Output Hypothesis (Merrill Swain)
Explanation of Main Features

The output hypothesis proposed by Merrill Swain focused on the importance of language learners to produce comprehensible output. When students are engaged in a collaborative dialogue they are producing spoken or written output that is a key component and source of language learning. There are three primary functions of output:
1) noticing-triggering function – learner’s recognize that their output is incorrect
2) hypothesis testing function – learner’s are looking for feedback as they try new ways of producing output
3) metalinguistic function of output – learner’s imitate language output produced by others
According to Swain, “research tools such as think alouds and stimulated recalls, need to be understood as part of the learning process, not just as a medium of data collection” (2008) The production of output is within itself a component of the language learning process, not just a measure of the language already learned.


Freeman, D. E. & Freeman, Y. S. (2004). Essential Linguistics. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Swain, M. (2008). The output hypothesis: its history and its future. A keynote speech in The 5th Annual International Conference on ELT in Beijing. Retrieved May 11, 2011 from http://www.celea.org.cn/2008/keynote/ppt/merrill%20Swain.pdf.

Wright, W. E. (2010). Foundations for teaching English language learners: Reseach, theory, policy, and practice. Philadelphia: Caslon Publishing.

Classroom Implications
Swain (1995) mentions that second language learners not only need a big amount of input, but also should be pushed to produce the language.
Teachers should include activities that create a meaningful and interactive experience using the language to communicate needs, wants, and ideas. These lessons should be based on "output" activities that emphasize reading, writing, listening, and speaking as often as possible. Meaningful conversations and activities that require the language to complete a task require much more output than memorizing vocabulary, for example. By developing a context for the language through conversation and/or interactive writing activities, students have more chances to make mistakes and learn from them and are more motivated to use the skills they have learned. Swain refers to dialogue as both a means of communication and a cognitive tool to use when language problems are encountered. The act of using dialogue and high engagement conversation and writing activities require students to be creative in their use of language.

Wright, W. (2010). Foundations for teaching English language learners: Research, theory, policy, and practice. Philadelphia: Caslon Publishing
Hinkel, E. (2005). Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning. Lawrence Erlbaum.

Maria's note: You need a reference for Swain (1995)