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Second Language Learning & Theories

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1 Second Language Learning & Theories
Dr. Ansa Hameed

2 Previously…. First Language Acquisition:
Theories about Language Development in Children Behaviourism Nativism Cognitive Approach Interaction Approach

3 Today’s Lecture What is second language acquisition/ learning
Today’s Lecture What is second language acquisition/ learning? Difference between L1 & L2 How do learners acquire/learn 2nd language? Theories regarding 2nd language acquisition/ Learning

4 What is 2nd Language Acquisition?
Second Language acquisition means to learn a language other than the mother tongue. Second language can be a 3rd or 4th language in a bilingual/ multilingual society where children already have 2 (or sometimes 3) languages learnt in their childhood Be clear second language here means any language not acquired as mother tongue(s)

5 Difference between L1 & L2
Most people agree that there is a fundamental difference between L1 and L2 learning because: All children learn their first language easily and well whereas adults vary in their ultimate mastery of a second language. Children do not need to be taught their first language whereas adults benefit from formal instruction. Children are intrinsically motivated to learn their native language whereas adult mastery of a second language is dependent upon attitude, motivation, and aptitude.

6 What is the study of 2nd Language Acquisition???
It is the study of: how second languages are learned; how learners create a new language system with limited exposure to a second language; why most second language learners do not achieve the same degree of proficiency in a second language as they do in their native language; and why some learners appear to achieve native-like proficiency in more than one language.

7 How do learners Acquire a 2nd Language???
Learners acquire a second language by making use of existing knowledge of the native language, general learning strategies, or universal properties of language to internalize knowledge of the second language. These processes serve as a means by which the learner constructs an interlanguage (a transitional system reflecting the learner’s current L2 knowledge). Communication strategies are employed by the learner to make use of existing knowledge to cope with communication difficulties.

8 Learner Strategies Learner strategies are defined as deliberate behaviors or actions that learners use to make language learning more successful, self-directed and enjoyable. Cognitive strategies relate new concepts to prior knowledge. Metacognitive strategies are those which help with organizing a personal timetable to facilitate an effective study of the L2. Social strategies include looking for opportunities to converse with native speakers.

9 Theories of Second Language Acquisition
Universal Theory Behaviorism Innatism (Krashen’s Monitor Model) Cognition (Information Processing) Connectionism Sociocultural Perspective

10 1. Universal Theory Universalist Theory defines linguistic universals from two perspectives: The data-driven perspective which looks at surface features of a wide-range of languages to find out how languages vary and what principles underlie this variation. The data-driven approach considers system external factors or input as the basis. The theory-driven perspective which looks at in-depth analysis of the properties of language to determine highly abstract principles of grammar. System internal factors are those found in cognitive and linguistic processes.

11 2. Behaviorist Theory Four characteristics of behaviorism:
1) imitation, 2) practice, 3) reinforcement, and 4) habit formation Brooks (1960) & Lado (1964): - emphasizing mimicry and memorization (audiolingual teaching methods)

12 A person learning an L2 starts off with the habits formed in the L1 and these habits would interfere with the new ones needed for the L2. Behaviorism was often linked to the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH): It predicts that where there are similarities between the L1 and the target language, the learner will acquire target-language structures with ease; where there are differences, the learner will have difficulty.

13 Criticisms about the CAH:
Though a learner’s L1 influences the acquisition of an L2, researchers have found that L2 learners do not make all the errors predicted by the CAH. Many of their errors are not predictable on the basis of their L1 (e.g. ‘putted’; ‘cooker’ meaning a person who cooks; ‘badder than’) Some errors are similar across learners from a variety of L1 backgrounds (e.g. he/she; “th” sound; the use of the past tense; the relative clauses)

14 Nativism/ Innatism Universal Grammar (UG) in relation to second language development Krashen’s “monitor model”

15 UG and SLA Chomsky has not made specific claims about the implications of his theory for second language learning. Linguists working within the innatist theory have argued that UG offers the best perspective to understand SLA. UG can explain why L2 learners eventually know more about the language than they could reasonably have learned (i.e. UG can explain L2 learners’ creativity and generalization ability). Other linguists argue that UG is not a good explanation for SLA, especially by learners who have passed the critical period (i.e. CPH does not work in SLA).

16 How UG works in SLA: Two different views -
The nature and availability of UG are the same in L1 and L2 acquisition. Adult L2 learners, like children, neither need nor benefit from error correction and metalinguistic information. These things change only the superficial appearance of language performance and do not affect the underlying competence of the new language (e.g., Krashen’s “monitor model”).

17 How UG works in SLA: Two different views - UG may be present and available to L2 learners, but its exact nature has been altered by the prior acquisition of the first language. L2 learners need to be given some explicit information about what is not grammatical in the L2. Otherwise, they may assume that some structures of the L1 have equivalents in the L2 when, in fact, they do not.

18 Innatism: Krashen’s “monitor model” (1982)
The acquisition-learning hypothesis The monitor hypothesis The natural order hypothesis The input hypothesis The affective filter hypothesis

19 The acquisition-learning hypothesis
Acquisition: we acquire L2 knowledge as we are exposed to samples of the L2 which we understand with no conscious attention to language form. It is a subconscious and intuitive process. Learning: we learn the L2 via a conscious process of study and attention to form and rule learning. Krashen argues that “acquisition” is a more important process of constructing the system of a language than “learning” because fluency in L2 performance is due to what we have acquired, not what we have learned.

20 The monitor hypothesis
The acquired system acts to initiate the speaker’s utterances and is responsible for spontaneous language use, whereas the learned system acts as a “monitor”, making minor changes and polishing what the acquired system has produced. Such monitoring takes place only when the speaker/writer has plenty of time, is concerned about producing correct language, and has learned the relevant rules.

21 The natural order hypothesis
L2 learners acquire the features of the Target Language in predictable sequences. The language features that are easiest to state (and thus to ‘learn’) are not necessarily the first to be acquired. e.g. the rule for adding an –s to third person singular verbs in the present tense

22 The input hypothesis Acquisition occurs when one is exposed to language that is comprehensible and that contains “i +1”. If the input contains forms and structures just beyond the learner’s current level of competence in the language (“i +1”), then both comprehension and acquisition will occur.

23 The affective filter hypothesis
“Affect” refers to feelings, motives, needs, attitudes, and emotional states. The “affective filter” is an imaginary/metaphorical barrier that prevents learners from acquiring language from the available input. Depending on the learner’s state of mind, the filter limits what is noticed and what is acquired. A learner who is tense, anxious, or bored may “filter out” input, making it unavailable for acquisition.

24 Summary Krashen’s “monitor model” (i.e., acquisition vs. learning, monitor, natural order, comprehensible input, and affective filter) has been very influential in supporting communicative language teaching (CLT), which focuses on using language for meaningful interaction and for accomplishing tasks, rather than on learning rules. Krashen’s hypotheses are intuitively appealing, but those hypotheses are hard to be tested by empirical evidence.

25 Cognition (Information Processing)
Cognitive psychologists working in this model compare language acquisition to the capacities of computers for storing, integrating, and retrieving information. do not think that humans have a language-specific module (i.e. LAD) in the brain. do not assume that ‘acquisition’ and ‘learning’ are distinct mental processes. see L2 acquisition as the building up of knowledge that can eventually be called on automatically for speaking and understanding (i.e., general theories of learning can account for SLA).

26 Attention-processing
Skill learning Restructuring Transfer appropriate processing

27 Attention-processing:
This model suggests that learners have to pay attention at first to any aspect of the language that they are trying to understand or produce. It also suggests there is a limit to how much information a learner can pay attention to or engage in at one time. Gradually, through experience and practice, information that was new becomes easier to process, and learners become able to access it quickly and even automatically. This can explain why L2 readers need more time to understand a text, even if they eventually do fully comprehend it.

28 Skill Learning: Some researchers regard SLA as ‘skill learning’. They suggest that most learning, including language learning, starts with declarative knowledge (knowledge that). Through practice, declarative knowledge may become procedural knowledge (knowledge how). Once skills become procedualized and automatized, thinking about the declarative knowledge while trying to perform the skill disrupts the smooth performance of it. In SLA, the path from declarative to procedural knowledge is often like classroom learning where rule learning is followed by practice.

29 Restructuring: Sometimes changes in language behavior do not seem to be explainable in terms of a gradual build-up of fluency through practice. Restructuring may account for what appear to be sudden bursts of progress and apparent backsliding. It may result from the interaction of knowledge we already have and the acquisition of new knowledge (without extensive practice). e.g. “I saw” → “I seed” or “I sawed” – overapplying the general rule.

30 Transfer appropriate processing:
This hypothesizes that Information is best retrieved in situations that are similar to those in which it was acquired. This is because when we learn something our memories also record something about the context and the way in which it was learned. This can explain why knowledge that is acquired mainly in rule learning or drill activities may be easier to access on tests that resemble the learning activities than in communicative situation. On the other hand, if learners’ cognitive resources are occupied with a focus on meaning in communicative activities, they may find grammar tests very difficult.

31 Connectionism Connectionists attribute greater importance to the role of the environment than to any specific innate knowledge. They argue that what is innate is simply the ability to learn, not any specifically linguistic principles. They emphasize the frequency with which learners encounter specific linguistic features in the input and the frequency with which features occur together

32 Connectionists suggest that learners gradually build up their knowledge of language through exposure to the thousand of instances of the linguistic features they hear or see. Eventually, learners develop stronger mental ‘connections’ between the elements they have learned; thus, the presence of one situational or linguistic element will activate the other(s) in the learner’s mind. Evidence comes from the observation that much of the language we use in ordinary conversation is predictable or formulaic. Language is often learned in chunks larger than single words.

33 Sociocultural Perspective
Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory Language development takes place in the social interactions between individuals. Speaking (and writing) mediate thinking. Zone of proximal development (ZPD): when there is support from interaction with an interlocutor, the learner is capable of performing at a higher level. L2 learners advance to higher levels of linguistic knowledge when they collaborate and interact with speakers of the L2 who are more knowledgeable than they are.

34 Recap There is no agreement on a “complete” theory of second language acquisition yet. Each theoretical framework has a different focus and its limitations. Behaviorism: emphasizing stimuli and responses, but ignoring the mental processes that are involved in learning. Innatism: innate LAD, based on intuitions Information processing and connectionism: involving controlled laboratory experiments where human learning is similar to computer processing. Interactionist position: modification of interaction promotes language acquisition and development.

35 References Doughty, C. J. & Long, M.H. (eds.) (2003). The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Gramley, S. & Gramley, V. (eds.) (2008). Bielefeld Introduction to Applied Linguistics. Bielefeld: Aithesis. Lightbown, P. M. & Spada, N. (2006). How Languages are Learned. 3rd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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