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'That looks scary!' - Post AS level students' perceptions of difficulty in authentic non-fiction French texts
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This study seeks to determine whether grammatical and presentational features of authentic non-fiction French texts are in any way related to the level of difficulty of texts as perceived by students who have taken Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS). The notions of text and genre are examined, as are the processes of reading in the first language (L1) and in the foreign language (L2). The question of ‘readability, and that of ‘authenticity’ in L2 are also examined. In order to ascertain students’ reactions to different text-types, 150 texts from French sources were gathered and classified. 100-word samples of each text were analysed for various linguistic features. Statistical tests on these were carried out, as well as statistical tests on the visual elements and layout of the whole texts. Further linguistic analysis was carried out within the text-type groups in order to ascertain their grammatical features. 31 students from local tertiary institutions were interviewed, and their perceptions on a sample of the texts were sought. This included the grading of texts for difficulty on a 1-5 Likert scale. The results of the interviews were triangulated with the statistical and linguistic analyses. A relationship was found between text-type and level of perceived difficulty. In the light of these results, the distinction between genre and text-type was examined, and a way was found of linking these into a textual taxonomy, which has close relations with the grammatical and presentational features which characterise the various text-types. In the light of these results, the question of the ‘topic approach’ to the teaching of French is examined, and a way found by which text-types that are perceived to be simpler are studied before those which are perceived to be more difficult. This approach advocates a more logical continuum of grammatical presentation than has hitherto been witnessed in course books for French at this level, while retaining the semantic integrity inherent in the ‘topic approach’.
Myhill, Professor D.; Neather, Dr. E.J.
PhD in Education