Studies in Second Language Acquisition

Research Notes

Students Learn Language via a Civilization Course—A Comparison of Second Language Classroom Environments

Robert C. Lafayettea1 and Michael Buscagliaa2

a1 Louisiana State University

a2 Chandler (Arizona) High School


The primary goal of this research was to compare the improvement in the second language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing among fourth semester French students enrolled in a content course taught in French and similar level students enrolled in a traditional fourth semester French course where the focus was primarily on the teaching of the language itself. The research used a non-equivalent pretest-posttest design and the results were analyzed using an analysis of covariance to determine mean gain scores of intact experimental and control sections of fourth semester students on the MLA Cooperative French Test. Results showed significant improvement for the experimental group in three of the four skills (listening, speaking, writing) and in two (listening and writing) for the control group. When compared to each other, the experimental group significantly outperformed the control group in the speaking skill while the latter significantly outperformed the experimental group in the writing skill. Attitudinal results showed a significantly more positive attitude toward the study of French among the experimental group. The study is important because it challenges the conventional assumptions regarding the way L2 skills are acquired and improved, and offers the student a valuable time and money saving option since he or she might be able to study a specific content while simultaneously improving L2 skills.