using Dörnyei’s (2005, 2009) L2 Motivational Self System (L2MSS), which is based on the concept of future self-guides. In addition, students’ causal attributions will be explored in an effort to evaluate their past experiences in learning English. The major aim of the research is to investigate the relationship between aspects of the L2MSS, causal attributions and intended effort in learning English among Croatian non-language university majors. The sample includes 550 first year non-language majors at the University of Zadar. Variables of the L2MSS, causal attributions, L2 anxiety and interest will be studied with regard to gender, field of study, length of studying English, and final English high school grades. Furthermore, the mediating role of the L2MSS between causal attributions and intended effort in learning English will be investigated.




Nikolov Marianne

University of Pécs (nikolov.marianne@pte.hu)

Szabó Gábor

Unversity of Pécs (szabo.gabor2@pte.hu)


Young learners’ feedback on tasks in a diagnostic test development project


Testing young EFL learners poses many challenges for teachers (Nikolov, 2009a,b; Nikolov & Mihaljevic Djigunovic, 2006; 2011) and many of them find it difficult to scaffold their pupils’ development. These are the reasons why a large-scale study involving a convenience sample of 2,173 EFL students (ages 6-13) in 161 groups at 26 public schools in Hungary aimed to develop, pilot, and validate new diagnostic tests for young learners in the four basic skills (Nikolov & Szabó, in press; 2011). Data were collected with the help of various instruments in the fall of 2010: (1) listening, speaking, reading and writing tasks arranged in 21 booklets each comprising 20 tests (including anchor tests); (2) short questionnaires on each test for pupils and (3) their teachers; (4) a questionnaire filled in by the teacher on pupils’ background data; and (5) teachers were also invited to comment on each task. We will discuss students’ evaluation of the tasks and how their feedback compared to test scores. Learners scored tasks according to (1) how easy or difficult, (2) how familiar or unfamiliar they were, and (3) to what extent they liked or disliked them on a Likert scale of 1 to 4. Findings show that the relationships were strongest between how well they performed on the tasks and how much they liked them, but patterns varied according to familiarity, task and text types.




Osman Ana

University of Zagreb (ana.osman4@gmail.com)

Šenjug Marina

University of Zagreb (marina.schenjug@gmail.com)


Differences between regular and combined classes according to the level of EFL knowledge


In this paper the authors monitor and compare students’ progress in learning English in both regular and combined classes. Progress is monitored by testing English language knowledge of first and third graders. The first testing was conducted in the 2009/2010 school year, while the second testing was carried out in 2011/2012.

The first part of the paper indicates some general characteristics of regular and combined classes with the aim of showing teaching methods as well as advantages and disadvantages of both types of classes from the perspective of learning the first foreign language. The second part shows the analysis and comparison of results from testing English language knowledge of first and third grade students (school year 2009/2010), in both regular and combined classes. Hence the identical analysis of the results from testing English language knowledge of first grade and third grade students (school year 2011/2012) follows. The obtained results are compared and illustrated.

The main problem is which type of class, and to what extent, shows better results in acquiring a foreign language. The question is: will direct exposure to a higher level of language learning in combined classes result in higher language knowledge compared to regular classes, and is this time-relevant?




Pfenninger Simone

University of Zurich (simone.pfenninger@es.uzh.ch)


On acquisition, age and articles in multilingual Switzerland


In contrast to the learning of L2 morphology in an instructional setting, the study of age effects on the learning of the L2 article system has not raised the same amount of research interest, even though analyzing the acquisition of the English article system by different-aged learners with different language backgrounds can foster a deeper understanding of some intricate issues in the learning of an L2 system that displays considerable variation. It is proposed in this talk that an earlier age of onset of learning does not prevent common errors in article use among Swiss German learners. Two hundred Swiss middle school students (mean age: 13;6, grade level 7) participated in this study, half of whom (the early classroom learners or ECLs) had been exposed to an Early English program for 5 years in primary school (as of 8 years of age, grade level 2), whereas the other group’s L2 experience only began in middle school, at grade level 7 (the late classroom learners or LCLs). The quantitative and qualitative analyses of their performance in a range of contextualized production and reception tasks reveal that, apart from two group-specific patterns, there are no significant differences with regard to the ECLs’ and LCLs’ mastery of the L2 article system. The salient grammatical issue in article usage by both groups seems to be of a lexico-grammatical nature, since the learners particularly struggle with the use of articles as they occur in so-called ‘cultural uses’, that is prefabricated, fixed multi-word sequences.




Zergollern-Miletić Lovorka

University of Zagreb (l.zergollern-miletic@ufzg.hr)

Horváth Jószef

University of Pécs (jozsefhor@gmail.com)


Originality in university students’ writing in English: The Zagreb -- Pécs project reloaded


This talk reports on the results of the second stage of our investigation of originality in Croatian and Hungarian university students’ writing in EFL. The first stage, completed three years ago (Zergollern-Miletić & Horváth, 2009), was concerned with coherence and originality from the tutors’ perspective. We found that this aspect of writing pedagogy would require further study, whereby the focus should shift to how students interpreted and applied notions of originality in their writing and that of their peers (cf. Yongyan, 2012). Accordingly, our current research set out to explore students’ thinking about this issue. We conducted interviews with ten students: five motivated and dedicated writers in Croatia and five students of a comparable profile in Hungary. Structured interviews were conducted to reveal overall attitudes to writing and to the subskills of writing in English. Besides, we asked participants to share with us a piece of their English writing they were proud of. Each of these scripts was then assigned to a participating student in the partner country, and we asked the students to reflect on the content and style of these scripts. In our talk we will discuss the discourse of these answers and provide details of this cross-cultural reflection of the students.



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