Unit 1 Language and learning I.How do we learn language ? 1 ) How do we learn our own language ? 2 ) How do we learn foreign language ? (1) People learn language for different reasons. (2) People learn language in different ways. (3) People have different understanding about language learning. (4) People have different capabilities in language learning.
1) What is language ? Language is a system if arbitrary verbal symbols used for human communication. 2) Different views on language : the structural view, the functional view and the interactional view II. View on language.
Structural View : It sees language as a linguistic system made up of various subsystem : from phonological, morphological, lexical, etc. to sentence. Each language has a finite number of such structural items. To learn a language means to learn these structural items so as to be able to understand and produce language.
Functional View : It sees language as a linguistic system but also as a means for doing things. Most of our day-to- day language use involves functional activities : offering, suggesting, advising, apologizing, etc. Therefore, learners learn a language in order to do things with it. To perform functions, learners need to know how to combine the grammatical rules and the vocabulary to express notions that perform the functions.
Interactional View : It consider language as a communicative tool, whose main use is to build up and maintain social relations between people. Therefore, learners not only need to know the grammar and vocabulary of the language, but also need to know the rules for using them in a whole range of communicative context.
III. Views on language learning 1) What are the psycholinguistic and cognitive process involved in language learning ? 2) What are the conditions that need to be met in order for these learning process to be activated ?
The research into the answers fall into process- oriented theories and condition-oriented theories. Process-oriented theories are concerned with how the mind processes new information, such as habit formation, induction, making inference, hypothesis testing and generalization.
Condition-oriented theories emphasize the nature of the human and physical context in which language learning takes place, such as the number of students, what kind of input learners receive, and the learning atmosphere.
Behaviorist theory : Proposed by behavioral psychologist Skinner, he suggested that language is also a form behavior. It can be learned the same way as an animal is trained to respond to stimuli. This theory of learning is referred to as behaviorism. One influential result is the audio-lingual method, which involves the “ listen and repeat ” drilling activities. The idea of this method is that language is learned by constant repetition and the reinforcement of the teacher. Mistakes are immediately corrected, and correct utterances are immediately praised
Cognitive theory : The term cognitivism is often used to describe method in which students are asked to think rather than simply repeat. It is Noam Chomsky’ theory. The key point of Chomsky’s theory is reflected in his most famous question
If all language is a learned behavior, how can a child produce a sentence that has never been said by others before?
According to Chomsky’s theory, language is not a form of behavior, it is an intricate rule-based system and a large part of language acquisition is the learning of this system. There are a finite number of grammatical rules in the system and with a knowledge of these rules an infinite number of sentences can be produced. One idea of this theory is that students should be allowed to create their own sentences based on their understanding of certain rules.
IV. What is a good language teacher? There are a variety of elements that contributes to the qualities of a good language teacher. They are: (1) enable the students to communicate in English inside and outside class, put an emphasis on practice rather than explanation.
(2) have a goal in teaching, that is, enable students to use English effectively. (3)establish English as the main classroom language.Keep in mind that communication in English and learning English go hand in hand.
(4) create conditions for learning, provide more opportunities for students to participate in classroom activities, and create the atmosphere in which students feel motivated to learn. (5) do all he/ she can to stimulate the students’ motivation to learn. (6) set appropriate goal and objectives in learning; carefully plan the activities; choose topics for personal interest; have a fair attitude to all students.
V. How can one become a good language teacher? The most important and most difficult part of the making of a good language teacher is the development of professional competence, which is the state or quality of being qualified for the profession, and armed with a specific range of skills, strategies, knowledge and ability. According to Paul Davis (2002: 2), a successful teacher has the following qualities: (1) Have a practical command of English, not just knowledge of grammar rules. (2) Use English most of the time in every class,including beginners’ class.
( 3) Think mostly in term of learner practice, not teacher explanation. (4) Find time for really communicative activities, not just practice of language forms. (5) Focus their teaching on learner’s needs, not just on finish the syllabus or coursebooks. For the development of professional competence, we can use the “reflective model” by Wallace. From the model, we can know that the development involves stage I, stage II and the goal.
Stage I: language training. All English teachers are supposed to have a good command of English. Stage II: The second stage is more complicated, for it can be divided into three sub-stages: learning; practice and reflection. The learning stage involves: (a) learn from other’s experience (empirical knowledge (b) learn received knowledge ( such as language theories, psycholinguistics; sociolinguistics; educational psycho- logy, etc.
(c) learn from one’s own experience The term “ practice” can be used in two senses: (1) it is a short period of time assigned for students to do teaching practice as part of their education, under the supervision of their instructors. (2) The other sense of practice is the real work that the teachers would undertake when they finish their education.
. Stanley ( 1999) pointed out that teachers benefit from practice if they keep on reflecting on what they have been doing. The teachers reflect on their work not only after they finish a certain period of practice, but while they are doing the practice. And the most difficult thing to do is to keep on reflecting on their work when teachers are doing practice in the real work sense. After some period of practice and reflection, a teacher matures and approaches the goal. But this goal is “ a moving target or horizon, toward which professionals travel all their professional life but which is never finally attained.