On Episode 8 of Tea with BvP (here, edited down to 13 minutes), Bill made the claim that if Input drives the car of acquisition, Output is in the backseat. He went on to say that you could make Swain happy by saying that Output is riding shotgun, but still not in control.
Bill also said the following:
“One role of Output is to help people get more Input…when you make some kind of Output people can judge…people actually speak to you at the level they perceive you to be at, which gives you better Input for yourself.”
When it comes to this particular role of Output, Bill’s quote can only be true for individuals who have control over the target language, which excludes most of our students all the way through high school. While it does seem like Bill is giving the OK to introduce more paired speaking activities, think again on that one. As it is, Novice language learners have a difficult time negotiating meaning with a trained teacher “sympathetic to the language learner,” an ACTFL description, so just imagine what kind of result you get when one partner is trying to make sense of what a similarly proficient student attempts to express.
Terry Waltz has made the analogy that peer to peer communication is the McDonald’s of language acquisition. Sometimes teachers feel pressured to “take the kids out for fast food” due to a number of influences (e.g. administration, department, standards, etc.), but there’s no reason to put the cart before the horse. Spontaneous speaking is the result of listening and reading. If it’s not spontaneous, why do it? Students feel the insincerity of a canned activity.