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Second language acquisition

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A powerpoint presentation that I designed for use with Arab undergraduate students of second language acquisition in 2015.

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Second language acquisition

  1. 1. Textbook Littlewood, W. T. (1998). Foreign and Second Language Learning. Language-acquisition research and its implications for the classroom. CUP: Cambridge. Course Instructor Dr Gibreel Alaghbary 2015 Second Language Acquisition
  2. 2. What does SLA study? It studies children’s speech. How does SLA study children’s speech? It does so by collecting and analyzing children’s speech, and accumulating evidence for the patterns revealed by the data analyzed. Example (data collected from a 2-year-old Yemeni child). Data in this course collected from the same child ‫كتاب‬/tita:b/ ‫فاس‬/pa:t/ ‫كرسي‬/tusi/ ‫موزه‬/mu:ta/ Analysis The child is able to produce /t, p, b/ but has trouble producing /s, z, f/. The child replace /s/ with /t/, /z/ with /t/, and /f/ with /p/ Generalization Yemeni children at the age of 2 can produce stops but have trouble producing fricatives. They also replace fricatives with stops with the closest place of articulation. Second Language Acquisition
  3. 3. Theories of Language Acquisition “The Behaviorist theory” and “The Innate (mentalist) theory” Behaviorism Second Language Acquisition Late 19 the century to 1960sPeriod of popularity B. F. Skinner , and the title of one of his most major books is Verbal Behavior (1957) Bes-known proponent of the theory Language is behaviorEssence of the theory Language is learnt by a process of habit-formation. It has the following components: 1. The child is faced with a stimuls and produced a response by imitating language (imitation) 2. People appreciate the child’s attempt and reinforce it by approval (reinforcement) 3. To obtain more approval, the child repeats language produced (repetition) 4. The child’s language is conditioned or shaped until it becomes a habit (habit-formation) How the theory explains language acquisition
  4. 4. Chomsky’s arguments against the behaviorist theory of language acquisition 1. Imitation fails to account for the fact that children produce sentences they never heard before in their environment (creativity in language) 2. Imitation fails to account for the fact that children make mistakes they never heard in their environment (e.g. *daddy goed now.) 3. Imitation fails to account for the fact that from a finite set of rules, children can produce an infinite number of sentences. 4. Imitation fails to explain how by the age of 5, a normal child will have internalized all the rules of language with exceptional ease and speed. 5. Imitation fails to explain how children exposed to different input (e.g. different dialects of the same language) ultimately derive the same rules of the language. Second Language Acquisition
  5. 5. Chomsky’s alternate theory: The innate language-learning capacity Mentalism Second Language Acquisition 1960s onwardsPeriod of popularity Noam ChomskyBes-known proponent of the theory Language is innateEssence of the theory Children are born with an innate capacity for acquiring language, which is called the Language Acquisition Device (or LAD). How the theory explains language acquisition 1. It is specific to human beings 2. Always operates in normal children from infancy to age 11 (also known as the Critical Period for language learning) 3. It contains universal features found in all languages ( a Universal Grammar) 4. It predisposes a child to learn any human language by processing the data from the environment and activating the rules of that language which are already contained in the UG Characteristics of LAD
  6. 6. What is the ‘critical period’ hypothesis in language acquisition research? It is a hypothesis proposed by researchers in the area which claims that there is an ideal time to acquire language in a linguistically rich environment, after which further language acquisition becomes much more difficult and effortful. This language-learning capacity declines at about the age of 12. What are the stages in the grammatical development of children? 1. Telegraphic speech 2. The development of inflections and function words 3. The development of transformations 4. Complex operations Second Language Acquisition
  7. 7. 1. Telegraphic speech The early speech of children is called ‘telegraphic’ because it lacks inflections and many of the ‘function words’ such as articles, prepositions, and pronouns. At this stage, speech mainly consists of two words. allgone sticky /bati du:du:/ “after the child had washed her hands” milk chair /na:na: kuti/ “indicating where the milk is” Dan Soblin (1979) proposes seven communicative functions of these two-word utterances: 1. Locating or naming this milk /ada na:na:/ 2. Demanding or desiring more milk /di: na:na:/ 3. Negating no milk /ba:ti na:na:/ 4. Describing an event car not working /ba:ti bi:b/ 5. Indicating possession Noor’s pen /nu: bagan/ 6. Describing a person/thing bad pen /bu: ri bagan/ 7. Questioning Where pen? /bein bagan/ Second Language Acquisition
  8. 8. 2. The development of inflections and function words There are three criteria for the order of acquisition of morphemes: 1. Observability of the referent (i.e., how observable the thing or event is to the child) 2. Meaningfulness of the referent (i.e., how meaningful the thing or event is to the child) 3. Distinctiveness of the sounds (i.e., how easy the production of the sound is for the child) In what order are English morphemes acquired? 1. Present progressive –ing 2. Preposition on 3. Preposition in 4. Plural –s 5. Irregular past forms e.g. went 6. Possessive ‘s 7. Articles a, the 8. Regular past –ed 9. Regular third person singular –s as in runs 10. Irregular third person singular has 11. Auxiliary be Second Language Acquisition
  9. 9. 3.A The development of transformations: Negation There are three stages in the acquisition of negation: 1. The negative element is attached to the beginning or end. It is not part of the structure of the sentence. Examples: No the sun shining. The sun shining no. 2. The negative element is inserted into the sentence (no or not). Children may use don’t but it won’t be inflected for person or tense. Examples: I no want milk. He not come. He don’t want. 3. The negative element is produced and placed correctly. 2. Preposition on Examples: He doesn’t want milk. I am not a doctor. Second Language Acquisition
  10. 10. 3.B The development of transformations: Questions There are three stages in the acquisition of questions: 1. Children produce structures that have no question-word and no appropriate question word order. They use intonation. Examples: See book? You can’t come? 2. Children produce structures with a question-word but no appropriate question word order. Examples: Where daddy going? Where my spoon goed? 3. Children produce structures with a question-word but the appropriate question word order. Examples: Where did he go? Where are you? Second Language Acquisition
  11. 11. 4. Complex operations In the last stage, children perform more complex operations such as: 1. Join two or more clauses into a complex sentence 2. Use conditional 3. Use passive structures 4. Use a range of forms for making requests, commands, offers, etc. Examples: I think it is the wrong way. If you are coming, I will be happy. He was left along in the house. Can I have a minute, please? Second Language Acquisition
  12. 12. Operating principles governing children’s speech 1. Avoid exceptions (this explains why children acquire and produce regular forms first) 2. Meaning relationships must be marked clearly (this explains why active structures are acquired and produced before passive structures). Caretaker Speech Caretaker speech is the language addressed to small children by mothers, other adults, or older children. Caretaker speech has the following characteristics: 1. It is generally spoken more slowly and more distinctly. 2. It contains shorter utterances. 3. It is more grammatical, with fewer broken sentences. 4. It contains fewer complex sentences. 5. There is less variety of tenses. 6. The range of vocabulary is more limited. 7. There is some repetition. 8. The speech is more closely related to the ‘here-and-now’. Deduction from the study of Caretaker speech If this kind of input is an important factor in the process of language acquisition, it may provide us with clues as to the kind of input that will facilitate the learning of foreign language. Second Language Acquisition
  13. 13. Errors The first language learner approaches their target language with no language habits in their mind, but the second language learner approaches it with a system of language (mother tongue) already internalized in their mind. Some of these old language habits will facilitate (make easier) the learning of the new language; some will hinder (make difficult) it. Causes of Errors: 1. Transfer When old language patterns (from L1) help acquire new language patterns (in L2), this is positive transfer. Example: I like fish. An Arab child/learner will have no problem with this sentence because the word order S.V.O. is found in Arabic. But when old language patterns (from L1) cause problems in acquiring new language patterns (in L2), this is negative transfer. In this way, differences between the two languages lead to intereference, which is the cause of learning difficulties and errors. Examples of errors caused by negative transfer from L1 * He is angry from you. * I bough the book with $110. * Please write by a pen. * It is part from the plan. * She has a car new. * She has car new. Second Language Acquisition
  14. 14. Causes of Errors: 2. Overgeneralization of L1 rules When a child/learner learns a rule in the target language, they tend to apply the rule to all new words where the rule could be applied. They overgeneralize the rule. Examples of errors caused by overgeneralization of L2 rules * The childrens are happy. (overgeneralization of the rule of plural formation) * He have a new house. (overgeneralization of the use of the verb ‘have’) * She goed to Paris yesterday. (overgeneralization of the rule of past tense formation) Second Language Acquisition
  15. 15. Terminology Errors caused by negative transfer are called interference errors. They are also called so because patterns from L1 interfere in the acquisition of L2 patterns and cause errors. These errors are also called inter-lingual errors - they operate across two languages. Errors caused by the overgeneralization of rules onto L2 structures are called developmental errors. They are called so because they indicate that the child/learner is developing the as a language learner. The child/learner has learnt the new rule and is applying it, though wrongly, to other acquired words or patterns. These errors are also called intra-lingual errors - they operate within one language. Contrastive Analysis is the systematic study of a pair of languages with a view to identifying their structural differences and similarities. Analysis results in hypotheses about the similarities and differences between the two languages, which are used in designing appropriate teaching materials and choosing appropriate teaching methods. Error Analysis is the study of the types and causes of language errors. Analysis results in hypotheses about the types and causes of errors by the language learner, which are also used in designing appropriate teaching materials and choosing appropriate teaching methods. Second Language Acquisition
  16. 16. Terminology 2 (continued) Intra-lingual and Inter-lingual errors are also called systematic errors. They are called so because these errors result from the fact that the child has internalized a language system. A third kind of systematic errors is simplification by reduction. These are sentences in which inflections and other morphemes are eliminated, resulting in sentences like * Go bathroom? Another group of errors is called non-systematic errors. These are not the result of conflicting language systems but the result of other influences. A learner may try to express something for which they lack the adequate vocabulary. To compensate for this adequate knowledge, they use communication strategies such as gestures, paraphrase, etc. These communication strategies lead to errors, e.g, * I eat fruit. (in paraphrase of I had an apple). Learners may also make errors of performance. These are errors caused by external factors. The learner may be distracted, tired, upset or angry and make errors, e.g., * I didn’t said that (by an angry English student). These errors are also called mistakes. Learners will be able to recognize and correct them on sight. Second Language Acquisition
  17. 17. Terminology 3 (continued) Errors may be transitional or fossilized. Transitional errors are those errors that will eventually disappear as the learner progresses. Fossilized errors are those errors which do not disappear entirely and become permanent features of the learner’s speech. Interlanguage (IL) is the intermediate form of language between the first language and the target language. Its system is neither that of the first language nor that of the target language, but contains elements of both. Second Language Acquisition
  18. 18. Accounting for differences between learners There are three non-linguistic factors which influence success in second language learning. These are: motivation for learning, opportunities for learning, and the ability to learn. 1. Motivation for learning Motivation is a crucial factor that determines whether a learner embarks on the learning task at all, how much energy he devotes to learning, and how long he perseveres. There are two aspects for motivation. First is the communicative need for a second language. A person is most likely to be drawn towards learning second language if he perceives a clear communicative need for it. The second aspect is attitudes towards the second language community. The learner with more favorable attitudes will wish for more intensive contact with the second language community. If the attitude is negative, there may be strong internal barriers against learning. There are two basic kinds of motivation for learning a second language. The first is integrative motivation – learning a second language is important for communication. The second is instrumental motivation – learning a second language is a useful instrument towards employment (getting a job). Second Language Acquisition
  19. 19. Accounting for differences between learners 2. Opportunities for learning Another important influence on the proficiency a learner achieves in second language is the quality of the learning opportunities which the environment offers. There are four aspects of this influence. First is the opportunities to use a second language. It is important that the learner should have access to situations where the language is used as a natural means of communication. The second aspect is the emotional climate of the learning situation. In an environment where the learner feels anxious or insecure, there are likely to be psychological barriers to communication. In the typical language classroom, learners are often asked to perform in a state of ignorance and dependence. When they don’t perform adequately, they may be subjected to comment and correction. This can be frustrating. The third aspect is the nature of the linguistic input. The nature of the speech addressed to second language learners is an important factor in influencing how well they learn. The ideal input is similar to the input received by the child: comprehensible, relevant to their immediate interests, not too complex, but not strictly graded either. Second Language Acquisition
  20. 20. Accounting for differences between learners The fourth aspect is the effect of formal instruction. In formal instruction, teachers attempt to affect the course of learning. Mainly by controlling the learner’s exposure to the language, providing opportunities for practicing the language, and providing feedback. A number of other factors also affect the learning of second language, such as the methodology of teaching, the personality and skill of the teacher, the ability of the learner, and the availability of time and resources. 3. The Ability to Learn This refers to four aspects: the learner’s cognitive factors (intelligence), personality, age, and active learning strategies. The first aspect is the cognitive factors. It has been found that there is a link between general intelligence (IQ) and second-language learning ability. The second aspect is personality. The personality traits of the learner can affect his second language learning. Learners who are extrovert and outgoing get involved more in social interaction, attract more attention from teachers, and are less inhibited when asked to display their proficiency (e.g. presentations). Also, a learner with high self-esteem is less likely to feel threatened when communicating in a strange language in an unfamiliar situation. Second Language Acquisition
  21. 21. Accounting for differences between learners The third aspect is age. Children can learn a second language better than adults because they have better learning conditions that adults. These conditions are summarized below:  Children often have more favorable learning conditions: more time, exposure, attention, communicative need, and opportunities for use.  Children are likely to be exposed to simpler language.  Children are less likely to hold negative attitudes towards other speech communities or to be aware of other factors (e.g. fear of rejection) which may produce barriers to interaction and learning.  Children ‘aquire’ language naturally while adults ‘learn’ it in a formal setting. The fourth and last aspect is the active learning strategies. Successful language learners employ a wide variety of strategies which demonstrate, above all, their active involvement in learning. For example, they may repeat silently to themselves the sounds they hear from the teacher or other students. When the teacher puts a question to another student, they often think out their own answer and compare it with the answer accepted by the teacher. Outside the classroom, they exploit every opportuity to use the language as a means of communication, for example by seeking personal contacts, listening to the radio, or reading newspapers. Second Language Acquisition
  22. 22. Communicative Strategies Second language speakers often have communicative intentions which they find difficulty in expressing, because of gaps in their linguistic repertoire. In such cases, they try to find alternative ways of getting the meaning across. These alternative ways are called communicative strategies. Some of these strategies are: Second Language Acquisition
  23. 23. 1. Avoid Communicating When learners are aware of gaps in their repertoire, an obvious strategy is to avoid occasions which will present difficulty. For example, learners may avoid discussing topics for which they know they lack the necessary vocabulary. Second Language Acquisition
  24. 24. 2. Adjust the Message When learners are already engaged in a conversation, it is too late to use avoidance. They may decide to alter (change) the meanings they intend to communicate – make the ideas simpler, or say something slightly different. Example (We had delicious avocado milk shake) We had nice juice. Second Language Acquisition
  25. 25. 3. Use Paraphrase A learner may use paraphrase – for example, circumlocution or description – in order to express the meaning which he wants to communicate. Example (kettle) the thing that you boil water in Second Language Acquisition
  26. 26. 4. Use Approximation A learner may decide to use words which express the meaning as closely as possible. Example (pineapple) some fruit Second Language Acquisition
  27. 27. 5. Create New Words A learner may create a new word/ phrase to express the desired meaning. Example Let’s go to our guest-room. Second Language Acquisition
  28. 28. 6. Switch to the Native Language A learner may decide to use a word/ phrase from his native language. Example I want to ‫أنزل‬the latest edition of PDF. Second Language Acquisition
  29. 29. 7. Use Non-linguistic Resources A learner may decide to use non-linguistic resources (e.g., mime, gesture, or imitation) to make his meaning clearer. Example (Put it on the desk, please) Put it there, please. (It was round) It was this kind of shape. Second Language Acquisition
  30. 30. 8. Seek Help A learner may seek help from outside – use a bilingual dictionary or invoke the cooperation of the listener by signaling that he is in difficulty. Second Language Acquisition
  31. 31. The Effect of Errors on Communication in Second Language 1. On average, vocabulary errors affect communication more than grammatical errors. Pronunciation errors seem to have the least effect, unless they are particularly serious. 2. In grammar, ‘global’ errors generally hinder communication more than ‘local’ errors. A global error is one which affects the overall organization of a sentence, such as the wrong use of a conjunction or inappropriate ordering of major word groups. A local error is one whose effect is within a group, such as the omission of ending or the misuse of a definite article. Second Language Acquisition
  32. 32. 3. Learners who use a lot of communication strategies are often difficult to understand. 4. The errors in verb phrases (e.g., tense) are rated as more serious than the errors in noun phrases (e.g., the use of the articles). 5. Native speakers are generally more lenient than non- native language teachers when they are asked to judge the degree of seriousness of an error. Second Language Acquisition
  33. 33. 6. Native speakers do not form negative judgments about the intelligence and personality of second language learners on the basis of shortcomings in their linguistic or communicative ability. 7. Listeners with higher education tend to be more critical of errors than other native speakers. Second Language Acquisition
  34. 34. Acquisition-based Approaches to Language Teaching The learner’s attention should be almost entirely on understanding and expressing meanings through language. The approach that implements these principles is the natural approach. The underlying assumption is that it is mainly through productive practice that learners internalize the system of the language. Second Language Acquisition
  35. 35. In the initial stages, there is often a silent period during which a natural learner produced no language at all. However, he is already constructing a system which will enable him to speak when he is ready. Learners can develop competence while they are silent. The crucial factor becomes not so much whether a learner is actually speaking, but whether he is participating in a deeper sense: paying attention to the interaction and processing mentally the language to which he is exposed. Learners are encouraged to speak when they are ready to do so. Second Language Acquisition
  36. 36. The Natural Sequence of Learning 1. Learners become ready to acquire item A (e.g. –s to mark plural nouns in English) before they are ready to acquire item B (e.g. –s to mark third-person verbs) 2. In mastering a particular structural operation (e.g. forming yes/no interrogatives or negatives), natural learning sequences pass through stage X, stage Y, etc. This natural sequence is called the learner’s internal syllabus. Knowledge of the internal syllabus enables us to organize the content of the external syllabus and predict likely errors. Second Language Acquisition
  37. 37. Recommendations for Teachers based on Insights from SLA  Language learning is a natural response to communicative needs. Therefore, we should try to ensure that learners are always aware of the communicative value of what they are learning. Learners should be helped to use the language for expressing their own personal needs and their own personality. Second Language Acquisition
  38. 38. Recommendations for Teachers based on Insights from SLA  When possible, teachers should make the teaching sequence reflect the learning sequence.  If this is not possible, teachers should abandon the idea of exact structural sequencing, so that the learner’s inbuilt syllabus can follow its own preferred path in processing the language.  The language input should be simplified (not graded) in order to make it more comprehensible on the model of the typical adult’s speech to young children. Second Language Acquisition
  39. 39. Recommendations for Teachers based on Insights from SLA  Errors are not a sign of failure. They represent normal stages in the development of communicative skills.  If this is not possible, teachers should abandon the idea of exact structural sequencing, so that the learner’s inbuilt syllabus can follow its own preferred path in processing the language. Second Language Acquisition
  40. 40.  In the classroom, anxiety can hinder learning and make learners reluctant to express themselves through the second language. We should avoid becoming over-critical of their performance, try to create space for each learner’s individuality to express itself, and work to produce a relaxed classroom atmosphere. If these insights from language acquisition are implemented, it is hoped that second language learning will take place with a degree of ease similar to that of language acquisition. Second Language Acquisition
  41. 41. Language Acquisition vs. Language Learning Second Language Acquisition Language Acquisition Language Learning Children acquire a language that is normally spoken in the surrounding community Adults learn a language that is NOT normally spoken in the surrounding community Acquisition takes place naturally in communicative situations with others who know the language Learning is a more conscious process of accumulating knowledge of language in an institutional setting Acquisition is relatively faster; it takes place with no language system in the background Learning is slower; it takes place against an already acquired language system
  42. 42. Language Acquisition vs. Language Learning Second Language Acquisition Language Acquisition Language Learning Children have the advantage of sufficient time, focus, and incentive. Adults do not have sufficient time, focus or incentive. The affective filters (embarrassment, fear, lack of identification with speakers, etc.) are low for children. The affective filters are higher for adults.
  43. 43. Methods of L2 Teaching Second Language Acquisition The Grammar-Translation Method This is the most traditional method of L2 teaching. Vocabulary lists and sets of grammar rules are used to define the target of language. Memorization is encouraged, and written language rather than spoken language is emphasized.
  44. 44. Second Language Acquisition The audio-lingual method Became popular in the middle of the twentieth century. It emphasizes the spoken language. It involved a systematic presentation of the structures of the L2, moving from the simple to the more complex, in the form of drills that students are asked to repeat. The mthod was influenced by the belief that language is a set of “habits” that could be developed with a lot of practice. Critics of the method argue that it bears no resemblance to the interactional nature of actual language use.
  45. 45. Second Language Acquisition Communicative Language Teaching Developed as a reaction against the artificiality of “pattern- practice” and against the belief that learning the grammar of a language will necessarily result in an ability to use language. It emphasizes the functions of language rather than the forms of language. Classroom lessons are organized around concepts such as “asking for things” rather than the forms of the past tense. It is still widely used today.
  46. 46. Second Language Acquisition Communicative Competence: the the general ability to use language accurately, appropriately, and flexibly. Grammatical Competence The ability to use words and structures accurately. Socio-linguistic Competence The ability to use words and structures appropriately – in the appropriate social situation. Strategic Competence The ability to compensate, via strategies,for any difficulties with communication. Terminology

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