Revision Processes in First Language and Foreign Language Writing: Differences and Similarities in the Success of Revision Processes

  • Esther Odilia Breuer Cologne University
Keywords: revision, L1, FL, L2, writing, academic writing


Writing academic texts in one’s native language (L1) and – even more – in a foreign language (FL) places high cognitive demands on students. In order to cope with these demands, writers should learn to adapt their writing methods flexibly to their tasks, depending on the language and the genre they are writing in. Crucial aspects here are the methods of revising because the need for linguistic revision will be higher in the FL text than in the L1 text; at the same time, it should not be the main or only focus of the revision process. In order to analyse the differences in L1 and FL revision, a study was set up in which ten L1 German students wrote academic essays in German and in English. The production process was protocolled with the help of keylogging, so that the revising processes could be analysed. The results show that the participants revised similarly in both the L1 and the FL. They focussed on the same aspects (content, typing mistakes, and language errors that were not L1 related). At the same time, there are differences in finer grades. These differences in revision do not seem to be a conscious decision, however, but are rather the result of the higher cognitive demands in FL academic writing and the lower degree of language knowledge. Additionally, the analysis of the final FL texts showed that most of the errors that were not corrected were L1 induced. When one looks at the revisions, however, one sees that hardly any revisions were made in these aspects: the L1 influence went more or less unnoticed. For writing pedagogy, this means that one has to put a higher focus on revision strategies during teaching, in order to give students the tools to write successfully in L1 and in FL, and to motivate them in enhancing their papers.

Author Biography

Esther Odilia Breuer, Cologne University
Head of the Centre for Writing Competency