Within this structural model, language learning was viewed as the mastery of structural units such as phones, phonemes etc.
The structural organization of lg. was determined on the basis of its surface structure, observable, and verifiable by external examination.
Structural Model of Lg Organization
This surface structure does not have anything to do with deep-level structure, the mental representation of linguistics structures proposed by Chomsky (1959, 1965)
Since linguistics analysis starts fro the lower to the higher level systems, seconds language teaching followed the same method.
Structural Model of Lg. Organization & CA
Since the goal of CA was to assist teachers in developing the most effective pedagogical materials, CA recommended that teaching materials be based on a careful examination of both languages.
Fries (1945): “ The most efficient materials are those that are based upon a scientific description of the language to be learned, carefully compared with a parallel description of the NL of the learner.”
Strong and Weak versions of CA
Strong version: it is possible to predict a priori all of the areas of difficulty in learning second language.
Weak version: It did not begin with the process of comparing language a priori, but began a posteriori – after the actual problem occurred
The weak version leads to an approach which makes fewer demands on contrastive theory than does the strong version.
The Weak CA version
It starts with the evidence provided by linguistic interference and uses such evidence to explain similarities and differences between systems (Wardaugh 1970,10)
Areas of Difficulty
Regardless the versions, “areas of difficluties” in CA theory was synonymous with “learners’ errors” and errors were regarded as “sins” (Brooks 1964), and were to be avoided at all cost.
The goal of CA was to develop teaching materials that would prevent the learner from acquiring wrong habits – making errors.
This leads to Error Analysis (EA).
Attitudes toward errors underwent major revisions in the approach that immediately followed CA: Error Analysis.
It exhibited some methodological similarities to the weak version of CA.
However, in EA, the explanation of learner errors were sought not in the learner’s NL but in the target language.
Despite the similarities with CA, there is a major theoretical difference in them.
In EA, errors were not regarded as “sins”; errors gained a new status and sinificance.
Stephen Corder (1967), defended the learner’s errors which he considered indispensable for L2 learning.
He also made a distinction between mistakes and errors.
Introduced the term “ transitional competence”
“ The errors of performance will characteristically be unsystematic and the errors of competence, systematic...It will be useful therefore hereafter to refer to errors of performance as mistakes reserving the term error to the systematic errors of the learner from which we are able to reconstruct his knowledge of language to date, i.e. his transitional competence (1967, 166-67)
The focus of a scientific investigation should be on the learner's errors, not mistakes.
They are errors only from the native speaker’s perspective or the well- established norms which is not fully acquired or recognized by the L2 learner.
This seems to have much in common with Selinker’s Interlanguage (1972), the term widely used in SLA.
Learner’s errors are significant for 3 reasons.
They indicate how far towards the goal the learner has progressed and, consequently, what remains for him to learn.
They provide evidence of how language is learned and acquired, what strategies and procedures the learner is employing in his discovery of language. The errors reveal some valuable insights as to the nature of an innate universal mechanism which he calls build-in-syllabus that aids the learner in his L2 learning.
3. Errors are important to the learner because they are used for “testing his hypotheses about the nature of of the language he is learning.
Corder considers L2 learning to be similar to L1 acquisition: given the motivation human beings will learn L2 if they are exposed to language data.
Corder advocates a shift in our attention “ away from a preoccupation with teaching towards a study of learning.
Findings against CA Based on L1=L2 Hypothesis
Dulay and Burt (1973) – Morpheme studies – singular ‘s’, past tense ‘ed’, possessive ‘s’, and plural ‘s’: the more accurately a given morpheme was used, the earlier it was acquired.
Bilingual Syntax Measure (BSM) study of children from different lg. backgrounds: Most errors were not due to L1 interference; the order of acquisition of English morphemes was similar
Baily, Madden and Krashen on BSM involving adults: The results were similar to Dulay and Burt’s findings (1974)
All studies indicate the limited role of the learner’s native language. Only 3 to 5% of learner’s errors could be attributed to native language transfer.
The majority of errors produced by children and adults were developmental in nature.
Schumann 1980, Gas 1980 provided some evidence that there is the so called natural route of acquisition.
The existence of the natural route shifted the focus of attention from the learner’s external environment to the learner’s internal processes.
This prompted interest in mental process guided by the operation of a universal innate mechanism.