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Second Language Aquisition

Essay Topic:
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Second Language Acquisition What is Second Language Acquisition? In second language learning, language plays an institutional and social role in the community. It functions as a recognized means of communication among members who speak some other language as their native tongue. In foreign language learning, language plays no major role in the community and is primarily learned in the classroom.

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The distinction between second and foreign language learning is what is learned and how it is learned. Slide 2: Learning a second language requires: 1. formal language instruction in an academic setting; 2. nteractions with the second language outside of the classroom; 3. pedagogical practices, strategies and methodologies which facilitate second language learning (how); and 4. teaching the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing along with comprehension and thinking (what). Slide 3: The study of second language acquisition involves: 1. how second languages are learned ( the process); 2. how learners create a new language system with limited exposure (interactions); 3. language proficiency levels (competence and performance of the language); and 4. hy some learners achieve native-like proficiency. How Do Learners Acquire a Second Language? Learners acquire a second language by making use of existing knowledge of the native language, general learning strategies, or universal properties of language to internalize knowledge of the second language. These processes serve as a means by which the learner constructs an interlanguage (a transitional system reflecting the learner’s current L2 knowledge). Communication strategies are employed by the learner to make use of existing knowledge to cope with communication difficulties.

Slide 4: Learners acquire a second language by drawing on their background experiences and prior knowledge in their first language. They experiment with the second language by using features found in their first language which are similar to those in the second language. This dependence on the first language serves to help the learner construct an interlanguage, a transitional system consisting of the learner’s current second language knowledge. Communication strategies help the learners use what they already know to overcome breakdowns in communication. Slide 5:

Individual differences affect second language acquisition. These differences may be developmental, cognitive, affective or social. There are factors that are fixed which we cannot control such as age and language learning aptitude. There are some variable factors such as motivation which are controlled by social setting and the course taken for developing the second language. Teachers need to know that variable factors are controlled through the learning environment, by knowing their students’ cognitive styles, their learning preferences, how they teach, and what they teach.

Slide 6: There are many different types of learner strategies which teachers need to be aware of in order to understand the strategies children bring with them and how they learn best. Language learners may need to be taught strategies for relating new knowledge to prior knowledge, for organizing information more effectively and for seeking opportunities for communicating with target language speakers. Slide 7: Researchers identified a natural order of strategies for developing a second language.

The order of development starts with the very simple imitation of a word or language structure, to self-talk, to self-correcting, and to role-playing. An awareness of this natural order can help teachers of second language learners plan lessons to facilitate language learning and increase the learners’ self-esteem and self-confidence. Slide 8: There are several theories of second language acquisition which have provided information on how second languages are learned. The Universalists studied a wide-range of languages to find out how languages vary and what makes them vary.

They looked at language patterns, language universals (features of language which are common across many languages) as well as other properties of language. Slide 9: Universalists also claimed that language is acquired through innateness (nature) and that certain conditions trigger the development of language (nurture). The search for meaning is innate. Activities and instructional materials need to be presented in a meaningful, relevant and interesting manner in order to allow students to make language learning connections. Slide 10:

Behaviorists claimed that learners learn by undergoing training and practice through a series of stimulus and response chains and operant conditioning. The environment provides the stimulus and the learner provides the response. According to the Behaviorist theory, reinforcement motivates the formation of a language habit. Behaviorist Theory (Continued) Theory When the learner learns a language, this learning includes a set of stimulusresponse-reward (S-R-R) chains. Imitation provides the learner with a repertoire of appropriate, productive responses.

The learner learns to imitate or approximate the productive responses provided by the environment. The characteristics of human and non-human learners include the ability to: 1. 2. 3. 4. respond to stimuli in a certain way; intuitively evaluate the reward potential of responses; extract the important parameters that made up the stimulus response (positive reward chains); and generalize these parameters to similar situations to form classes of S-R-R chains. Slide 11: Language learning requires effort and practice.

Behaviorists further claimed that learners imitate or approximate productive responses. For instance, learning how to write is not universal across cultures because some cultures do not have a history of written language, therefore learning how to write involves a conscious effort and specific training, as well as a willingness to learn by trial and error. Responding to stimuli in this instance is critical in order for writing to take place. Slide 12: Nativists claimed that language learning is biologically determined.

Each person is born with an innate ability to learn language. The basic innate language learning capacities are referred to as the Language Acquisition Device (LAD). This view asserts that the environment only serves to trigger the Language Acquisition Device (LAD) which determines what children acquire. Children acquire much of their language ability before coming to school, thus supporting the innate structures argument. Nativist Theory (Continued) 1. 2. 3. the ability to distinguish speech sounds from other sounds in the environment; Theory

McNeill (1966) described the LAD as consisting of four innate linguistic properties: the ability to organize linguistic events into various classes that can be refined later; knowledge that only a certain kind of linguistic system is possible and that other kinds are not; and the ability to engage in constant evaluation of the developing linguistic system in order to construct the simplest possible system out of the linguistic data that are encountered.

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4. Nativists have contributed to the discoveries of how the system of child language works.

Theorists such as Chomsky, McNeill, and others helped us understand that a child’s language, at any given point, is a legitimate system in its own right. Slide 13: The Nativists also contend that learners actively construct grammar for themselves by actively listening to the language around them and trying to determine the patterns in the utterances. Learners progress through language in predictable stages. The learner will not respond to error correction if he/she is not developmentally ready. Slide 14: Cognitivists claimed that the conditions for learning language are the same conditions that are necessary for any kind of learning.

They believed that human beings have the capacity for developing logical thinking. Acquiring knowledge is a cognitive process which involves automatic processing (rountinzed) and controlled (temporary) learning. Cognitivist Theory (Continued) Language Learning as a Cognitive Process 1. 2. Theory Learning a language involves internal representations that regulate and guide performance. Automatic processing activates certain nodes in memory when appropriate input is present. Activation is a learned response. Memory is a large collection of nodes. Controlled processing is not a learned response.

It is a temporary activation of nodes in a sequence. Skills are learned and routinized only after the earlier use of controlled processes have been used. Learner strategies contain both declarative knowledge i. e. knowing the ‘what’ of the language-internalized rules and memorized chunks of language, and procedural knowledge i. e. know the ‘how’ of the language system to employ strategies. 3. 4. 5. 6. Slide 15: The Cognitive theory underscores the fact that the learner brings an innate mental capacity to the learning task. He/she also brings perceptions of relationships between what he knows and what he/she needs to know.

Learner strategies are used for learning the rules of a language and how to use the language for different audiences and purposes. Theories of Second Language Acquisition (Continued Social Interactionist Theory supports the view that the development of language comes from the early interactions between infants and caregivers. Social interactionists stress: Theory the importance of a child’s interactions with parents and other caregivers; the importance of “motherese”; contributions of context and world knowledge; and the importance of goals

Glew (1998) claims that learners have to be pushed in their negotiation of meaning to produce comprehensible output. The classroom context needs to provide adequate opportunities for target language use to allow learners to develop competence in the target language. Slide 16: Social interactionists believe that human language emerged from the social role that language plays in human interactions. They further believed that the environment plays a key role and that adults in the child’s linguistic environment are instrumental in language acquisition.

Language learners need many opportunities for using the target language in order to develop competence. Slide 17: Social interaction is the key to language processing. Input from the social interactions provides a model for negotiation opportunities. Vygotsky (1978) believed that learners bring two levels of development to the learning: an actual developmental level and a potential developmental level. These two levels are referred to as the Zone of Proximal Development. Learners can move from actual development to proximal development through social interactions with others. Slide 18:

Krashen proposed five hypotheses for second language acquisition. He explored the notion that acquisition is different from learning because one takes place in a natural environment while the other takes place in an academic setting. He further claimed that we learn language in a predictable order. Some language structures are learned earlier than others. The monitor is the self-correcting mechanism that learners use to edit what they say before they speak or write. The learner can overuse the monitor and stifle communication. Slide 19: Krashen proposed that when learners are provided with comprehensible input they acquire more.

When the learner’s affective filter is up, this means that information is not reaching the learner. This may be because of fear, anxiety or low selfconfidence in language learning. The ideal situation is for the filter to be down so that the language acquisition device can receive the input necessary for language acquisition. Cummin’s Second Language Framework Cummins makes a distinction between social language and academic language. 1. Social language refers to the everyday conversational language which is supported by the use of illustrations, realia, demonstrations, etc. Context Embedded). Studies show that language learners acquire social language in approximately two years. Social language deals with the here-and-now language, therefore second language learners tend to acquire it faster. 2. Academic language is the language of school tasks which is more abstract and decontextualized (Context Reduced). Some second language learners who develop fluent spoken English have difficulties in reading and writing because they may be at different levels of proficiency while they are moving from social language (BICS) to academic language (CALP).

It takes between five to seven years for second language learners to acquire academic language. Slide 20: James Cummins developed a framework for second language acquisition that involves the identification of both social and academic languages. The basic interpersonal communication skills are acquired from everyday use of the language and are supported by cues in the environment (context-embedded). The cognitive academic language proficiency is more abstract language which is not supported by environmental cues (context-reduced).

Slides 21-22: Context-embedded tasks are for the most part cognitively undemanding because learners are able to depend on cues for assistance. There are some tasks that are context-embedded, more complex and impose cognitive demands. The learners in these situations can still rely on environmental cues for help. Slides 23-24: Context-reduced tasks can be both cognitively undemanding and cognitively demanding as well. Cognitively undemanding tasks are simple to carry out but do not contain environmental cues i. e. reading for personal purposes.

Cognitively demanding, context-reduced tasks are more abstract and decontextualized. Slides 25-26: The components of communicative competence include: 1) grammatical competence which is knowing the structure of the language; 2) sociolinguistic competence which involves the use of the language for different audiences, purposes and norms of communication; 3) discourse competence which includes combing and connecting utterances both spoken and written; and 4) strategic competence which involves using language to meet communication goals. Slide 27:

Competence is the underlying knowledge which is the mental representation of linguistic rules. This knowledge is nonobservable because it is internal. Performance is the overtly observable production of competence (comprehension and production of language). Slide 28: The three general principles of language learning include: 1) the law of exercise-active and repeated responses to stimuli (practice); 2) the law of effect-reinforcing learner responses (providing immediate corrective feedback); and 3) the principle of shaping-learning language through learning chunks (bit-bybit).

Slide 29: These principles operate under the assumption that language learning is the formation of habit. The learner’s automatic responses were prompted by stimuli. Interesting and motivating stimuli turns responses into automatic, routinized learning. The level of difficulty required to learn a second language depends on the amount of time it takes to learn a second language pattern. The time from which controlled responses (short-term) turn into automatic responses (long-term) is dependent on learner differences, learning conditions, and teaching pedagogy. Input and Interaction

L2 acquisition can only take place when the learner has access to input in the second language. This input may come in written or spoken form. Spoken input occurs in face-to-face interactions. Non-reciprocal discourse includes listening to the radio or watching a film. Behaviorists claim that presenting learners with input in the right doses and then reinforcing their attempts to practice them can control the process of acquisition. Chomsky pointed out that in many cases there was a very poor match between the kind of language found in the input that learners received and the kind of language they themselves produced.

Comprehensible input (Krashen’s, 1985 Input Hypothesis) proposed that learners acquire morphological features in a natural order as a result of comprehending input addressed to them. Long (1981a) argued that input which is made comprehensible by means of the conversational adjustments that occur when there is a comprehension problem is especially important for acquisition. Swain (1985) proposed the comprehensible output hypothesis which states that learners need opportunities for “pushed output” in speech or writing that makes demands on them for correct and appropriate use of the L2.

Slide 30: Input and interaction are very important factors in second language acquisition. Second language acquisition can only take place when the learner has access to input in the target language. Teachers can provide comprehensible input in their instructional delivery coupled with opportunities for interactions. Adjustments are made in order to facilitate the comprehension of messages. Just as important is comprehensible output. Learners need to be given opportunities to produce spoken or written discourse which forces them to use correct and appropriate use of the second language.

The Role of the Native Language in Second Language Acquisition Language Trans fer The role of native language in second language acquisition has come to be known as “language transfer. ” It has been assumed that in a second language learning situation learners rely extensively on their native language. According to Lado (1957) individuals tend to transfer forms and meanings, the distribution of the forms and meanings of their native language and culture to the foreign language and culture.

This transfer is productive when the learner attempts to speak the language. This transfer is receptive when the learner attempts to grasp and understand the language and culture as practiced by native speakers. Lado’s work and much of the work of that time (1950’s) was based on the need to produce pedagogically relevant materials. A contrastive analysis of the native language and the target language was conducted in order to determine similarities and differences in the languages. Slide 31: The first language has a distinct role in second language acquisition.

When language learners have a strong linguistic and communicative foundation in their native language, then the process of second language acquisition involves language transfer. Learners transfer forms and meanings as they attempt to speak or write the second language. Transfer takes on a receptive role when the learners listen to native speakers of the language and try to understand what is being said. Similarities in the two languages are transferred positively (language facilitation), while differences cause a nonproductive transfer (language interference). Framework for Explaining L1 Transfer Language Trans fer

The L1 system is used for both comprehension and production. The interlanguage system is also used in comprehending and receiving messages. The L1 system is used in hypothesis construction responsible for interlanguage development. Comprehensible input serves as a major source of information for hypothesis construction. L2 output may be used for hypothesis construction. Slide 32: Language learners rely on their first language to produce language and to comprehend it. Hypotheses construction of language comes when learners manipulate and test language forms to further their interlanguage, the stages of development between L1 and L2.

The second language output helps the learner test hypotheses of how language works and helps them construct new ones. Teachers provide comprehensible input in order to help learners acquire information for hypotheses construction. Slide 33: Language transfer is a cognitive process which involves the strategic use of the first language in learning the second language. The flexible thinking that occurs in the learner’s mind is representative of the interconnectedness between the two languages. Bi-cognitive thinking occurs spontaneously and with great ease.

Learners think in their first language, transfer that thinking into the second language and then produce the utterances that meet the communication situation. There is a distinction between transfer experienced for communication purposes and transfer experienced for second language learning. First language transfer helps the learner receive and produce messages for communication purposes. Transfer in learning situations happens when the learner uses the first language to formulate hypotheses about second language rules. Language Language Transfer Trans fer

Where the two languages were identical, learning could take place through positive transfer to the native-language pattern. Where the two languages were different, learning difficulty arose and errors occurred resulting from negative transfer. Chomsky (1959) set in motion a re-evaluation of many of the behaviorists claims. This re-evaluation included area such as: the dangers of extrapolating from laboratory studies of animal behavior to the language behavior of humans were pointed out; 2. the terms stimulus and response were exposed as vacuous where language behavior was concerned; 3. nalogy could not account for the language user’s ability to generate totally novel utterances; and 4. studies of children acquiring their L1 showed that parents rarely corrected their children’s linguistic errors, thus casting doubt on the importance of reinforcement in language learning. All this led to the reconsideration of the role of L1 in L2 learning. 1. Slide 34: When language features in the two languages are similar, positive transfer from the first language to the second language occurs. When language features in the two languages are different, learning difficulties and errors happen.

This transfer process made it evident to researchers that the native language definitely plays a major role in second language acquisition. The Nature of the Interlanguage Continuum Cognitive theories of interlanguage claim that with the assistance of learning strategies, learners build mental grammars of the second language. Learners draw on the rules they have constructed to interpret and produce utterances. Learner’s utterances are only erroneous with reference to the target language norms, not to the norms of their own grammars.

The interlanguage continuum consists of a series of overlapping grammars. Each share some rules with the previously constructed grammar, but also contains some new or revised rules. A rule has the status of a hypothesis. Slide 35: The implication of the interlanguage continuum for teachers is that with assistance from learning strategies, learners are able to build mental grammars (rules) of the second language. The continuum represents different interlanguage stages (overlapping grammars) that the learners go through to use the rules they have learned to interpret and produce speech.

Rules are classified hypotheses because the learner tests certain language rules in his/her development. Selinker’s Interlanguage Theory Selinker’s Interlanguage Theory maintains the separateness of a second language learner’s system and gives the system a structurally intermediate status between the native and target languages. According to Selinker, second language learners are producing their own self-contained linguistic system. The system is not a native language or target language system, rather it falls between the two.

Stages of Interlanguage Development include: 1) random errors (presystematic); 2) experimentation and inaccurate guessing; 3) emergent-growing in consistency in linguistic production; 4) backsliding-appears to have grasped but later regressed and unable to correct errors; 5) systematic stage-ability to correct errors on their own; rules may not be well-formed but display more internal self-consistency; 6) stabilization-few errors are made, have mastered the system to the point of fluency; and 7) intralingual-inconsistencies within the target language; Global errors-affect meaning;local errors-close similarities in word form (i. . spelling). Interlanguage Continuum Interlanguage Stages L1 L2 ______/____/______/____/_______/_____/___/_____/_____/______ Basilang Mesolang Acrolang Slide 36: Each of the stages of the interlanguage continuum represents each grammar that the learner builds which represents more complexity as he/she moves on the continuum. Second language learners begin in their first language and as teachers provide the formal and informal second language instruction, learners move forward in their development.

When learners encounter difficulties in any of their interlanguage stages, they can fossilize (learning stops at some given point) or they may experience backsliding (regression). The continuum can be related to language learner categories used for identifying bilingual/ESL students. Basilang is equivalent to the beginner; mesolang is the category of an intermediate learner; and acrolang is the category for the advanced learner. Slide 37:

The identification of errors that language learners make is important in order to understand the source of errors and the corrective measures teachers can offer. Errors happen when learners lack knowledge of second language rules, while mistakes occur when learners are unable to perform their competence (underlying knowledge that is non-observable). Overt errors are deviations in form and covert errors are those that are well-formed but do not communicate what the learner intended. Learner Errors Error Analysis is used for examining errors as a way of investigating learning processes.

Much of the early work on learner errors focused on the extent to which L2 acquisition was the result of L1 transfer or creative construction (construction of unique rules similar to those which children form in the course of acquiring the native language). The presence of errors that mirrored L1 structures was taken as evidence of transfer (interlingual), while those errors similar to those observed in L1 acquisition were indicative of creative construction (intralingual). The study of learner errors showed that although many errors were caused by transferring L1 habits, many more were not.

It was found that learners went through stages of acquisition and the nature of errors varied according to their level of development. Error analysis could not show when learners resorted to avoidance and it ignored what learners could do correctly. Slide 38: For teachers of English language learners, it is important to understand the role of errors in second language learning. Error analysis is important because it gives us the opportunity to examine learner errors and determine if errors are a consequence of first language interference or not.

Implications for teachers come in planning instruction that addresses patterns in errors made by students experiencing language interference, grouping practices to target the identified errors, and instructional methodologies and strategies for helping learners overcome some of their errors. Slide 39: Errors made by a language learner can give teachers insight as to how much knowledge the learner has in the second language. They are a means of diagnosing progress or lack of progress in second language development.

Errors are to be seen as part of a process of second language acquisition not just as the result of imperfect learning. Slide 40: Errors are systematic and will occur until the language learner recognizes them and corrects them. If communication is clear, even when learners produce errors such as “no want” then the error is in the language structure and not in the learner’s system (interlanguage). Slide 41: Contrastive analysis helps teachers understand potential errors language learners make. This understanding will allow teachers to identify what needs to be learned and what is already in the learner’s system.

What needs to be learned will be the focus of instruction and what is already learned will be the knowledge the learner brings to the learning situations. The pedagogical materials that resulted from contrastive analysis were based on the claim that language is a habit; language learning involves the establishment of a new set of habits; the native language interferes with the reception and production of a second language; and accounting for errors involves considering differences between the first and the second languages.

The greater the differences the more errors will occur; and difficulty and ease in learning a second language are determined by differences and similarities between the two languages in contrast. Slide 42: Thomas and Collier (1997), proposed the Prism Model of Language Acquisition for School. This model includes first and second language cognitive development, academic development, language development as well as social and cultural processes. Slide 43: The cognitive development component is a subconscious process that is developmental. Thought processes are built through interactions.

It is critical that cognitive development take place in the first language so that the foundation is strong and positive transfer of skills and concepts occurs. Slide 44: Academic knowledge, concepts and skills transfer from the first to the second language. In order to make the necessary instructional adjustments, teachers need to provide instruction in the learners’ first language and a strong English as a Second Language component during the instructional day in order to make academic content meaningful. The interruption of academic development in the first language will likely promote academic failure.

A good balance of academic instruction (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) in the first language and vocabulary and oral language development (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) through ESL will facilitate language transfer and transition when the learner is ready. According to research, it takes a language learner from 5-7 years to reach academic proficiency in the second language. It takes from 2-3 years to acquire BICS. Therefore, teaching BICS in the two languages and having a strong ESL program are essential if language learners are to be ready for transitioning from the first to the second language.

Slide 45: Language development includes Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) which are acquired subconsciously as well as the innate ability learners bring with them to the academic setting (CALP). In order to assure both cognitive and academic success in learning a second language, the learner must be taught in his/her first language to a high cognitive level so that the learner can develop the necessary competence and performance in the second language. Slide 46:

Second language learners go through everyday experiences which impact the acquisition of the second language. The home-school connection is very important in order to help language learners respond to second language learning more effectively. The sociocultural support that language learners need must be evident at home, at school, in the community and in society at large. The instructional environment can either create social unity, linguistic and ethnic respect, and value for bilingualism or it may promote a psychological distance between two groups, cultures and languages.

Slide 47: In conclusion, teachers working with second language learners must consider the learners’ linguistic, cultural, and academic needs, as well as the levels of language proficiency. Teachers should encourage their students to experiment with language and not be afraid of making errors. Errors are part of the learning process just as error correction is part of the teaching process. Teachers should not ignore errors, but focusing too much on them can cause anxiety, fear and hamper learning.

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