EnglishCentral Pedagogy: Noticing The Gap

mind_the_gap_logo_antenna-300x252Hi everyone!

Charlie here! I’m EnglishCentral’s Chief Linguist and Pedagogy advisor and as you may or may not know, much of what we do here at EC is based on key principles and research findings in the area of second language acquisition. One of the most important ones that informs the way we implement our voice recognition technology is something called the “Noticing the Gap” principle. Read on below for more than you ever wanted to know about “Noticing the Gap“!

Noticing the Gap is a language acquisition principle most closely associated with the work of Dick Schmidt, a Professor at University of Hawaii (one of the top programs in the world), who based his initial theoretical model on his own study of Portuguese while in Brazil. Basically, he argues that attention to (language) input is a conscious process. He views NOTICING (registering formal features in the input) and NOTICING THE GAP (identifying how the input to which the learner is exposed to differs from the output the learner is able to generate) as essential processes in second language acquisition.

When I joined the EC team two years ago it was this NOTICING THE GAP principle as much as my own work in vocabulary acquisition that I really felt we needed to push forward as pedagogic underpinnings of what we do. Though it is not a required part of the learning path (which I would love to see in the future), the “compare your speech” button (right next to the record button) is based on this idea that helping students to “NOTICE THE GAP” between native speech and their own, will enhance the language acquisition process.


For those of you who are interested, here are some of Schmidt’s key articles on this NOTICE THE GAP principle:

Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics 11, 129-158.

Schmidt, R. (1993). Awareness and second language acquisition. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 13, 206-226.

Schmidt, R. (1994). Implicit learning and the cognitive unconscious: Of artificial grammars and SLA. In N. Ellis (Ed.), Implicit and explicit learning of languages (pp. 165-209). London: Academic Press. [-8-]

Schmidt, R. (1995). Consciousness and foreign language learning: A tutorial on the role of attention and awareness. In R. Schmidt (Ed.), Attention and awareness in foreign language teaching and learning (Technical Report No. 9) (pp. 1-64). Honolulu: University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

Schmidt, R., & Frota, S. (1986). Developing basic conversational ability in a second language. A case study of an adult learner of Portuguese. In R. Day (Ed.), Talking to learn: Conversation in second language acquisition, (pp. 237-326) Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Below is a short summary discussion of Schmidtt’s NOTICE THE GAP principle I was able to pull up on Google. It is from a well-known book by Dick Allwright and Kathleen Baily called “Focus on the Language Classroom” published by Cambridge University Press in 1991. The quote below is from page 104.


Below is a short discussion and diagram I found on the net which might help you to better understand the way noticing is related to the concept of “consciousness raising” (often mentioned in discussions of learning grammar):

notice the gap 2

I was first introduced to this principle back in the early 90s when doing my MA and PhD under Rod Ellis at Temple University Japan (another of the top schools in the word in Applied Linguistics, with Rod Ellis being one of the best known researchers in our field). Rod’s book, “Understanding 2nd Language Acquisition” (Oxford University Press, 1991) briefly discusses the Noticing Hypothesis, but when Rod revised the 300 page book in 2000 (renamed as “The Study of Second Language Acquisition”), it expanded to over 1200 pages (!!!) and quickly became known as “the bible of second language acquisition theory”. In this book, there are now several excellent discussions of the noticing hypothesis and noticing-the-gap hypothesis, most notably on pg 265-268. It was these excellent lectures and discussions of Dick Schmitt’s research that planted the seeds for EnglishCentral’s state-of-the-art SPEAK features…

Good luck teaching and make sure to get your students “noticing the gap”.


Charles Browne

charles112Ed.D. Senior Science and Pedagogy Advisor for EnglishCentral and Professor of Applied Linguistics at Meiji Gakuin University in Japan, is a specialist in CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) and Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition and has helped guide the development of EnglishCentral’s language learning applications and teacher support tools based on over 25 years of EFL teaching and software development experience in the Asian market.


  1. Hi Charles,

    after reading your article, I’ll like to read a little more about this topic. Right now I’m searching for Rod Smith’s book “The Study of Second Language Acquisition” . I’ve found the following version:

    but I’m not sure if it is the same version that you cited in your post (the one that I’ve linked has 824 pages while the one that you’ve cited has more than 1.200 pages). Or was it a more-or-less assumption on the number of pages?

    Thanks for you help.


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