Assignment On Language Acquisition

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Summary

This chapter called “Second Language acquisition/learning” written by George Yule basically explains some issues such as key factors which influence the learning process,how learners of different ages acquire the language and some methods and approachesrelated to the acquisition of that language. To begin with, there is a factor whichundermines the L2 (second language) acquisition in contrast with the L1 (first language), itis the time factor and it is reflected on the amount of hours dedicated to learn it and thedifferent things that teenagers or adults have to do. Besides, Yule establishes the difference between acquisition and learning a language. Namely acquisition is the process of “thegradual development of ability in a language by using it naturally in communicativesituations” and the former means an active process of learning vocabulary and grammar of the language.Another relevant element is “the affective filter” which is used to describe how theafraid of making mistakes and or the lack of interest in the culture of the L2 restrain their acquisition process. Fortunately, this element does not massively affect the childrenlearning process because they are willing to take risks by nature and this is the way theyacquire a language. Nevertheless, several methods and approaches have been developed todeal with these issues, among others, such as Grammar-Translation method, in whichclasses are conducted in L1 and grammar and lexis of L2 are translated into L1,Audiolingual method, based on constant repetition of utterances from L2, andCommunicative approaches, in which the lessons are planned according to communicativeinstances rather than vocabulary and structures. From now on, this author explains briefly, but intensively, several concepts which deal with how learners are influenced by their L1 inthe acquisition process of L2, for instance the manner of transferring ideas from L1 to L2.Moreover, “interlanguage”, an acquisition system which blends L1 and L2, plays animportant role in this process but it can be impacted negatively by the concept fossilization,in which there is not progress or overcoming of mistakes.Finally, motivation is one of the elements that play a huge role in the L2 acquisitionand it can be increased in learners if teachers provide more activities which are based onrisk taking activities and also if these activities contain a judicious mixture of input andoutput from the learners.

The basis of Stephen Krashen’s second language acquisition theory is the distinction between language acquisition and language learning. Whereas the former promotes developing a “feel” for a language through exposure to said language, the latter focuses on gaining an understanding of the rules of a language, how it works. According to Krashen’s methods, there is a time and a place for both, but he gives precedence to acquisition, since this is, in fact, how all human beings learn their first languages.

As Krashen understands second language acquisition, he posits that the comprehension and application of particular grammatical structures tend to occur in a predicable order. This he terms the “natural order hypothesis.” As the second language learner advances, the “monitor hypothesis” comes into play. The language that is “acquired” is responsible for the degree of fluency achieved, and the language “learned” performs the part of an editor, the language monitor. Those students who have an overactive monitor sacrifice fluency for correctness, while those who underuse their monitors produce with carelessness, either having failed to learn or choosing not to apply their language learning. The “optimal monitor” is a balance between the two extremes, allowing for some correction but not at the expense of communication.

With regard to how language is acquired, Krashen has developed an “input hypothesis” which states that “a language acquirer who is at ‘level i’ must receive comprehensible input that is at ‘level i + 1.’” In order to acquire language, the input must be understandable but slightly more advanced than the student’s current level. To further aid acquisition, the “affective filter hypothesis” suggests that the best environment in which this can occur is one that promotes self-confidence, inspires motivation, and quells anxiety. The classroom—where most second language acquisition occurs in academia—must be perceived as a “safe” environment.

These hypotheses are important for second language pedagogy because they have bearing on the approaches that an instructor may employ. As far as input is concerned, this becomes the primary purpose of the classroom setting for Krashen. An emphasis on speech production is not essential, since language is acquired through comprehensible input. Nonetheless, conversation can produce comprehensible input and can therefore be beneficial. Comprehensible in this scenario means that the language input is delivered slowly enough, is well articulated, the vocabulary is common and not idiomatic, and that the sentences are not too complicated. Because the emphasis of this pedagogical style is on acquisition, grammar takes a back seat, and Krashen recommends that only digestible grammar be covered, perhaps in homework. This is, of course, unless students are interested to learn about the language that they are acquiring, but even still, Krashen advises that the grammar covered be simple and pragmatic. Thus, given this difference of focus compared to grammatically structured language classrooms, Krashen does not place very much importance on the correction of errors, since this can also make the classroom into an “unsafe” zone. As regards assignments and assessments, Krashen suggests an increased amount of reading rather than grammatical exercises, since reading contributes to acquisition as well as learning in context. Tests should then be based around reading comprehension and conversation, assessing communicative competence. The point of all of this is to bring the student up to a level at which they can begin to understand and be understood outside of the artificial academic environment.

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