Learning Spanish Part Twenty-Three: Language Learning Versus Language Acquisition

In the field of second language acquisition, Stephen Krashen, Ph.D, is a name that rises above the academic din that usually begins when the subject of Language Acquisition versus Language Learning is brought up. The noise becomes even more deafening when someone, such as myself, would dare to report how the theories of Dr. Krashen have affected his personal adventure in trying to achieve the highest possible degree of spoken fluency. Without at least one Ph.D under your belt, you are considered (I want to say “an idiot” but I won’t) unqualified to utter the words, “I get it…” We live in an age that those in white coats are the final arbiters of truth. Unless you’ve earned your white coat, you’d best sit there with your hands folded in your non-doctorate lap and keep your mouth shut. How can you begin to understand the theories of basket weaving when you don’t have a Ph.D in basket weaving? (I’ve never been one for convention, so here goes.) Lest I bore you with touting Dr. Krashen’s academic resume and become guilty of white-coat worship myself, try Googling “Dr. Stephen Krashen” when you have nothing else better to do than sift through the over 131,000 hits. The man does have an impressive track record and reputation in this field. However, critical thinking does demand that while his credentials do demand consideration, is what he proposes true and reasonably worth our time and effort to examine? Dr. Krashen’s explanation of Second Language Acquisition follows along five points: 1) the Acquisition-Learning hypothesis, 2) the Monitor hypothesis, 3) the Natural Order hypothesis, 4) the Input hypothesis, 5) the Affective Filter hypothesis. Perhaps I should have begun my series on Learning Spanish with this material, so bear with this diversion as I try to explain it (and all I was in college was a lowly Voice Performance Music major!). “Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill.” – Stephen Krashen NEXT: The Acquisition-Learning hypothesis

Second Language Acquisition Strategies

Second language learning or second language acquisition refers to the process of learning a second language besides the native language. Thus when people are in the quest of learning a new language besides their native language, it is called second language acquisition. There are various second language acquisition strategies that have been developed by language experts and the success of a language learning process depends on the effective use of these strategies. The second language acquisition strategies have been divided into the two categories; communicative strategies and learning strategies, however there are various other ways to categorize the strategies. Learning strategies: these strategies are techniques that are used to improve or enhance the learning of a language by using mnemonics or a dictionary. Mnemonics is the way of learning things by associating them with pictures or objects that can be remembered. A dictionary can be used to find meaning and pronunciation of new words of the new language. Communicative strategies: communicative strategies are those strategies that are used by native speakers or learners to communicate or get the meaning across when they are unsure of the correct word usage. Non-linguistic means like Mimes is an example of the communicative technique. It has been observed that in the process of second language acquisition, learners coming from diverse cultures use different strategies in different ways. This difference is also seen in the approach of male and female learners. If we go by the study reports, females are adept at using the learning strategies more intensively than males. Also, statistically females enjoy better language learning skills than males. Second language acquisition strategies are steps that are used by learners to improve their acquisition, storage, retention, recall and using of the new gained information. Different people have different ways of assessing strategies like maintaining diaries, thinking aloud, doing surveys and by observations. Second language acquisition strategies that are used by language learners are: • Meta-cognitive techniques that are effective in focusing, organizing and evaluating what has been learnt • Affective strategies that can be used to handle attitudes and emotions • Social strategies which are helpful in cooperating with others in the process of learning • Cognitive strategies that are used to link the new information to the present scene of things and for their analysis and classification • Memory strategies that are used to enter new information into the memory and later retrieving it as and when required • Compensation strategies which are gesture or guessing strategies that are effective in overcoming deficiencies or gaps in the language knowledge. Thus these are the effective second language acquisition strategies and these accompanied with the learning styles are the prerequisites of an influencing performance while learning a second language. The role and the effectiveness of these styles and strategies need more investigation, but one thing is very important at this stage and that is the usage of these strategies by teachers through appropriate teacher training. Teachers should be able to design instructions or preferences as per the requirements of individual students as this can help the students in improving their second language acquisition.

Second Language Acquisition: Swain’s Output Vs Krashen’s Input

1. Introduction: Input versus Output. A general overview

In order to assess how compatible Krashen’s and Swain’s views are, it is essential to first outline the basics of each view, that is, the main tenets of their hypotheses.

As part of his Monitor Model, Krashen (1981,1982, 1985) formulated the Input Hypothesis, which claims that language input (listening and reading comprehension) constitutes the main communicative process through which we acquire a second language. Krashen believes that fluency in speaking or writing in a second language will naturally come about after learners have built up sufficient competence through comprehending input. However, it is not just any kind of input that is appropriate or effective, or as Krashen puts it, not all input will produce intake. The term “intake” is closely linked to how affective factors affect second language acquisition (SLA from now on), and this is how this author refers to the amount of input that is effectively assimilated by the learner. In such direction, he stated that it was only “comprehensible input” which would be effective for SLA. Such input is the one which is only slightly above the current level of the learner’s competence, which he represented with the simple formula I + 1, where I = input. This input is made comprehensible because of the help provided by the context. Thus, if the learner receives understandable input, language structures will be naturally acquired, according to Krashen. Therefore, the ability to communicate in a second language will emerge as a consequence of comprehensible input. Moreover, as part of his Affective Filter Hypothesis, previously put forward by Dulay and Burt (1977), Krashen argues that learners are not to be forced to produce language, as this would bring about a considerable amount of anxiety, which would cause them to develop a high affective filter that would prevent them from acquiring the target language smoothly.

In opposition to Krashen’s Input Hypothesis lies the Output Hypothesis, issued by Swain (1985). In contrast to the former, Swain’s hypothesis proposes that it is through language production (written or spoken) that SLA may be more likely to occur. This is so because, as claimed by its author, it is during language production stages that learners realise what they know and what they don’t. This may happen when a learner is trying to convey a message but his or her linguistic knowledge of the second language is insufficient to do so. It is then that the learner realises that s/he ignores some useful language structures and/or words needed to express a desired message. This issue is what Swain refers to as the “gap” between what one can say and what one would like to be able to say. And it would be on realizing this gap, that learners are motivated towards modifying their output in order to learn something new about the target language. Besides, this hypothesis asserts that language production aids learners in four different ways (Swain, 1993). The first derives from the fact that language production provides opportunities for meaningful practice, allowing the development of automatic linguistic behaviours. The second is related to that which forces the learner to switch from semantic mental processes to syntactic ones. As Krashen (1982) suggested: “In many cases, we do not utilize syntax in understanding, we often get the message with a combination of vocabulary, or lexical information plus extra-linguistic information”. Whereas in an understanding process the use of syntax may not be essential, it is in the production stages that learners are forced to consider syntactic aspects of the target language.

The third way in which language production helps learners in acquiring a L2 is through testing hypotheses, since output provides students with the opportunity to test their own hypotheses, and withdraw their own conclusions. This third aspect is closely related to the fourth one, which deals with the responses of other speakers of the language, especially native ones, which can give learners information on how comprehensible or well-formed their utterances are.

It must be said that, despite all emphasis being laid on output, Swain admits that output is not solely responsible for SLA.

To sum up, where Krashen sees input hugely responsible for language acquisition, Swain considers output; where the latter claims language production to be of utter importance, the former regards it as not necessary, as something that should not be forced, since it will appear naturally after a certain amount of comprehensible input.

Before continuing with this article, it must be noted that no distinction between the terms “learning” and “acquisition” is being made, as most authors do not consider it amongst their theories of SLA.

2. Input and Output: rejecting or complementing each other?

In this section we will be looking at how the terms input and output have been dealt with by other authors, and whether these support either Krashen’s or Swain’s views of SLA, and in what ways they do so. We will also consider if these two concepts are opposites or simply two sides of the same coin.

Originated by the work of Chomsky (1957), the Generative Paradigm arose as a clear opposition to the structural approach to linguistics. And, although this paradigm did not deal with how languages were learned, it did however consider the term output within one of its main features, given the importance of the creative nature of language use within this paradigm. It is here where output is first remotely considered, as creativity calls for production and this may be understood as the very core of output. Moreover, according to Chomsky, creativity has to come hand in hand with compliance to rules, as any type of creation ought to take part within a framework governed by a set of rules. It is here where Swain’s hypothesis may receive support, since she believes that production leads learners to consider syntax as such, which can be considered as that set of rules which governs a particular communicative framework.

Moving now towards the field of SLA specifically, we find three different theories that aim at explaining how language is acquired, and these are the behaviourist, nativist and interactionist theories. We will focus firstly on behaviourist and nativist views.

As far as behaviourism is concerned, a language is learned by the creation of a series of habits which are acquired by imitation. Thus, we can find both input and output in this theory, since learners imitate (output) something that has previously been assimilated (input). As regards nativist theories, while learning a language, learners are constantly forming hypotheses based on the information received (input). However, they also test these hypotheses through speech (output) and comprehension (input).

So we can see how, within behaviourist theories, output is considered as imitation, which accounts for Swain’s argument related to the creation of automatic linguistic behaviours. From a nativist point of view, the Output Hypothesis is also backed, since it would be through speech that learners test what they know and what they don’t. In the same way, both behaviourist and nativist theories stand beside Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, as they both explicitly consider output to be a natural consequence of input. So it is at this point that we can see how these two seemingly opposite hypotheses start complementing rather than denying each other’s validity.

Insofar as interactionist theories are concerned, they regard the acquisition of a language as the result of the interaction between the learner’s mental process and the linguistic environment (Arzamendi, Palacios and Ball, 2012, p.39). It is here where we can also appreciate a combination of both input and output, working as one. Interactionist theories believe in interaction as the main reason of language acquisition. It is therefore a clear example of the validity of both input and output hypotheses.

The importance of interaction as the cause of language learning is supported by a study carried out by Pica, Young and Doughty (1987), which proved up to a certain point that Krashen’s comprehensible input was less effective than interaction, which implies not only input but also output.

In the same direction, Ellis (1985), defined an “optimal learning environment”, to which he bestowed several features related to output as well as input. He talked about the importance of exposure to a great deal of input, which comes hand in hand with Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, but he also stressed the significance of output. He does so by highlighting the need for learners to perceive L2 communication as something useful (meaningful communication, as Swain puts it). Besides, the opportunity for uninhibited practice in order to experiment is also stressed by this author. In this last statement we can see not only Swain’s view of output as a means of language hypothesis testing, but also Krashen’s importance of a low affective filter, since inhibition would clearly restrain a learner’s linguistic performance. In this way, not only Swain’s and Krashen’s hypothesis look more alike, but they start needing each other in order to exist flawlessly.

Within sociolinguistic models of SLA, input is clearly dealt with, especially within the Nativisation Model (Andersen, 1979). This model emphasises the importance of input and how learners internalise the L2 system. According to this model, learners interact with input in two ways, they adapt input to their view of the L2 and they adjust their internal linguistic system to suit that particular input, in order to acquire L2 form features. This theory clearly matches the importance Krashen gives to input as the means of acquiring a language.

If we move onto linguistic models of SLA, we will find that Hatch (1978) deals with the importance of both input and output in his Discourse Theory. Hatch places meaning negotiation at the core of his theory. In this way, input gains importance, as L2 advanced or native speakers adjust their speech when addressing an L2 learner. Thus, input becomes comprehensible for the learner, which is a key factor in Krashen’s hypothesis. However, this theory also states that the natural way of acquiring a language is a consequence of learning how to hold conversations. And it is in this sense that output becomes important too, since in order to engage in conversation, which involves language production, it is as essential as understanding. Also, and according to this SLA theory, the learner uses vertical structures to construct sentences, which implies borrowing chunks of language from preceding discourse to which s/he adds elements of his or her own. In this way, learners are experimenting and testing their hypotheses on the language, which is one of the ways in which output leads to SLA, according to Swain (1985, 1993).

And this is how we arrive at Swain’s Output Hypothesis, which is a linguistic model, and Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, which constitutes a cognitive model for SLA. Although the main tenets of one seem to reject those of the other, we have seen how, far from opposing, they complement each other.

3. Reconciling Krashen’s input and Swain’s output views

It is time now to tackle the main purpose of this assignment, reconciling Swain’s and Krashen’s views. In order to do so, we will see how both hypotheses are right but incomplete at the same time.

The Input Hypothesis claims that fluency in speaking or writing in the L2 will naturally emerge after learners have achieved sufficient competence through comprehensible input (Wang and Castro, 2010). However, the studies of Tanaka (1991) and Yamakazi (1991), in Wang and Castro (2010), reveal that although input facilitates greatly the acquisition of vocabulary in the target language, it does not cater for the acquisition of many syntactic structures. Therefore, comprehensible input is essential but not sufficient in achieving SLA. It is the Output Hypothesis that takes care of this flaw. According to Swain (1993), producing language would force learners to recognise what they do not know or know only partially, which she calls the “gap” between what learners can say and what they want to be able to say. In her opinion, when encountered with such gap, learners can react in three different ways. One would be to ignore it. Another to search in their own linguistic knowledge to find or construct the answer; and the last one is to identify what the gap is about and then pay attention to relevant input which may cater for this lack of knowledge. This third response establishes a relationship between input and output that benefits SLA. As a result of this, learners are more likely to enhance their input processing capability because their output has focused their attention on the need to do so. (Swain, 1993)

We can see now how Swain’s Output Hypothesis accepts input as an important part of SLA, whereas Krashen’s view is slightly more slanted. In his work Comprehensible Output (1998), in which he assesses the effectiveness of comprehensible output (CO), Krashen criticizes CO as a means of acquiring a L2. Amongst other issues or flaws in Swain’s hypothesis, he argues that being forced to speak, as part of CO, leads to discomfort, that is to say, to anxiety on the part of the learner. According to Young (1990) and Laughrin-Sacco (1992), in Krashen (1998), foreign language students find speaking to be the highest anxiety-causing activity. Moreover, he puts forward what Price (1991) stated, that not being able to communicate effectively leads to a great deal of frustration.

These two arguments clearly support Krashen’s Affective Filter Hypothesis. Anxiety and frustration may cause low motivation and little self-confidence, which may provoke high affective filters on the part of the student and, hence, little intake may take place.

Although Krashen has made a good point on how CO may have less advantages than it seems to, he also grants it a place in his Monitor Model, as part of his Monitor Hypothesis. According to Krashen (1985) the “monitor” is an internal editing device that may work before or after output taking place. In order to do so, the learner has to know the appropriate rules of speech. Despite the lack of supportive research evidence for this hypothesis, if we take Krashen word by word, we understand that we edit or correct what we utter before or after we do so. In this way, if we do it before, we are using inner knowledge in order to edit something we are about to produce; if we do it after, we are correcting a mistake, which is basically testing a hypothesis that has proven to be wrong. After doing so, we can re-arrange it in our head to correct it or simply focus our attention on the knowledge we need to acquire to be able to produce a hypothesis which turns out to be right. It is here where we see two of the advantages of output mentioned by Swain: testing a hypothesis and recognising what one does not know but needs to.

It is clear by now that both hypotheses are neither wrong nor complete. In any case, they can complement each other in order to produce a more integral hypothesis.

As a final conclusion, one might propose certain guidelines so as to put an end to this unsettling disagreement.

Firstly, a certain amount of comprehensible input is necessary before producing any kind of output whatsoever. This might be more important with young learners than with adults, since the latter have a better control over affective issues. Young learners however, apart from not having enough linguistic knowledge so as to reflect on their own output, they might become more anxious by being forced to speak, if it is not done in a careful way.

Secondly, the use of either input or output may vary according to the type of language acquisition we are trying to achieve. If the focus is on syntax, we shall use output strategies, which allow for a greater amount of reflection and self-correction. However, if we are working on vocabulary acquisition, an input approach will probably prove to be more effective.

Finally, learners ought to make use feedback that they can obtain from other speakers of the language, and this is achieved only through language production. Other speakers’ responses will provide learners with informative feedback on the comprehensibility and/or accuracy of their utterances. In a language learning environment, this feedback may come from the teacher or from other learners.

If we follow these guidelines, drawn from both Krashen’s and Swain’s arguments, the ability to produce the language will not only be the result of language acquisition, as the former argues, but also the cause, as Swain believes.

Second Language Acquisition – Displays the Opportunities Available to an Individual

The world is changing, altering from a globe of separated countries into a united citizenship of a global community. As a result of this melding of countries other aspects are beginning to develop with the global development of business, friendships and travel. As you can see in the various curriculum of the educational systems the importance of second language is growing. When a person attends high school it is common to require a minimum of two or more years of second language.

Traditionally those languages have been limited to the lessons of French, German and Spanish but as the global community expands the lessons of second language is expanding. When you reach the college level again it becomes required to incorporate more years of second language acquisition to qualify for any type of degree. The importance of it is displayed in the educational system and it is shocking how after four or more years of that most individuals leave the system with little to no understanding of what they learned.

It is a vital tool that every individual needs to have to survive in the new global atmosphere. In business the tool of is incredibly important in making sales to foreign markets. Not having the ability to speak to your clients directly can be harmful to your business opportunities when you disrespect your clients by utilizing translators rather than taking the time to learn their language.

Communication with clients is a vital tool in the pursuit of developing your business and the use of second language acquisition can help in sending your business message clearly to clients in the right tone and utilizing the proper technical language. The business applications found can help in your company expand and furthermore the skills can be useful to an individual planning to vacation outside their country.

When a person has an understanding of another cultures language they are opening themselves up to attaining an understanding of what their culture represents and the secrets that can be found in subtle features like architecture or historical treasures. More importantly though than utilizing it to enrich your vacation experience are the opportunities you have to keep you and your family safe. Remember that you are visiting a foreign country and the unfamiliar atmosphere is only further complicated when you cannot read the language or understand the citizens.

Second language acquisition displays many opportunities for an individual to utilize regardless of whether the skills are to be applied to business or pleasure. As individuals learn more about how people absorb the knowledge of second language acquisition the lessons utilized in teaching individuals have grown more simple and offer quicker results. The internet has become the most advanced form of education as individuals strapped for time do not have the time or patience to attend random language lessons from local educators.

Second Language Acquisition

Second language acquisition is the process by which people learn languages in addition to their native language(s). The term second language is used to describe any language whose acquisition starts after early childhood (including what may be the third or subsequent language learned). The language to be learned is often referred to as the “target language” or “L2”, compared to the first language, “L1”. Second language acquisition may be abbreviated “SLA”, or L2A, for “L2 acquisition”.

The term “language acquisition” became commonly used after Stephen Krashen contrasted it with formal and non-constructive “learning.” Today, most scholars use “language learning” and “language acquisition” interchangeably, unless they are directly addressing Krashen’s work. However, “second language acquisition” or “SLA” has become established as the preferred term for this academic discipline.

Though SLA is often viewed as part of applied linguistics, it is typically concerned with the language system and learning processes themselves, whereas applied linguistics may focus more on the experiences of the learner, particularly in the classroom. Additionally, SLA has mostly examined naturalistic acquisition, where learners acquire a language with little formal training or teaching.

Describing learner language

Through the descriptive study of learner language, SLA researchers seek to better understand language learning without recourse to factors outside learner language. Researchers may adopt an interlanguage perspective, exploring learner language as a linguistic system, or they may study how learner language compares to the target language. Research is centered on the question: What are the unique characteristics of learner language? Much of the research has focused on the English language as the L2, because of the huge number of people around the world learning and teaching it.

Error analysis

The field of error analysis in SLA was established in the 1970s by S. P. Corder and colleagues. A widely-available survey can be found in chapter 8 of Brown, 2000. Error analysis was an alternative to contrastive analysis, an approach influenced by behaviorism through which applied linguists sought to use the formal distinctions between the learners’ first and second languages to predict errors. Error analysis showed that contrastive analysis was unable to predict a great majority of errors, although its more valuable aspects have been incorporated into the study of language transfer. A key finding of error analysis has been that many learner errors are produced by learners making faulty inferences about the rules of the new language.

Error analysts distinguish between errors, which are systematic, and mistakes, which are not. They often seek to develop a typology of errors. Error can be classified according to basic type: omissive, additive, substitutive or related to word order. They can be classified by how apparent they are: overt errors such as “I angry” are obvious even out of context, whereas covert errors are evident only in context. Closely related to this is the classification according to domain, the breadth of context which the analyst must examine, and extent, the breadth of the utterance which must be changed in order to fix the error. Errors may also be classified according to the level of language: phonological errors, vocabulary or lexical errors, syntactic errors, and so on. They may be assessed according to the degree to which they interfere with communication: global errors make an utterance difficult to understand, while local errors do not. In the above example, “I angry” would be a local error, since the meaning is apparent.

From the beginning, error analysis was beset with methodological problems. In particular, the above typologies are problematic: from linguistic data alone, it is often impossible to reliably determine what kind of error a learner is making. Also, error analysis can deal effectively only with learner production (speaking and writing) and not with learner reception (listening and reading). Furthermore, it cannot control for learner use of communicative strategies such as avoidance, in which learners simply do not use a form with which they are uncomfortable. For these reasons, although error analysis is still used to investigate specific questions in SLA, the quest for an overarching theory of learner errors has largely been abandoned. In the mid-1970s, Corder and others moved on to a more wide-ranging approach to learner language, known as interlanguage.

Error analysis is closely related to the study of error treatment in language teaching. Today, the study of errors is particularly relevant for focus on form teaching methodology.


Interlanguage scholarship seeks to understand learner language on its own terms, as a natural language with its own consistent set of rules. Interlanguage scholars reject, at least for heuristic purposes, the view of learner language as merely an imperfect version of the target language. Interlanguage is perhaps best viewed as an attitude toward language acquisition, and not a distinct discipline. By the same token, interlanguage work is a vibrant microcosm of linguistics. It is possible to apply an interlanguage perspective to learners’ knowledge of L2 sound systems (interlanguage phonology), and language-use norms found among learners (interlanguage pragmatics).

By describing the ways in which learner language conforms to universal linguistic norms, interlanguage research has contributed greatly to our understanding of linguistic universals in SLA. See below, under “linguistic universals”.

Developmental patterns

Ellis (1994) distinguished between “order” to refer to the pattern in which different language features are acquired and “sequence” to denote the pattern by which a specific language feature is acquired.

Order of acquisition

Researchers have found a very consistent order in the acquisition of first language structures by children, and this has drawn a great deal of interest from SLA scholars. Considerable effort has been devoted to testing the “identity hypothesis,” which asserts that first-language and second-language acquisition conform to the same patterns. This has not been confirmed, probably because second-language learners’ cognitive and affective states are so much more advanced. However, orders of acquisition in SLA do often resemble those found in first language acquisition, and may have common neurological causes.

Most learners begin their acquisition process with a “silent period,” in which they speak very little if at all. For some this is a period of language shock, in which the learner actively rejects the incomprehensible input of the new language. However, research has shown that many “silent” learners are engaging in private speech (sometimes called “self-talk”). While appearing silent, they are rehearsing important survival phrases and lexical chunks. These memorized phrases are then employed in the subsequent period of formulaic speech. Whether by choice or compulsion, other learners have no silent period and pass directly to formulaic speech. This speech, in which a handful of routines are used to accomplish basic purposes, often shows few departures from L2 morphosyntax. It eventually gives way to a more experimental phase of acquisition, in which the semantics and grammar of the target language are simplified and the learners begin to construct a true interlanguage.

The nature of the transition between formulaic and simplified speech is disputed. Some, including Krashen, have argued that there is no cognitive relationship between the two, and that the transition is abrupt. Thinkers influenced by recent theories of the lexicon have preferred to view even native speaker speech as heavily formulaic, and interpret the transition as a process of gradually developing a broader repertoire of chunks and a deeper understanding of the rules which govern them. Some studies have supported both views, and it is likely that the relationship depends in great part on the learning styles of individual learners.

A flurry of studies took place in the 1970s, examining whether a consistent order of morpheme acquisition could be shown. Most of these studies did show fairly consistent orders of acquisition for selected morphemes. For example, among learners of English the cluster of features including the suffix “-ing,” the plural, and the copula were found to consistently precede others such as the article, auxiliary, and third person singular. However, these studies were widely criticized as not paying sufficient attention to overuse of the features (idiosyncratic uses outside what are obligatory contexts in the L2), and sporadic but inconsistent use of the features. More recent scholarship prefers to view the acquisition of each linguistic feature as a gradual and complex process. For that reason most scholarship since the 1980s has focused on the sequence, rather than the order, of feature acquisition.

Sequence of acquisition

A number of studies have looked into the sequence of acquisition of pronouns by learners of various Indo-European languages. These are reviewed by Ellis (1994), pp. 96-99. They show that learners begin by omitting pronouns or using them indiscriminately: for example, using “I” to refer to all agents. Learners then acquire a single pronoun feature, often person, followed by number and eventually by gender. Little evidence of interference from the learner’s first language has been found; it appears that learners use pronouns based entirely on their inferences about target language structure.

Studies on the acquisition of word order in German have shown that most learners begin with a word order based on their native language. This indicates that certain aspects of interlanguage syntax are influenced by the learners’ first language, although others are not.

Research on the sequence of acquisition of words is exhaustively reviewed by Nation (2001). Kasper and Rose (2002) have thoroughly researched the sequence of acquisition of pragmatic features. In both fields, consistent patterns have emerged and have been the object of considerable theorizing.


Valid though the interlanguage perspective may be, which views learner language as a language in its own right, this language varies much more than native-speaker language, in an apparently chaotic way. A learner may exhibit very smooth, grammatical language in one context and uninterpretable gibberish in another. Scholars from different traditions have taken opposing views on the importance of this phenomenon. Those who bring a Chomskyan perspective to SLA typically regard variability as nothing more than “performance errors,” and not worthy of systematic inquiry. On the other hand, those who approach it from a sociolinguistic or psycholinguistic orientation view variability as a key indicator of how the situation affects learners’ language use. Naturally, most research on variability has been done by those who presume it to be meaningful.

Research on variability in learner language distinguishes between “free variation,” which takes place even within the same situation, and “systematic variation,” which correlates with situational changes. Of course, the line between the two is often subject to dispute.

Free variation, variation without any determinable pattern, is itself highly variable from one learner to another. To some extent it may indicate different learning styles and communicative strategies. Learners that favor high-risk communicative strategies and have an other-directed cognitive style are more likely to show substantial free variation, as they experiment freely with different forms.

Free variation in the use of a language feature is usually taken as a sign that it has not been fully acquired. The learner is still trying to figure out what rules govern the use of alternate forms. This type of variability seems to be most common among beginning learners, and may be entirely absent among the more advanced.

Systematic variation is brought about by changes in the linguistic, psychological, social context. Linguistic factors are usually extremely local. For instance, the pronunciation of a difficult phoneme may depend on whether it is to be found at the beginning or end of a syllable.

Social factors may include a change in register or the familiarity of interlocutors. In accordance with communication accommodation theory, learners may adapt their speech to either converge with, or diverge from, their interlocutor’s usage.

The most important psychological factor is usually taken to be planning time. As numerous studies have shown, the more time that learners have to plan, the more regular and complex their production is likely to be. Thus, learners may produce much more target-like forms in a writing task for which they have 30 minutes to plan, than in conversation where they must produce language with almost no planning at all.

Affective factors also play an important role in systematic variation. For example, learners in a stressful situation (such as a formal exam) may exhibit much less target-like forms than they would in a comfortable setting. This clearly interacts with social factors, and attitudes toward the interlocutor and topic also play important roles.

Learner-external factors

The study of learner-external factors in SLA is primarily concerned with the question: How do learners get information about the target language? Study has focused on the effects of different kinds of input, and on the impact of the social context.

Social effects

The process of language learning can be very stressful, and the impact of positive or negative attitudes from the surrounding society can be critical. One aspect that has received particular attention is the relationship of gender roles to language achievement. Studies across numerous cultures have shown that women, on the whole, enjoy an advantage over men. Some have proposed that this is linked to gender roles. Doman (2006) notes in a journal devoted to issues of Cultural affects on SLA, “Questions abound about what defines SLA, how far its borders extend, and what the attributions and contributions of its research are. Thus, there is a great amount of heterogeneity in the entire conceptualization of SLA. Some researchers tend to ignore certain aspects of the field, while others scrutinize those same aspects piece by piece.”

Community attitudes toward the language being learned can also have a profound impact on SLA. Where the community has a broadly negative view of the target language and its speakers, or a negative view of its relation to them, learning is typically much more difficult. This finding has been confirmed by research in numerous contexts. A widely-cited example is the difficulty faced by Navajo children in learning English as a second language.

Other common social factors include the attitude of parents toward language study, and the nature of group dynamics in the language classroom.

Early attitudes may strengthen motivation and facility with language in general, particularly with early exposure to the language

Input and intake

Learners’ most direct source of information about the target language is the target language itself. When they come into direct contact with the target language, this is referred to as “input.” When learners process that language in a way that can contribute to learning, this is referred to as “intake.”

Generally speaking, the amount of input learners take in is one of the most important factors affecting their learning. However, it must be at a level that is comprehensible to them. In his Monitor Theory, Krashen advanced the concept that language input should be at the “L+1” level, just beyond what the learner can fully understand; this input is comprehensible, but contains structures that are not yet fully understood. This has been criticized on the basis that there is no clear definition of L+1, and that factors other than structural difficulty (such as interest or presentation) can affect whether input is actually turned into intake. The concept has been quantified, however, in vocabulary acquisition research; Nation (2001) reviews various studies which indicate that about 98% of the words in running text should be previously known in order for extensive reading to be effective.

A great deal of research has taken place on input enhancement, the ways in which input may be altered so as to direct learners’ attention to linguistically important areas. Input enhancement might include bold-faced vocabulary words or marginal glosses in a reading text. Research here is closely linked to research on pedagogical effects, and comparably diverse.


Long’s interaction hypothesis proposes that language acquisition is strongly facilitated by the use of the target language in interaction. In particular, the negotiation of meaning has been shown to contribute greatly to the acquisition of vocabulary (Long, 1990). In a review of the substantial literature on this topic, Nation (2000) relates the value of negotiation to the generative use of words: the use of words in new contexts which stimulate a deeper understanding of their meaning.

In the 1980s, Canadian SLA researcher Merrill Swain advanced the output hypothesis, that meaningful output is as necessary to language learning as meaningful input. However, most studies have shown little if any correlation between learning and quantity of output. Today, most scholars contend that small amounts of meaningful output are important to language learning, but primarily because the experience of producing language leads to more effective processing of input.

Pedagogical effects

The study of the effects of teaching on second language acquisition seeks to systematically measure or evaluate the effectiveness of language teaching practices. Such studies have been undertaken for every level of language, from phonetics to pragmatics, and for almost every current teaching methodology. It is therefore impossible to summarize their findings here. However, some more general issues have been addressed.

Research has indicated that many traditional language-teaching techniques are extremely inefficient. However, today a broad consensus of SLA scholars acknowledge that formal instruction can help in language learning.

Another important issue is the effectiveness of explicit teaching: can language teaching have a constructive effect beyond providing learners with enhanced input? Because explicit instruction must usually take place in the learner’s first language, many have argued that it simply starves learners of input and opportunities for practice. Research on this at different levels of language has produced quite different results. Most notably, pronunciation does not show any significant response to explicit teaching. Other traditional areas of explicit teaching, such as grammar and vocabulary, have had decidedly mixed results. The positive effect of explicit instruction at this level seems to be limited to helping students notice important aspects of input. Interestingly, the higher-level aspects of language such as sociopragmatic and discourse competence have shown the most consistently strong effects from explicit instruction. Research has also shown a distinct effect of age on the effectiveness of explicit instruction: the younger learners are, the less benefit they show.

However, research has again and again shown that early exposure to a second language increases a child’s capacity to learn language, even their first language.

Learner-internal factors

The study of learner-internal factors in SLA is primarily concerned with the question: How do learners gain competence in the target language? In other words, given effective input and instruction, with what internal resources do learners process this input to produce a rule-governed interlanguage?

The critical period research to date

Main article: Critical Period Hypothesis

How children acquire native language (L1) and the relevance of this to foreign language (L2) learning has long been debated. Although evidence for L2 learning ability declining with age is controversial, a common notion is that children learn L2s easily, whilst older learners rarely achieve fluency. This assumption stems from ‘critical period’ (CP) ideas. A CP was popularised by Eric Lenneberg in 1967 for L1 acquisition, but considerable interest now surrounds age effects on second language acquisition (SLA). SLA theories explain learning processes and suggest causal factors for a possible CP for SLA, mainly attempting to explain apparent differences in language aptitudes of children and adults by distinct learning routes, and clarifying them through psychological mechanisms. Research explores these ideas and hypotheses, but results are varied: some demonstrate pre-pubescent children acquire language easily, and some that older learners have the advantage, whilst others focus on existence of a CP for SLA. Recent studies (e.g. Mayberry and Lock, 2003) have recognised certain aspects of SLA may be affected by age, whilst others remain intact. The objective of this study is to investigate whether capacity for vocabulary acquisition decreases with age.

A review of SLA theories and their explanations for age-related differences is necessary before considering empirical studies. The most reductionist theories are those of Penfield and Roberts (1959) and Lenneberg (1967), which stem from L1 and brain damage studies; children who suffer impairment before puberty typically recover and (re-)develop normal language, whereas adults rarely recover fully, and often do not regain verbal abilities beyond the point reached five months after impairment. Both theories agree that children have a neurological advantage in learning languages, and that puberty correlates with a turning point in ability. They assert that language acquisition occurs primarily, possibly exclusively, during childhood as the brain loses plasticity after a certain age. It then becomes rigid and fixed, and loses the ability for adaptation and reorganisation, rendering language (re-)learning difficult.

Cases of deaf and feral children provide evidence for a biologically determined CP for L1. Feral children are those not exposed to language in infancy/childhood due to being brought up in the wild, in isolation and/or confinement. A classic example is ‘Genie’, who was deprived of social interaction from birth until discovered aged thirteen (post-pubescent).

Such studies are however problematic; isolation can result in general retardation and emotional disturbances, which may confound conclusions drawn about language abilities. Studies of deaf children learning American Sign Language (ASL) have fewer methodological weaknesses. Newport and Supalla (1987) studied ASL acquisition in deaf children differing in age of exposure; few were exposed to ASL from birth, most of them first learned it at school.

Results showed a linear decline in performance with increasing age of exposure; those exposed to ASL from birth performed best, and ‘late learners’ worst, on all production and comprehension tests. Their study thus provides direct evidence for language learning ability decreasing with age, but it does not add to Lennerberg’s CP hypothesis as even the oldest children, the ‘late learners’, were exposed to ASL by age four, and had therefore not reached puberty, the proposed end of the CP.

Other work has challenged the biological approach; Krashen (1975) reanalysed clinical data used as evidence and concluded cerebral specialisation occurs much earlier than Lenneberg calculated. Therefore, if a CP exists, it does not coincide with lateralisation.

Although it does not describe an optimal age for SLA, the theory implies that younger children can learn languages more easily than older learners, as adults must reactivate principles developed during L1 learning and forge an SLA path: children can learn several languages simultaneously as long as the principles are still active and they are exposed to sufficient language samples (Pinker, 1995).

There are, however, problems with the extrapolation of the UG theory to SLA: L2 learners go through several phases of types of utterance that are not similar to their L1 or the L2 they hear. Other factors include the cognitive maturity of most L2 learners, that they have different motivation for learning the language, and already speak one language fluently.

Other directions of research

Empirical research has attempted to account for variables detailed by SLA theories and provide an insight into L2 learning processes, which can be applied in educational environments. Recent SLA investigations have followed two main directions: one focuses on pairings of L1 and L2 that render L2 acquisition particularly difficult, and the other investigates certain aspects of language that may be maturationally constrained. Flege, Mackay and Piske (2002) looked at bilingual dominance to evaluate two explanations of L2 performance differences between bilinguals and monolingual-L2 speakers, i.e. a maturationally defined CP or interlingual interference.

Flege, Mackay and Piske investigated whether the age at which participants learned English affected dominance in Italian-English bilinguals, and found the early bilinguals were English (L2) dominant and the late bilinguals Italian (L1) dominant. Further analysis showed that dominant Italian bilinguals had detectable foreign accents when speaking English, but early bilinguals (English dominant) had no accents in either language. This suggests that, whilst interlingual interference effects are not inevitable, their emergence, and bilingual dominance, may be related to a CP.

Sebastián-Gallés, Echeverría and Bosch (2005) also studied bilinguals and highlight the importance of early language exposure. They looked at vocabulary processing and representation in Spanish-Catalan bilinguals exposed to both languages simultaneously from birth in comparison to those who had learned L2 later and were either Spanish- or Catalan-dominant. Findings showed ‘from birth bilinguals’ had significantly more difficulty distinguishing Catalan words from non-words differing in specific vowels than Catalan-dominants did (measured by reaction time).

These difficulties are attributed to a phase around age eight months where bilingual infants are insensitive to vowel contrasts, despite the language they hear most. This affects how words are later represented in their lexicons, highlighting this as a decisive period in language acquisition and showing that initial language exposure shapes linguistic processing for life. Sebastián-Gallés et al (2005) also indicate the significance of phonology for L2 learning; they believe learning an L2 once the L1 phonology is already internalised can reduce individuals’ abilities to distinguish new sounds that appear in the L2.

Most studies into age effects on specific aspects of SLA have focused on grammar, with the common conclusion that it is highly constrained by age, more so than semantic functioning. B. Harley (1986) compared attainment of French learners in early and late immersion programs. She reports that after 1000 exposure hours, late learners had better control of French verb systems and syntax. However, comparing early immersion students (average age 6.917 years) with age-matched native speakers identified common problem areas, including third person plurals and polite ‘vous’ forms. This suggests grammar (in L1 or L2) is generally acquired later, possibly because it requires abstract cognition and reasoning (B. Harley, 1986).

B. Harley also measured eventual attainment and found the two age groups made similar mistakes in syntax and lexical selection, often confusing French with the L1. The general conclusion from these investigations is that different aged learners acquire the various aspects of language with varying difficulty. Some variation in grammatical performance is attributed to maturation (discussed in B. Harley, 1986), however, all participants began immersion programs before puberty and so were too young for a strong critical period hypothesis to be directly tested.

Mayberry and Lock (2003) questioned whether age restrains both L1 and L2 acquisition. They examined grammatical abilities of deaf and hearing adults who had their initial linguistic exposure either in early childhood or later. They found that, on L2 grammatical tasks, those who had acquired the verbal or signed L1 early in life showed near-native performance and those who had no early L1 experience (i.e. born deaf and parents did not know sign-language) performed weakly. Mayberry and Lock concluded early L1 exposure is vital for forming life-long learning abilities, regardless of the nature of the exposure (verbal or signed language). This corresponds to Chomsky’s UG theory, which states that whilst language acquisition principles are still active, it is easy to learn a language, and the principles developed through L1 acquisition are vital for learning an L2.

Scherag, Demuth, Rösler, Neville and Röder (2004) also suggest learning some syntactic processing functions and lexical access may be limited by maturation, whereas semantic functions are relatively unaffected by age. They studied the effect of late SLA on speech comprehension by German immigrants to the U.S.A. and American immigrants to Germany. They found that native-English speakers who learned German as adults were disadvantaged on certain grammatical tasks whilst performing at near-native levels on lexical tasks. These findings are consistent with work by Hahne (2001, cited in Scherag et al, 2004).

One study that specifically mentions semantic functions acquisition is that of Weber-Fox and Neville (1996). Their results showed that Chinese-English bilinguals who had been exposed to English after puberty, learned vocabulary to a higher competence level than syntactic aspects of language. They do, however, report that the judgment accuracies in detecting semantic anomalies were altered in subjects who were exposed to English after sixteen years of age, but were affected to a lesser degree than were grammatical aspects of language. It has been speculated (Neville and Bavelier, 2001, and Scherag et al, 2004) that semantic aspects of language are founded on associative learning mechanisms, which allow life-long learning, whereas syntactical aspects are based on computational mechanisms, which can only be constructed during certain age periods. Consequently, it is reasoned, semantic functions are easier to access during comprehension of an L2 and therefore dominate the process: if these are ambiguous, understanding of syntactic information is not facilitated. These suppositions would help explain the results of Scherag et al’s (2004) study.

Some researchers have focused exclusively on practical applications of SLA research. Asher (1972) insists teenagers and adults rarely successfully learn an L2, and attributes this to teaching strategies. He presents an L2 teaching strategy based on infants’ L1 acquisition, which promotes listening as central in language learning: listening precedes, and generates a ‘readiness’ for, speaking, assumptions supported by Carroll (1960). Asher shows that in L2 acquisition, in this case German, listening fluency is achieved in around half the usual time if the teaching is based on L1 acquisition, and that learners taught in this way still develop reading and writing proficiency comparable with those whose training emphasises literacy skills.

Similarly Horwitz (1986) summarises findings of SLA research, and applies to L2 teaching some principles of L2 acquisition honed from a vast body of relevant literature. Like Asher, Horwitz highlights the importance of naturalistic experience in L2, promoting listening and reading practice and stressing involvement in life-like conversations. She explicitly suggests teaching practices based on these principles; ‘[m]uch class time should be devoted to the development of listening and reading abilities’, and ‘[t]eachers should assess student interests and supply appropriate…materials’ (Horwitz, 1986, p.685-686). The ‘audio-lingual’ teaching practices used in the present study are based on principles explicated by Asher and Horwitz; listening featured heavily, closely followed by reading and speaking practice. The vocabulary items taught were deemed relevant for all learners, regardless of age, and, according to Pfeffer (1964), they are among the most commonly used nouns in everyday German language.

Cognitive approaches

A great deal of research and speculation has taken place on the cognitive processes underlying SLA. Ellen Bialystok has modelled the process of acquisition in terms of gaining increasing attentional control over language use. In other words, as the processes of word selection and utterance construction become increasingly automatic, learners’ language ability also improves.

Language transfer

Main article: Language transfer

Language transfer typically refers to the learner’s trying to apply rules and forms of the first language into the second language. The term can also include the transfer of features from one additional language to another (such as from a second to a third language), although this is less common.

Contrastive analysis, discussed above, sought to predict all learner errors based on language transfer. As subsequent research in error analysis and interlanguage structure showed, this project was flawed: most errors are not due to transfer, but to faulty inferences about the rules of the target language.

Transfer is an important factor in language learning at all levels. Typically learners begin by transferring sounds (phonetic transfer) and meanings (semantic transfer), as well as various rules including word order and pragmatics. As learners progress and gain more experience with the target language, the role of transfer typically diminishes.

In the UG-based framework (see Linguistic universals below), “language transfer” specifically refers to the linguistic parameter settings defined by the language universal. Thus, “language transfer” is defined as the initial state of second language acquisition rather than its developmental stage.

Linguistic universals

Research on universal grammar (UG) has had a significant effect on SLA theory. In particular, scholarship in the interlanguage tradition has sought to show that learner languages conform to UG at all stages of development. A number of studies have supported this claim, although the evolving state of UG theory makes any firm conclusions difficult.

A key question about the relationship of UG and SLA is: is the language acquisition device posited by Chomsky and his followers still accessible to learners of a second language? Research suggests that it becomes inaccessible at a certain age (see Critical Period Hypothesis), and learners increasingly depended on explicit teaching (see pedagogical effects above, and age below). In other words, although all of language is governed by UG, older learners might have great difficulty in gaining access to the target language’s underlying rules from positive input alone.

Individual variation

Research on variation between individual learners seeks to address the question: Why do some learners do better than others? A flurry of studies in the 1970s, often labelled the “good language learner studies,” sought to identify the distinctive factors of successful learners. Although those studies are now widely regarded as simplistic, they did serve to identify a number of factors affecting language acquisition. More detailed research on many of these specific factors continues today.

Language aptitude

Tests of language aptitude have proven extremely effective in predicting which learners will be successful in learning. However, considerable controversy remains about whether language aptitude is properly regarded as a unitary concept, an organic property of the brain, or as a complex of factors including motivation and short-term memory. Research has generally shown that language aptitude is quite distinct from general aptitude or intelligence, as measured by various tests, and is itself fairly consistently measurable by different tests.

Language aptitude research is often criticized for being irrelevant to the problems of language learners, who must attempt to learn a language regardless of whether they are gifted for the task or not. This claim is reinforced by research findings that aptitude is largely unchangeable. In addition, traditional language aptitude measures such as the Modern Language Aptitude Test strongly favor decontextualized knowledge of the sort used in taking tests, rather than the sort used in conversation. For this reason little research is carried out on aptitude today. However, operators of selective language programs such as the United States Defense Language Institute continue to use language aptitude testing as part of applicant screening.


Main article: Critical Period Hypothesis

It is commonly believed that children are better suited to learn a second language than are adults. However, in general second language research has failed to support the Critical Period Hypothesis in its strong form, which argues that full language acquisition is impossible beyond a certain age.

Strategy use

The effective use of strategies has been shown to be critical to successful language learning, so much so that Canale and Swain (1980) included “strategic competence” among the four components of communicative competence. Research here has also shown significant pedagogical effects. This has given rise to “strategies-based instruction.”

Strategies are commonly divided into learning strategies and communicative strategies, although there are other ways of categorizing them. Learning strategies are techniques used to improve learning, such as mnemonics or using a dictionary. Learners (and native speakers) use communicative strategies to get meaning across even when they lack access to the correct language: for example, by using pro-forms like “thing”, or non-linguistic means such as mime. Communicative strategies may not have any direct bearing on learning, and some strategies such as avoidance (not using a form with which one is uncomfortable) may actually hinder learning.

Learners from different cultures use strategies in different ways, as a research tradition led by Rebecca Oxford has demonstrated. Related to this are differences in strategy use between male and female learners. Numerous studies have shown that female learners typically use strategies more widely and intensively than males; this may be related to the statistical advantage which female learners enjoy in language learning.

[edit] Affective factors

Affective factors relate to the learner’s emotional state and attitude toward the target language. Research on affect in language learning is still strongly influenced by Bloom’s taxonomy, which describes the affective levels of receiving, responding, valuing, organization, and self-characterization through one’s value system. It has also been informed in recent years by research in neurobiology and neurolinguistics.

Affective Filter Furthermore, researchers believe that language learners all possess an affective filter which affect language acquistion. If a student possesses a high filter they are less likely to engage in language learning because of shyness, concern for grammar or other factors. Students possessing a lower affective filter will be more likely to engage in learning because they are less likely to be impeded by other factors. The affective filter is an important component of second language learning.


Although some continue to propose that a low level of anxiety may be helpful, studies have almost unanimously shown that anxiety damages students’ prospects for successful learning. Anxiety is often related to a sense of threat to the learner’s ego in the learning situation, for example if a learner fears being ridiculed for a mistake.

Socio-Cultural Factors

Second language acquisition is defined as the learning and adopting of a language that is not your native language. Once you have acquired a foreign language, you have mastered that language.

Second language acquisition may be more difficult for some people due to certain social factors. One highly studied social factor impeding language development is the issue of extraverts versus introverts.

Studies have shown that extraverts (or unreserved and outgoing people) acquire a second language better than introverts (or shy people).

One particular study done by Naiman reflected this point. The subjects were 72 Canadian high school students from grades 8, 10 and 12 who were studying French as a second language.

Naiman gave them all questionnaires to establish their psychological profiles, which also included a French listening test and imitation test. He found that approximately 70% of the students with the higher grades (B or higher) would consider themselves extraverts.

Extraverts will be willing to try to communicate even if they are not sure they will succeed. Two scientists, Kinginger and Farrell, conducted interviews with U.S. students after their study abroad program in France in 2003. They found that many of the students would avoid interaction with the native speakers at all costs, while others jumped at the opportunity to speak the language. Those who avoided interaction were typically quiet, reserved people, (or introverts).

Logically, fear will cause students not to try and advance their skills, especially when they feel they are under pressure. Just the lack of practice will make introverts less likely to fully acquire the second language.


Main article: Motivation in second language learning

The role of motivation in SLA has been the subject of extensive scholarship, closely influenced by work in motivational psychology. Motivation is internally complex, and Dörnyei (2001, p. 1) begins his work by stating that “strictly speaking, there is no such thing as motivation.” There are many different kinds of motivation; these are often divided into types such as integrative or instrumental, intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to the desire to do something for an internal reward. Most studies have shown it to be substantially more effective in long-term language learning than extrinsic motivation, for an external reward such as high grades or praise. Integrative and instrumental orientations refer to the degree that a language is learned “for its own sake” (integratively) or for instrumental purposes. Studies have not consistently shown either form of motivation to be more effective than the other, and the role of each is probably conditioned by various personality and cultural factors.

Some research has shown that motivation correlates strongly with proficiency, indicating both that successful learners are motivated and that success improves motivation. Thus motivation is not fixed, but is strongly affected by feedback from the environment. Accordingly, the study of motivation in SLA has also examined many of the external factors discussed above, such as the effect of instructional techniques on motivation. An accessible summary of this research can be found in Dörnyei (2001).

In their research on Willingness to communicate, MacIntyre et al (1998) have shown that motivation is not the final construct before learners engage in communication. In fact, learners may be highly motivated yet remain unwilling to communicate.

Concepts of ability

Numerous notions have been used to describe learners’ ability in the target language. The first such influential concept was the competence-performance distinction introduced by Chomsky. This distinguishes competence, a person’s idealized knowledge of language rules, from performance, the imperfect realization of these rules. Thus, a person may be interrupted and not finish a sentence, but still know how to make a complete sentence. Although this distinction has become fundamental to most work in linguistics today, it has not proven adequate by itself to describe the complex nature of learners’ developing ability.

The notion of communicative competence was first raised by Dell Hymes in 1967, reacting against the perceived inadequacy of Chomsky’s distinction between linguistic competence, and has proven extremely popular in SLA research. It broadens the notion of the kind of rules that competence can include. Whereas Chomsky treated competence as primarily grammatical, communicative competence embraces all of the forms of knowledge that learners must have in order to communicate effectively.

A closely related concept is proficiency. Proficiency is usually distinguished from competence, which refers to knowledge: “proficiency refers to the learner’s ability to use this knowledge in different tasks” (Ellis, 1994, p. 720). Because any test of competence is a task of some sort, it may be argued that all measures of competence are in effect measuring some form of proficiency.

Both proficiency and competence are internally complex; they do not reflect a single attribute, but many different forms of knowledge in complex interrelationship. Research, such as much of that discussed here, requires some unitary concept of ability, but it has been clearly shown that different aspects of language ability progress at vary different rates. For example, Kasper and Rose (2002) review numerous studies of the complex relationship between grammatical and pragmatic proficiency. The measurement of language ability, although necessary for both research and teaching, is inevitably problematic.

The main theories in Second Language Acquisition (SLA)

1. Introduction
2. What is SLA and what accounts for the language produced by learners?
3. The main theories in SLA .
3.1. Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis(CA)
3.2. Error Analysis(EA) and Interlanguage(IL)
3.2.1 Error Analysis (EA)
3.2.2 Interlanguage (IL)
3.3. The Monitor Model
3.4. Universal Grammar (UG)
3.5. Socio-linguistic theories
4. Conclusion

1. Introduction
The language produced by learners learning a second language is extremely varied. It can range from one learner to another in regard to many factors. These variations can be accounted for by a number of ideas including: first language (L1) interface, age differences, motivation, self-confidence, aptitude, anxiety, gender and social distance. In this essay I will define SLA and then outline five of the main linguistic theories. These outlines will form the basis for my analysis of the differences in language that are produced by learners. Finally, I will consider what level of impact these theories have and how they can account for these differences and, the many difficulties and successes that learners have on their way to learning a second language.

2. What is SLA and what accounts for the language produced by learners?

Saville-Troike (2006: 2) defines SLA as not just the learning of a subsequent language to that learnt in childhood but also the study of the processes involved and of those who are learning it. The language produced by learners changes as they learn the language and that language can differ from one student to another, even if they have the same L1. The following theories provide an insight into how and why this language may vary. Some are backed up by empirical data, others are not, but all have their strengths and weaknesses and they all have supporters and critics.

3. The main theories in SLA

3.1. Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH)

In terms of the principles of CAH, Gass and Selinker (1994: 59) state that it is “a way of comparing languages in order to determine potential errors for the ultimate purpose of isolating what needs to be learned and what does not need to be learned in a second language learning situation”.Saville-Troike (2006: 34-35) explain that it focuses on the differences and similarities between the L1 and the Second Language (L2). This means that the similarities and differences between L1 and L2 play a crucial role in learners’ production.

Saville-Troike (2006: 35) also points out that there will be a transfer of elements acquired in the L1 to the target L2. This transfer is considered positive if the same structure exists in both languages and the transfer results in the correct production of language in the L2. However, it can also be negative if a language structure from the L1 does not exist in the L2 but the structure is transferred leading to the production of incorrect language. Arab students often omit the verb to be. For example, this book mine for this book is mine since both of them have the same meaning in Arabic /هذا الكتابُ لي /həðəlkɪtəbʊlɪ/. This kind of error might be made since the verb to be is rarely used in the present tense in Arabic. Because of this, Arab students may apply the Arabic rule to English. On the other hand, Arabic and English share the same idea regarding the position of object pronouns. The object pronouns are placed after the verb in English and Arabic. In contrast, with French, they occur before the verb.

Mitchell and Myles (1998: 30) say that the predictions of CAH, that all the errors made in learning the L2 are due to interface from L1, were shown to be unfounded. They claim that many studies and research explain convincingly that the majority of errors could not be attributed to the L1. In other words, CAH might not predict learning difficulties, and was only useful in the retrospective explanation of errors. This point considerably weakened its appeal. However, the heightened interest in this area did lead to the origin of Error Analysis.

3.2. Error Analysis (EA) and Interlanguage (IL)

3.2.1 Error Analysis (EA)

Mitchell and Myles (2004: 29-30) consider this approach to be influenced by behaviorism through the use of fundamental distinctions between the learners’ first and second languages to predict errors, adding that EA showed that CA was not able to predict most errors. They claim that the differences between L1 and L2 are not necessarily difficult, citing as an example the difference between English and French in terms of unstressed object pronouns. These cause a problem for English speakers learning French, but not for French speakers learning English. Saville-Troike (2006: 39-40) observes that EA distinguishes between systematic errors, which are due to a lack of L2 knowledge and mistakes, which are made when the knowledge has been processed. She highlights some of EAs shortcomings including:

1. Some people do not make errors because of L1 interface.

2. Focusing only on errors does not provide information regarding what the learner has acquired.

3. Learners may not produce errors because they avoid difficult structures. For example, Arab students avoid using models auxiliaries since they have difficulties in understanding their role in each sentence. They may use I want…, I need …., instead of could I have, I would like ……..?

Overall, EA is not good at accounting for variability in SLA data.

3.2.2 Interlanguage (IL)

Saville-Troike (2006: 40-41) states that the term IL was introduced by Selinker in 1972, “to refer to the intermediate states (or interim grammars) of a learner’s language as it moves toward the target L2”.

Ellis (1997: 19) hypothesises that the nature of variability changes during the process of L2 development in the stages below:

1. One form for multi-functions e.g., I live in Manchester, last year I live in London, next year I live in Amman.

2. Some forms have been acquired e.g. I live in Manchester, last year I lived in London, next year I lived in Amman.

3. The various forms start to be used systematically. Here the student may write the forms correctly but still use the incorrect forms when speaking.

4. The student uses the forms correctly and consistently.

3.3. The Monitor Model Theory

Mitchell and Myles (1998: 35) point out Krashen’s theory was based on five hypotheses which are:

1. Acquisition – Learning hypothesis

Gass and Selinker (1994:144) refer to Krashen’s assertion that ‘acquisition’ and ‘learning’ are separate knowledge, and that language acquisition is a subconscious process. The acquirers of language are not consciously aware of the grammatical rules of the language, but they rather develop a kind of correctness. This is certainly the case for young children learning their L1. On the other hand, language learning refers to the conscious knowledge of L2. The learners know the rules, they are aware of them, and are able to talk about them.

Gass and Selinker (1994: 148) criticise this hypothesis. They claim that it does not show evidence of the distinction between acquisition and learning as two separate systems. However, Krashen said that many can produce language fluently without having been taught any rules and there are many that know the rules but are unable to apply them whilst speaking (Lightbown and Spader 1999: 38).

Monitor Hypothesis

Krashen’s hypothesis states that what learners learn is available as a monitor (Saville-Troike (2006: 45). Learners will make changes and edit what they are going to produce. The language that learners have consciously learnt works as an editor in situations where they have sufficient time to edit, are focused on form and know the rule (Gass and Selinker 1994: 145-146). This conscious editor is called the Monitor.

There are variations in use of the monitor that affect the language that learners produce. Acquired language skills can lead to improved fluency but overuse of the monitor can lead to a reduction in fluency (Krashen 1988: 30-31). Moreover, Krashen (1988: 30-31) believes that there is individual variation among language learners with regard to ‘monitor’ use. He claims that the learners who use the ‘monitor’ all the time are ‘over-users’, often producing stilted language whereas, ‘under-users’ will often speak quickly but with a lot of errors. Learners who use the monitor appropriately are considered ‘optimal-users’. These find a good balance between speed and accuracy, continuing to refer to want they have learnt but acknowledging the importance of communication. He emphasise that lack of self-confidence is the major cause for the over-use of the ‘monitor’.

Gass and Selinker (1994: 149) criticise this hypothesis as they believe that the monitor is only useful in production but it is useless in comprehension since it consists of learned knowledge that is used to edit utterances.

Natural Order Hypothesis

According to the natural order hypothesis the acquisition of grammatical structures (rules) proceeds in a predictable order (Gass and Selinker 1994: 145). They add that in a given language, some grammatical structures generally tend to be acquired early while others are acquired late regardless of the L1. They say “the natural order was determined by a synthesis of the results of the morphemes order studies and are a result of the acquired system, without interference from the learned system”. Krashen cited the example that many advanced students in English will still not be able to apply the rule for the third person singular verb, where an –s has to be added to the verb, when speaking quickly.

Input Hypothesis

According to the input hypothesis, SLA cannot take place without sufficient and necessary comprehensible input (Mitchell and Myles 2004: 165). Acquirers develop competency over time by receiving comprehensible input to move their present level to the next. Gass and Selinker (1994: 146) emphasise that this hypothesis is central to Krashen’s description of acquisition and is a complement to the Natural Order Hypothesis.

Affective Filter Hypothesis

Krashen’s hypothesis suggests that not everyone has the same ability in learning a second language and that self-confidence, motivation and anxiety all affect language acquisition (Gass and Selinker 1994: 148). He proposed that an Affective filter acts as a barrier to language input. Krashen (1988: 38) explains that a number of affective variables play a crucial role in SLA. These variables include motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. He claims that learners who are highly motivated, self-confident and less anxious are better equipped for success in SLA. Low motivation, low self-esteem, and anxiety contribute to raise the affective filter which prevents comprehensible input from being used for acquisition. In other words, if the filter is high, the input will not pass through and subsequently there will be no acquisition. On the other hand, if the filter is low and the input is understood, the input will take place and acquisition will have taken place.

Gass and Selinker (1994: 148) say that the filter and filter hypotheses explain the failure of SLA according to two parameters: insufficient input and high affective filter, or both.

Gass and Selinker (1994: 150) criticise the Filter Hypothesis because it does not explain how it works? Or how the input filter works? However, others see that it as something that can be seen and applied in the classroom and that it can explain why some students learn and produce better language than others (Lightbown and Spader 1999: 40).

3.4. Universal Grammar (UG)

The definition of UG by Chomsky (1976, as cited by Cook, 2001: 181-182) is “the system of principles, conditions, and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages … the essence of human language”. According to Chomsky, there are principles, which allow or prevent a specific structure from occurring in all human languages, and parameters, which govern ways in which human languages differ, usually expressed as a limited choice between two options. These principles and parameters are built in the human mind. In other words, children have an innate faculty that instructs them while learning of language (Mitchell and Myles, 2004: 33).

Saville-Troike (2006: 48-49) gives an example of a principle that Chomsky posited which is that every phrase in every language has the same elements including a head. For example, a noun phrase has to have a noun, a verb phrase has to have a verb and prepositional phrase has to have a preposition. On the other hand, an example of parameter is the direction of the head. For example, Arabic is a head last language and English is a head first language.

According to Mitchell and Myles (1998: 61-68), UG can account for variations in learner language as follows:

1. No access hypothesis

This hypothesis suggests that UG becomes less accessible with age and therefore its involvement will not be available to adult learners. Chomsky believes there is a critical period for language acquisition and UGs application. Adult L2 learners have to be prepared to apply more general problem-solving skills. Evidence by Johnson and Newport (1989, as cited by Mitchell and Myles, 1998: 65) showed that immigrant children mostly become native-like speakers of L2, but their parents very rarely do. I believe this supports Chomsky’s hypothesis.

2. Full access hypothesis

Mitchell and Myles (1998: 61) state that the processes of L1 and L2 acquisition are very similar. The differences noticed between them are due to the difference in cognitive maturity and in the learner’s needs. It is clear that L2 learners acquire principles and parameter settings of L2 which are not similar to L1 settings. Evidence given by Flynn (1996 as cited by Mitchell and Myles 1998: 66) explained that Japanese L1 learners of English as L2 successfully acquire L2 head parameter settings. They use principles in English which do not operate in Japanese.

3. Indirect access hypothesis

Mitchell and Myles, (1998: 61-62) point out that access to UG is only available to learners indirectly via the L1. They say “there will be just one instantiation (i.e. one working example) of UG which will be available to the L2 learner, with the parameters already fixed to the settings which apply in the L1”. Evidence given by Schachter (1996 as cited in Mitchell and Myles, 1998: 67) showed L2 learners’ failure to acquire principles absent in their L1 and/or failure to reset parameters.

4. Partial access hypothesis

Mitchell and Myles (1998: 62) say that some aspects of UG are still available and others are not. They give an example stating that principles may still be available but parameter settings may not.

In addition, White (2003:1-2) represents the application of the idea of UG to the area of SLA. She argues that SLA is constrained by principles and parameters of UG which is well explained in his book “Second Language Acquisition and Universal Grammar”.

In terms of criticism, Mitchell and Myles (1998: 70) say that UG as a whole has been exclusively concerned with syntax and the developmental linguistic route followed by learners when learning a L2. Thus, the social and psychological variables that affect the rate of the learning process are beyond its remit and therefore ignored.

3.5. Socio-linguistic theories

Mitchell and Myles (1998: 163) define sociolinguistics as the study of the effect of all aspects of soceity on the language in use. I will focus on the sociocultural theory discussed in Lantolf (1994).

Lantolf (1994: 418) emphasises that the origin of sociocultural theory refers to Vygotsky’s ideas.

In terms of variations in learner language, Vygotsky (1978 as cited in Mitchell and Myles, 1998: 146 ) defines the Zone of Proximal Development(ZPD) as ” the difference between the child’s developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the higher level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers’. Saville-Troike (2006: 112) says that one way is to help learners within the ZPD is through scaffolding which is defined as verbal guidance which an expert helps a learner to solve a specific task or collaboration of peers to solve a task that is difficult for any one of them individually. This means that little collaboration or guidance are the main reason for variation in learner language. For example, talk between peers could be helpful as in the following example:

Student 1: could I say I am loving you, daddy?

Student 2: I am loving ………..

Student 1: yes, I do not stop loving my daddy.

Student 2: love is a state verb

Student 1: yes, so I am love you, daddy.

Student 2: I think simple present form with state verbs?

Student 1: Ah, I love you, daddy.

4. Conclusion

To sum up, it is clear that not one individual theory on its own can account for all the variations in learners’ language. Each one has valid points and I have shown some of the variations in language these hypotheses may produce. However, in a lot of cases, there is a lack of empirical evidence and further investigation into these theories may identify new learning and teaching methods.

Teaching methods have to take into account that L2 learners are varied. Learners do not have the same characteristics so they do not all acquire a L2 in the same way and at the same rate. Motivation, aptitude, age, social background and self-confidence affect the learners’ abilities. At the current time, and with the knowledge that is available to us, I think it is important for teachers to consider the most important aspects of each theory when preparing their lessons. Clearly not all theories will be addressed in every lesson, but with careful thought and consideration, the ideas may be applied and the results will show whether or not they are effective for that particular group of students.

Education & Teaching Language Acquisition

Brenda Geier K-12 Reading Specialist – The research tells us that with the support of parents, caregivers, and early childhood educators, as well as exposure to a literacy-rich environment, children progress from emergent to conventional reading. By interacting through reading aloud and conversation, children are exposed to learning early. It is very important to read aloud to children and provide opportunities for them to talk about the stories that they hear. As Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, and Wilkinson (1985) state, “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children, especially during the preschool years”. It helps them develop oral language, cognitive skills, and concepts of print and phonemic awareness.

Children read to develop background knowledge about a range of topics and build a large vocabulary, which aids them in later comprehension and development of reading strategies. They also watch how others read and therefore become familiar with the reading process. They are constantly learning.

Still, many enter elementary school without a strong background in literacy. These are the children who are most at risk of developing reading problems. To provide high chances of success, teachers should be involved in professional development to learn more about child development as it relates to literacy acquisition.

At age 3-4, children begin to “read” their favorite books by themselves. They begin to use “mock handwriting” (Clay, 1975). Around age 5, in kindergarten, most children are considered emergent readers. They make rapid growth in literacy skills if they are exposed to literacy-rich environments (Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999). Children may try to recall what has been written or use a picture created with the text to reread instead of using the letter clues (Kamberelis & Sulzby, 1988; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Although they are beginning to apply phonetic knowledge to create invented spellings, there is a lapse in time before they use phonetic clues to read what they write.

For those parents who choose to home-school their children, an enormous advantage exists to teach children phonetic knowledge, sight words and decoding before they enter school. This learning advantage gives them power with text that most will not be equipped with.

Most children will become early readers during the first grade. They commonly look at beginning and ending letters in order to decode unfamiliar words (Clay, 1991; Pinnell, 1996b; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). They know a small number of sight words.

By second grade, they are transitional readers, able to read unknown text with more independence. They use meaning, grammatical, and letter cues more fully and use pictures in a limited way while reading (Clay, 1991; International Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998; Pinnell, 1996b; Snow, burns, & Griffin, 1998). Transitional spellers can apply spelling rules, patterns, and other strategies to put words on paper.

By the third grade, children are typically fluent readers. They can read for meaning while focusing less on decoding. They may use transitional and phonetic spellings to spell infrequently used words.

The child’s concept of words changes as the child’s literacy development evolves. Children construct their own knowledge thus the difference between how an adult understands reading and writing and how a child understands reading and writing.

Children progress through several categories of phonological skills from rhyming to blending. The most difficult task involves the complete segmentation of phonemes and manipulation of them to form new words (Griffith & Olson, 1992; Hall & Moats, 1999). If we begin teaching our children how to segment and manipulate phonemes at the pre-school age, they will have the tools necessary to spell correctly, understand the meaning of words and be able to write and read complete sentences with ease.

Screen and assessment are crucial tools to determine children’s literacy needs. Data helps teachers identify children who are developing at a less than normal pace and are in need of intervention. The earlier, the better to find these children. Throughout kindergarten and first grade, children can be screened for phonemic awareness, alphabetic knowledge, and an understanding of basic language concepts (Texas Education Agency, 1997a). Performance based assessments, such as observational records of reading and writing, developmental benchmarks, and portfolios can also be used to inform daily teaching (Allington & Cunningham, 1996; Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999; international Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998; Slegers, 1996).

Teachers, parents and caregivers need to understand and support children’s emergent literacy and, in later years, children’s transition to conventional reading and writing. Teachers, administrators, and specialists must understand the developmental nature of emergent literacy and early conventional literacy and ensure that the curriculum and instructional materials are appropriate. Parents need to be educated in child development and support sharing and exploring literacy with their children. The literacy program needs to support children’s social, emotional, aesthetic, maturation, and cognitive needs. The reading program must be balanced and include quality literature, writing opportunities, development of phonemic awareness and alphabetic knowledge.

To provide opportunities for children’s literacy acquisition, schools should work with community groups and libraries to provide informational programs for parents regarding the development of literacy skills in young children. Teachers should review research on reading and young children and become familiar with Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children. (The joint position statement of the International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children). All teachers should develop an understanding of phonological terms and work to provide a developmentally appropriate curriculum in reading and writing that is attainable but challenging. Educators need to develop strategies for preventing reading difficulties to begin with. Libraries or resource centers should have extensive and varied resources.

Learning should be a fun process that instills a desire to learn even more. If we all work together, we can accomplish this.

Language Acquisition in Young Children

If you’ve ever tried to learn a second language as an adult, you probably know that it isn’t easy. You have to study, study, study. Flash cards, worksheets, and hours of listening and speaking practice are a minimum for adult language learners. For children, however, learning a language – or even multiple languages – is much easier.

Learning Your Native Language

Do you remember learning your native language? Chances are, the answer is no. You began learning your first language well before you began to form long term memories. As a baby, you first began to understand snippets of spoken language. After that, you started to mimic what you heard, making word-like sounds that still had no meaning. Soon you learned to form words in English (or whatever your native language was) to make yourself understood. As the years went by, you learned more words and began to speak with correct grammar. All this happened for you more or less unconsciously. You might remember being a small child in preschool, but if you do, chances are good that you remember playing with your friends and singing songs. You probably don’t remember learning that ‘took’ is the past tense of ‘take’ and other basic grammar points. You were able to learn a language easily as a child without even thinking about it.

Learning a Language as an Adult

If you have ever taken language classes as an adult, you are probably well aware that language learning becomes much more difficult as we age. Adults rarely pick up a language unconsciously. Instead, we have to study, study, study, learning complex grammar rules and practicing our pronunciation and listening skills as much as we possibly can. Many of us yearn to be able to learn language as easily as kids can, but, unfortunately, the days of easy language acquisition are over for most of us.

Children Learn Languages Faster

Why is language learning so much easier for children than it is for adults? It turns out that this question still doesn’t have a clear answer, even among the scientific community. When it comes to human behavior, language is one of the most mysterious aspects of our lives. It’s clear that there is a period during childhood that is good for learning languages, and that it becomes more difficult afterward. The areas of the brain that govern language learning become much less active as we age. Beyond that, the mechanism is still not well understood. What is understood is that children learn not only their native language but also foreign languages much faster than adults.

Learning Two Languages at Once

Children who grow up in an environment where multiple languages are spoken can seamlessly pick up the different languages, sometimes without even realizing that they are different languages. For example, children whose parents speak two different languages will learn to speak to Mom in one way and to Dad in a different way, but they do not understand these two modes of speech as different languages. Even more fascinating is the case of children who are raised in ‘bimodal’ households. A bimodal household is one where language is spoken in two different ways, for example spoken language and sign language. According to famous linguist Noam Chomsky, these children will learn both languages easily and won’t even have a preference for one or the other!

Raising Multilingual Children

So what’s the implication for parenting? Well, if you want your children to speak more than one language, no advice is more important than this: start early! The earlier children start learning a second or foreign language, the easier it will be for them to learn and retain that language. Sending small children to bilingual schools or enrolling them in extracurricular language study is one way to put them on the path toward being successful polyglots – people who speak multiple languages. But remember, no matter how early children start learning a language, they can lose their linguistic ability if they don’t continue to use and practice the language as they grow. Language is like anything else: if you don’t use it, you lose it!

Teaching English As A Second Language

In some countries where English is taught as second language , I have noticed unexplained or falsely explained insistence on the grammar. With this perception the rules of grammar are considered as the first and foremost rules and a foundation onto which the whole language learning is to be build on. Naturally it becomes a way of teaching I strongly oppose. Major mistakes of this application are:

  • Grammar is supposed to be a subtitle of structure and should go with the basics of structure to get any sound merit.
  • Original texts, chosen for various curriculum needs, contain structures embodying all usage of grammar knowledge. The proper acquisition and interpretation of those materials mean the proper acquisition of grammar rules to set a sound communication. Therefore there is no need for a separate grammar study and for lessons unless it is for the one majoring in linguistics. Besides formulas which go; Subject +Verb+ Noun clause or more complex ones have side effects to deter students participation into language. They put students under stress of making mistakes while they strive finding appropriate rule/formula for the related questions.
  • Study of grammar rules never directly relates to the communicative use of English. In a way, it is not a must to get through to the other people.
  • The rules of grammar are different from the rules for using English in a social setting. They are context based. Knowing a language means to use it efficiently in social situations, selecting the appropriate language to context, perceiving the speaker’s intention and performing successful speech acts.
  • With grammar focused teaching, functional vocabulary is limited and unpracticed. Students are generally asked to work on a single sentence or a statement to practice the application of grammar rules.

Yet, teaching grammar is not a set back for learners of English on condition that it is done appropriately. This mainly means to approve the conception that no language has rules; and no language starts with the rules. Children start to speak before they know the word €grammar’. So grammar never exists as series of rules to be mastered beforehand separate from the language.

Grammar is rather an instrument to enhance the use of language. We have grammar as a sign post or a map to use in case we need help. It is the system that makes us understand the language more quickly. Therefore, my theory of systematic approach for teaching ESL is just the reverse and has its own mechanics.

  • The study of grammar is to be maintained along with various creative language teaching techniques. It is to distinguish already existed system of structure in written or spoken language. The teacher is to show how this system gives way to meaningful expressions. Many examples and variations are advised to use in the classroom as students try to comprehend the given text. Understanding the structure they are likely start their own way of expression both in writing and in speaking.
  • The focus should be placed on reading and writing as interrelated process in language acquisition. Writing makes students think and go back to reading, and this €to’ and €from’ process improves their reading compression. Both studies should be maintained also as to cover off school hours through appropriate reading and writing assignments.
  • Extensive use of literary texts and drama is a must to heighten self-esteem, motivation, spontaneity and increase the capacity for empathy. Literature offers new vocabulary in context and serves as source for learning about the mechanics of language in authentic contexts.
  • Students should be encouraged to use their imaginative faculties both in writing and speaking to help gain the habit of thinking in English.
  • An ESL teacher should extensively employ the skill building techniques for reading comprehension as to include but not limited to the following:
    A- Annotating
    B- Inferential reading
    C- Interactive notebook
    D- Collaborative annotation
    E- Key concept synthesis
    F- Raft
    G- Reciprocal teaching
    H- Comparative study
    Where appropriate these techniques are accompanied by such studies like; dictation, retelling, reproduction and presentations.
  • Students of ESL should be able to write with clarity, logic, validity and effectiveness on a wide range of topics and for variety of purposes and audience. Therefore, students are required to maintain a portfolio of writing assignment.

In short, I support the communicative approach in teaching ESL. By this token, ESL teaches had better concern language use and not language knowledge. As teachers take hold of communicative techniques, students become prolific in real uses of English particularly its social use.

The Use of Teaching a Child a Second Language

One of the most popular pieces of advice people get on how to set themselves apart from their peers is to learn a second language. Being bilingual means advantages in the workplace, including higher pay and opportunities to travel. Although these benefits are not seen until later in life, it doesn’t mean that learning a second language as a child is not beneficial. In fact, there are many reasons why your child should begin learning a second language early on.

One of the most popular pieces of advice people get on how to set themselves apart from their peers is to learn a second language. Being bilingual means advantages in the workplace, including higher pay and opportunities to travel. Although these benefits are not seen until later in life, it doesn’t mean that learning a second language as a child is not beneficial. In fact, there are many reasons why your child should begin learning a second language early on.

At one time, it was thought that teaching a child a second language would lead to language confusion and the possibility of cognitive deficit with the child. According to more recent studies that were done through the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab (CLAL), a child who is able to learn a second language is actually in a better position for maintaining attention despite distractions when compared with a child that is only familiar with one language.

Along with improving the cognitive abilities of children, allowing them to learn a second language at a young age may also provide additional benefits. It has also been recognized that teaching a child a second language plays a significant role in their preparedness for academic success in a school setting. This is true, even when there are distractions and outside stimuli which tend to hold the attention of children who do not know a second language.

If you are interested in providing these benefits for your child, there are some effective methods that can be used in order to teach your child such a language. Perhaps one of the most important things to do is to immerse the child in the second language by putting them in situations where it is spoken regularly. It is interesting that this will not affect their ability to learn their native language but rather, it will likely increase their proficiency in speaking it.

One method that many parents have found to be of benefit is tying in the secondary language with outside activities, such as day camps or summer camps. In researching various summer camps, we saw a great deal of classes and camps that offer second language courses along with other activities help to increase the vocabulary of the child. By providing an interactive and enjoyable activity for the child in both languages, it helps them to learn the language much more quickly.

Your attitude toward the secondary language is also something that can have an effect on your child’s ability to learn it. Be sure to maintain a positive outlook, not only on the language but also on the culture that is associated with the language.

Finally, make sure that the child has the opportunity to be in multilingual settings. If they are able to spend time and play with children who speak the second language, as well as their native language, it is much more likely that they will learn to be proficient in both. The same is also true with reading and storytelling, as it should be done in multiple languages as well.

The world certainly is becoming a smaller place and learning a second language can help to open up opportunities for your child later in life. By teaching them a second language in their tender years, you offer them something that will benefit them now and will stick with them for a lifetime.