Verbal aspect in the production of first year English speaking learners of French and Spanish
Whatley, Melissa Erin
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The ability to distinguish aspect, passé composé vs. imparfait in French and preterit vs. imperfect in Spanish, continues to be one of the most formidable stumbling blocks for English speaking learners of these languages. The present study seeks to analyze how students using three different explanations of this concept, two textbook explanations and one aspectual, use and analyze aspect in their own production through free paragraph activities. Native speakers were asked to provide grammaticality judgments for the students’ free paragraphs in both languages in an attempt to determine the impact grammar explanation has on how students think about verbal aspect. In this study, we see that several rules common to all three grammar explanations must be either revised or omitted completely in order to prevent many kinds of student error. This study also argues that a free paragraph in which students must explain why they chose specific aspectual grammatical forms is a much more valuable pedagogical tool than other forms of evaluation.