Language and Language Learning by AYLİN AYDIN, Uludag University
ULUDAG UNIVERSITYENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING DEPARTMENT LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGE LEARNING AYLİN AYDIN
1. Language teaching is teaching languageA language is many things; it is a system, a code, aset of conventions , a means of communication etc.Language is a complex phenomenon; it can beviewed as many different things.
Language is a systemThe teacher who understands language as asystem will see the necessity for activitieswhich lead to understanding.
Language is a habitMany pieces of language are learned in quite largeholes.The emphasis is not on understanding, but on theability to respond automatically.The teacher who sees language as a habit will seethe necessity for repetition and intensive oralpractice.
Language is a set of conventionsSocial conventions vary from country to country.Using the social conventions of one country in anothermay lead to embarrassment, confusion ormisunderstanding.The teacher who sees language as a set ofconventions will see the necessity of contrasting theconventions of the language with the student‘s ownlanguage and society.
Language is a means of communicationLanguage is used by one person to anotherin order to communicate a message.Teachers who recognise as communicationwill see the necessity for interesting texts,individualised teaching, pair work etc.
Language is a means to an endLanguage is not used for its own sake; it is usedfor a purpose – to convey information or emotion,to help the memory in note taking, to entertain aplay, to explore feelings and understanding inpoetry.The teacher who recognizes language as a meansto an end will see the necessity for looking at whyparticular pieces of language are useful.
Language is a natural activityPeople who study language sometimes talkabout language like behavior. It is languageoften found in older textbooks or heard intoo may classrooms.
English is not in EnglandThere is a temptation for many teachers totell about what they know about Britainshould form part of their English lesson.But teachers should remember they areprimarily teaching language, not culture.
Language is not a syllabusSchool systems either have an explicitsyllabus, often structurally arranged, or asyllabus which is defined by an examinationsystem. This doesn‘t mean that English can be identified with the examination syllabus. As far as it should be the students‘ needs and the real nature of language.
English is not ‘’my’’ EnglishNative teachers have a tendency to believe thatbecause they say it , a language ,tem could betaught to students.Non native teachers have a tendency to believethat because they know something, their studentsalso need to know it.But language teaching is about ‗‘selection’’.
English is not an aesthetic experienceThere are lots of students studying English forspecific purposes. Such students are hardly likelyto be encouraged.So, there are 2 decisive criteria:1. Is this going to help these ss to achieve their objectives?2. Does the activity reflect the nature of language?
2. Languages are differentLanguages are different in the obvioussense.For example: a table (in English) ett bord (in Swedish) ein tisch (in German)
Here are some more examples: Finnish doesn‘t use prepositions. Russian doesn‘t possess articles. Pronouns are frequently omitted in spoken Italian.In general, students tend to assume that thelanguage they are learning behaves similarly totheir own native language. But languages aredifferent.
3. Language is what, how, and why What (vocabulary and structures) How (pronunciation, stress, intonation) Why (function)
Note :Structures are frequently not equivalent fromlanguage to language.For example: English frequently indicates doubt bya rising intonation at the end of a verb phrase; thisis not true in many other languages.
4. Level is a complex ideaStudents learning a foreign language follows asyllabus. The syllabus lists and sequences thestructures the students need to know.Be careful that the syllabus shouldn’t bebased only on structure.
Here are some of the factors which makelanguage difficult :The occurence of a lot of words the reader orlistener doesn‘t know.Reading text which is written in complex rathersimple sentences.Reading a text written in a particular style –newspaper headlines, official letters etc.Listening to a non-standard or unfamiliar accent.The destiny of new language or new ideas.The lenght of the text, either written or spoken.
5. Natural language has a place in all courses There is opportunity to provide a natural and interesting basis for language learning at all levels by introducing authentic material. It is important to pre-select and arrange the materials for textbooks. If students are ever to use the language outside the classroom, pre-selection in not possible.
Real material show students that whatthey are learning is useful outside theclassroom. a foreign language is not something real;it is a subject on the timetable three timesweek, a strange intellectual game playedwith one of the teachers.It is good to introduce something real intothe classroom.
6. Knowing the language is not enoughEvery classroom activity should have aspecific purpose. All natural language usehas a purpose – to give information, toexpress emotion, to advance an argumentetc.Classroom activities should be planned sothat they do have a real, naturalcommunicative purpose.
7. Most language skills can be divided intosub-skillsAs we know, level depends on more than thestructures used. It depends on the length of the text and thedifficulty of the task. One of the skills of languageteaching, is to help students by breaking downlarge tasks into smaller, more detailed, tasks andselecting the correct length of text.
The ability to use a language, bothreceptively and productively, implies anunderstanding of the structure of smallunits as phrases, and large units aschapters.The general problem of understanding thetext can be broken down into a sequenceof more specific problems.
8. Hear, speak, read, write is a good sequence There can be no absolute rules for the ―best order‖ for presentation of the four skills. In general, for spelling is often confusing in English, the sequence above is usually best.
How people learn their own languageshows us the obvious priority of listening.Modern theoreticians make the distinctionbetween language learning and languageacquisition.If this distinction is accepted it is obviousthat listening has particular significance.Without being strict about a sequence it ishelpful to follow the above.
9. Language learning is cyclical Old fashioned syllabuses assumed thatlanguage learning was linear. It meansthat the structures of the language werepresented in a single sequence. Nowadays nobody believes languagelearning is linear; the same language itemneeds to be studied again and againthroughout a course.
There are at least three reasons why this needs to be done: Learners forget, so revision is necessary from time to time. Additional uses of a structure need to be studied. E.g. Irregular past tense forms are needed in many conditional sentences. As learners advance, they need to deepen their understanding.
The cyclical nature of language learning isnot confined to structure; it relates to allareas of language learning.A simple example is pronunciation.There is no guarantee that, once studentshave produced a sound in the languagecorrectly they will never mis-pronounce itagain.
10. Language learning is used for different purposes in the classroom Teachers should be aware of why they are using a particular piece of language in the lesson. If students are to use the language item it must be suitable for their active vocabulary. The principle is that teachers need to be aware of the function of what they are saying. Otherwise,students will be exposed to unnecessary and confusing language.
11. Do not be afraid of the students’mother tongueThere is a real danger in word-for-wordtranslation but to ban the students‘ mothertongue from the classroom is not a good idea.However, there are considerable advantages toallowing both languages in the classroom.Permitting both languages usually ensures thatmuch of the work is more interesting, and ahigher standard of English is achieved.
It can also be useful : If students need to discuss a difficulty with the teacher If students are working in groups preparing or discussing material, it is not essential that the whole discussion takes place in English.
12. Motor skills need practiceLanguage learning involves skills of different types,and some of these skills are purely physical. E.g.Recognizing and making the distinction between /b/and /p/ requires a lot of practice, if you are notfamiliar with these distinctions in your ownlanguage.Students whose writing system does not use thesame alphabet as English may have difficulties inthe motor skills associated with writing.
13. Distinquish clearly between accuracy and fluency practices Language learning has two distinct objectives: Learning to use the language fluently as an effective means of communication Using the language accurately The student who makes too many mistakes will not communicate well. On the other hand, it is possible to communicate effectively even if the message contains too many formal errors.
Accuracy practices place the emphasis onlanguage learning. Thus, they are not veryexciting but are an important part of thelearning process.In fluency practices, teachers must not correctevery mistake. They should encouragestudents to use all means to get their messageacross.Teachers should also keep in mind a singledistinction:Is the emphasis of this activity on accuracy or
14. Interesting communicative tasks increase motivation Communicative tasks enable students to use the language actively and develop the skills necessary to find a solution. These tasks may be of many different kinds. For example: If there are tourists in your town, students can prepare a questionnaire and interview people outside. Students can prepare a simple guide to their town or region. If students are studying a particular area in another subject, you can integrate the topic you are studying with what they are doing in. E.g. History or physics They can use English language material from the library to gather information relevant to their other subjects.
Language Acquisition Language acquisition is one of the central topics in cognitive science. Language is the main vehicle by which we know about other peoples thoughts. Every time we speak we are revealing something about language, so the facts of language structure are easy to come by. Nonetheless, learning a first language is something every child does successfully, in a matter of a few years and without the need for formal lessons.
Children acquire language quickly, andeasily. It happens automatically, whether theirparents try to teach them or not. Although parents dont teach their children tospeak, they do perform an important role bytalking to their children.Children who are never spoken to will notacquire language.Children acquire language throughinteraction — not only with their parents andother adults, but also with other children.
All normal children who grow up in normalhouseholds, surrounded by conversation,willacquire the language that is being usedaround them.And it is just as easy for a child to acquiretwo or more languages at the same time,as long as they are regularly interactingwith speakers of those languages.
Children acquire meanings with the use ofprocesses modeled by latent semanticanalysis; that is, when they meet anunfamiliar word, children can useinformation in its context to correctly guessits rough area of meaning.
ReferencesPinker, S. (1995) An Invitation to Cognitive ScienceL. R. Gleitman, M. Liberman, and D. N. Osherson (Eds.),( 2nd Ed. Volume 1: Language). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Birner, B. (2005) Linguistic Society of AmericaLanguage AcquisitionWashington, DC 20036-6501Chomsky, N. (1975). Reflections on Language.New York: Pantheon Books.