Do you believe in it ?
From my experience of knowing people who learned and then improved in languages, fossilisation isn’t even really a thing.
My son is learning to speak at the moment. He mispronounces, he makes mistakes, he talks in baby talk and then he suddenly starts to improve, clean up on his pronunciation etc.
I think the real ‘fossilisation’ that occurs is that learners get to a level they’re happy with and simply stop trying to improve.
Are there any studies that follow people with a desire to improve accent, a desire to improve spoken grammar and spoken fluency and who don’t achieve it because of ‘fossilisation’ ? There are several youtubers who started off speaking pretty poorly who now have tremendous accents.
There are also youtubers who started out with American accents and then reverted to (after lots of effort) British accents because they liked them more.
Interested in views.
A fossil is any preserved remains, impression, or trace of any once-living thing from a past geological age. Examples include bones, shells, exoskeletons, stone imprints of animals or microbes, hair, petrified wood, oil, coal, and DNA remnants.
I feel you have misunderstood what’s going on here.
Maybe it’s the definition of fossilisation in language learning that is an issue here. You refer a lot to accents and pronunciation in your post, but my understanding of fossilisation is that it relates to learners making the same mistake over and over again despite being corrected - and that it’s typically a mistake below their level. The first example that comes to mind for me (as a former English teacher teaching largely French L1 students) would be a French L1 speaker repeatedly saying ‘depends of’ in English (coming out of the French ‘dépend de’) rather than ‘depends on’. I had a student once at B1/B2 level who made this mistake virtually every day, so much so that I took to writing ‘depends on’ on the board in my emerging language column every day before the class even started just so I could review it with him. So I believe in it.
So he never got over that ?
FWIW the original post clearly mentions things like grammar etc.
“Are there any studies that follow people with a desire to improve accent, a desire to improve spoken grammar and spoken fluency and who don’t achieve it because of ‘fossilisation’ ? There are several youtubers who started off speaking pretty poorly who now have tremendous accents.”
You can look up some of the FSI research and case studies on the “Terminal 2” phenomenon. This refers to people who can already speak a language to an ‘intermediate’ level, but can’t reach the professional level required for diplomatic work regardless of the level of effort they put in, due to the amount of consistent grammatical mistakes they make in their speech. The little research I have seen points the blame at language learners who had learnt their TL in unstructured environments without any feedback or emphasis on accuracy.
For example, I used to work with an older guy from the Balkans with very broken English, who boasted that when he emigrated to Australia sometime around age 30 he “only knew one letter of the alphabet” (I never asked him which one.) I asked him how he learnt English and he said that after he arrived here, he just spoke to people and watched movies to tune his ear. He didn’t take any classes or do much reading. His English wasn’t exactly pleasant to hear but my colleagues and I all liked the guy, so it didn’t really matter that much.
Thanks for the tip i will check that out.
I wonder what the FSI defined as ‘work’ though.
I can’t see in my mind’s eye someone who puts in several thousand hours of reading and listening to native material who also works on accent and speaking and still can’t get past intermediate.
No problems. You can check out “The push toward communication” by Highs and Clifford (1982.) The authors seem like snobs, but it’s an interesting paper. My job definitely wasn’t a professional one. You can assume they mean high level business or diplomatic work.
Generally, I tend not to follow at lot internet polyglot crap, but my impression of “fossilization” was always as you said: “… learners get to a level they’re happy with and simply stop trying to improve.” I might add “stop trying to, or don’t know how to improve.”
Makes me think of immigrants.
Arsen01, he’s referring to people’s level in a language “fossilizing” like dinosaur bones in that their abilities are forever frozen as they were at a certain level of prior development.