A comparison of L2-L2 and L2-heritage learner interactions in spanish language classrooms

Melissa A. Bowles, Rebecca J. Adams, Paul D. Toth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Conversational interaction studies have typically focused either on second language (L2) learners participating in native speaker-nonnative speaker (NS-NNS) dyads or in NNS-NNS dyads. This study analyzes the task-based interactions of 26 naturally occurring learner dyads in an intermediate-level, university Spanish language classroom, 13 of which were matched L2 learner dyads and 13 of which were mixed L2 learner-heritage learner (HL) dyads. Specifically, the study compared the two dyad types to determine whether they differed in their focus on form or in the amount of talk produced during interaction. Results revealed that the two types of dyads were largely similar, although instances of focus on form were more likely to be resolved in a target-like way by mixed L2-HL pairs than by matched L2-L2 pairs, and there was significantly more target language talk in mixed pairs. Interestingly, L2 learners used the target language significantly more with HL learners than they did with other L2 learners, suggesting that different conversational norms may be at play in the two pair types. Furthermore, posttask questionnaire data indicated that L2 and HL learners alike saw the interaction as a greater opportunity for the L2 learner's development than for the HL learner's, calling into question whether classroom contexts like this one meet the needs of HL learners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-517
Number of pages21
JournalModern Language Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • Conversational interaction
  • Focus on form
  • Heritage learners
  • Interaction Hypothesis
  • L2 learners
  • Learner-learner dyads
  • Task-based interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


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