When we learn a language, our brain picks up patterns relevant to this particular tongue very slowly. It registers its general structures as well as grammatical ones and pronunciation. Our success in acquiring this second language depends on our ability to be aware of these patterns and this is called noticing.
The noticing hypothesis is a concept in second language acquisition proposed by Richard Schmidt in 1996. He stated that learners cannot learn grammatical features of a language unless they notice them. He insisted that noticing is the essential starting point for acquisition of a language.
How Does Noticing Impact Language Learning?
As we already mentioned, Schmidt defined noticing as paying conscious attention to what is said and how it is said, and this is a condition for successful language learning, according to him.
Ryan (2001) pointed out that noticing is about making the student aware of some patterns "under the assumption that if you have an awareness of them, then ultimately [ your ] pattern detector might function a bit more efficiently."
How Can Language Be More Noticeable?
Language can be more or less noticeable depending on various factors.
1- Undergoing formal teaching
Students are more likely to notice language peculiarities if they are taught formally. This can be attained by:
*explaining and drawing attention to a particular form
* By favouring regular input of certain structures
* Drawing attention to certain structures
* By encouraging tasks that require the learner to notice a structure in order to complete it
2- The more often students hear or read a language pattern, the more likely they will notice it. Therefore constant repetition of the words and structures in different contexts make noticing easier.
The natural approach of language learning has been criticised, It is believed that students experience "fossilisation", The critics have realised that learners don't improve in certain language mistakes despite a significant amount of experience with the target language.
It is believed that the communicative approach is failing in the formal instruction of grammar patterns in favour of speaking sufficiency so the learners "do not notice the gap" between how the language should be spoken and the way they speak.
It is suggested that once they reach communicative sufficiency, teachers should help learners notice their mistakes.
How Can Teachers Help Students Notice?
There are five teaching activities that should be encouraged.[ Francis J Noonan III ]
1- Listening to comprehend
Students listen to understand a text that has been structured to contain examples of the target form.
2- Listening to notice.
Students listen to the same text again, but are given a gap-fill exercise where the target form is missing and they fill the blank as they listen.
3- Students discover the rule
With the help of the teacher the students analyse the text and discover the rule.
The students are given a text with errors and are asked to make the corrections.
5- Trying it
The students apply their knowledge in a productive activity.
As you can see, noticing does have its place. It allows for you, as a learner, to reach the adequate knowledge faster; and it makes the different patterns and constructions of your second language more visible.
Next time that you're faced with grammar exercises, do it with a smile on your face. They are the non-glamorous part of language proficiency. As in everything, practice makes perfect.