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Second Language Acquisition and Linguistics for teachers of ELLs

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Second Language Acquisition and Linguistics for teachers of ELLs

Title: Second Language Acquisition and Linguistics for teachers of ELLs

 

  1. How languages are learned: SLA
    1. Pre-­‐quiz
      1. Read and take the following pre-­‐quiz, responding to both A and B. Save your responses to review after you have read the upcoming readin

 

Second Language Learning Pre-­‐Quiz Popular beliefs

Part 1:

  1. Children learn second languages rapidly and usually without much effo
  2. (Agree/Disagree)
  3. (Explain your reasoning)

 

  1. The younger a child is starting to learn a language, the more native-­‐like s/he will sound.
  2. (Agree/Disagree)
  3. (Explain your reasoning)

 

  1. There are stages that a language learner passes through when learning a second language that are pretty fixed.
  2. (Agree/Disagree)
  3. (Explain your reasoning)

 

  1. The problems that children who speak languages other than English often have in learning English are primarily due to inferference from their home langua
  2. (Agree/Disagree)
  3. (Explain your reasoning)

 

  1. Languages are learned primarily by copying or imitating oth
  2. (Agree/Disagree)
  3. (Explain your reasoning)
  4. If a student can speak English well, it can be assumed they will do well on academic wo
  5. (Agree/Disagree)
  6. (Explain your reasoning)
  7. Language learning isn’t generally affected much by sociocultural
  8. (Agree/Disagree)
  9. (Explain your reasoning)

 

  1. Learning a second language is quite different from learning a first language.
  2. (Agree/Disagree)
  3. (Explain your reasoning)
  4. When something is learned in one language, it generally has to be re-­‐learned in another langu
  5. (Agree/Disagree)
  6. (Explain your reasoning)
  7. It is a widely held belief that some fear and anxiety can benefit a learner of a second language, especially a child.
  8. (Agree/Disagree)
  9. (Explain your reasoning)
  10. Reading on Chomsky, Krashen, Cummins
  11. Post-­‐quiz
    1. Review your responses with the reading you have just completed. Indicate in whether your responses have changed in any way, and how.

Reading

Language  Acquisition

The field of Second Language Acquisition, or SLA, is relatively young.   As such, there is still a good deal  of research being conducted by many highly skilled researchers that serves to define the discipline. However, there are a number of important researchers in SLA whose work is viewed as seminal in this area. These key people still actively contribute to the field in varying degrees, and include Noam Chomsky, Stephen Krashen, and Jim Cummins. The early 20th  century Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky is also acknowledged for his contributions, although they did not emerge wholly from a linguistic perspective.

Chomsky and first language acquisition

Chomsky came into the field of language acquisition in the 1950’s. At that time, it was commonly believed that (first) language acquisition was a result of imitation, from the Behaviorist philosophy. However, Chomsky challenged this view and posited that language acquisition was innate and that humans are ‘hard-­‐wired’ to learn language. He suggested that humans have the inborn ability to learn and use language, and that the language to which a child is exposed will serve to determine the mother tongue, or first language (L2) that s/he will first speak at home.  The notion referred to by Chomsky is that of ‘Universal Grammar’ (UG) and is explained as the innate blueprint all humans have to learn language. The rationale he provided for this theory included the fact that all humans do indeed have language, and in the case in which it is withheld, they will create it-­‐ to differing degrees of success. In some cases, such as the recent case of Deaf children in Nicaragua who were brought together, but who had no mutual language, the children created their own language. The critical age hypothesis is also relevant in such a situation. This notion is supported by the unfortunate situations known as ‘naturally occurring experiments’ such as when children are not allowed to speak until they reach a ‘critical age’

  • the infamous case of the ‘feral child’ Genie, the horribly abused girl in California in the 1970’s; or wolf children such as the legendary case of Victor of Aveyron and D Itard from the 18th century ). In

these cases, the children whose language had been withheld from them, were unable to attain nativelike fluency in their first language

Krashen and SLA

Stephen Krashen was an early researcher in second language acquisition and is responsible for a number of theories (that while not wholly unchallenged) are nonetheless stalwart and sill highly influential in SLA today. Importantly, Krashen applied what had been done in the area of first language acquisition and  took these ideas to a second language context.  Specifically, Krashen maintained that first and second language acquisition were similar, and felt there needed to be ‘comprehensible input’, or language that  is understandable, for second language learners to have at least some comprehension of the target language. In his important theoretical model called  the ‘Monitor Model’, Krashen also addressed other concepts,  making  the distinction between conscious and unconscious learning, or the ‘acquisition/learning hypothesis’; the ‘monitor hypothesis’ in that learners of a language must have time to check or monitor their output for correctness; the ‘natural order hypothesis’ that learners learn   pieces of a language in predictable stages and that these stages are generally set; and the ‘affective   filter’ which states that when learners are nervous or stressed, they may not be able to acquire a language most optimally.

Cummins and academic language and literacy

Jim Cummins is a contemporary researcher in the field of second language and literacy education whose ideas are highly respected. Like Krashen’s , Cummins’ theories have been challenged in ways that have provoked some revisions, but are nevertheless critically important. Cummins maintains in his ‘dual iceberg theory’ that there is a ‘common underlying proficiency’ or CUP,  that represents what a bilingual knows. This knowledge can be manifested in either language, with appropriate assistance.  He also says that there is linguistic threshold which can positively or negatively affect ones’ cognitive development. That is, if a child has a high level of bilingualism that s/he can benefit cognitively, and if they have a low level of knowledge in one or both of the languages, that the cognitive benefits are likely to be lower. Further, Cummins maintains that it can take 5-­‐10 years to develop a high level of bilingualism and biliteracy in school, with one’s first language level of literacy playing an important role. Additionally, Cummins’ distinguishes between ‘academic language’ or ‘CALP’ (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) and ‘social language’ or BICS (Basic Interpersonal  Communication Skills), and  holds that the former (CALP) takes much more time to develop than the latter (BICS). Cummins also acknowledges that issues of culture and power are inextricably linked to the education of language minority children.

Vygotsky and language

Lev Vygotsky died many years before the field of SLA came about, but his ideas are still relevant to the education of bilingual children today. Specifically, the notion that there is a ‘Zone of Proximal Development” or ZPD, in which learners must be in order to acquire linguistic and cognitive concepts successfully, and that ‘scaffolding’ or assistance  while the learner is in the ZPD, can help them to comprehend concepts, are long lasting. As well, Vygotsky’s beliefs regarding learning are widely accepted. He wrote that learning was a social activity and also held that the sociocultural environment in which a child is exposed and raised play an important role in the child’s learning and language acquisition.

 

Second Language Learning Post-­‐Quiz Popular beliefs

  1. Children learn second languages rapidly and usually without much effo
  1. (Agree/Disagree)
  2. (Explain your reasoning)
  3. Have your responses changed after the reading? In what ways?

 

  1. The younger a child is starting to learn a language, the more native-­‐like s/he will sound.
  1. (Agree/Disagree)
  2. (Explain your reasoning)
  3. Have your responses changed after the reading? In what ways?

 

  1. There are stages that a language learner passes through when learning a second language that are pretty fixe
  1. (Agree/Disagree)
  2. (Explain your reasoning)
  3. Have your responses changed after the reading? In what ways?

 

  1. The problems that children who speak languages other than English often have in learning English are primarily due to inferference from their home langua
  1. (Agree/Disagree)
  2. (Explain your reasoning)
  3. Have your responses changed after the reading? In what ways?

 

 

 

  1. Languages are learned primarily by copying or imitating othe
  1. (Agree/Disagree)
  2. (Explain your reasoning)
  3. Have your responses changed after the reading? In what ways?

 

  1. If a student can speak English well, it can be assumed they will do well on academic wo
  1. (Agree/Disagree)
  2. (Explain your reasoning)
  3. Have your responses changed after the reading? In what ways?

 

  1. Language learning isn’t generally affected much by sociocultural issue
  1. (Agree/Disagree)
  2. (Explain your reasoning)
  3. Have your responses changed after the reading? In what ways?

 

  1. Learning a second language is quite different from learning a first language.
  1. (Agree/Disagree)
  2. (Explain your reasoning)
  3. Have your responses changed after the reading? In what ways?

 

  1. When something is learned in one language, it generally has to be re-­‐learned in another langu
  1. (Agree/Disagree)
  2. (Explain your reasoning)
  3. Have your responses changed after the reading? In what ways?

 

  1. 11. It is a widely held belief that some fear and anxiety can benefit a learner of a second language, especially a child.
  2. (Agree/Disagree)
  3. (Explain your reasoning)

Have your responses changed after the reading?

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