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Lightbown & Spada (2006)

Lightbown & Spada (2006)

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Published by Keith Wheeler

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Published by: Keith Wheeler on Jan 19, 2011
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07/30/2013

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EXPLAININGSECONDLANGUAGELEARNING
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Liketheexplanationsforfirstlanguageacquisition,somesecondlanguage acquisitiontheoriesgiveprimaryimportancetolearners'innatecapacityfor languageacquisition.Othersemphasizetheroleoftheenvironment, especiallyopportunitiestointeractwithspeakerswhoadapttheirlanguage andinteractionpatternstomeetlearners'needs.Stillothersfocuson learners'engagementwiththebroadersocialcontext.
Contextsforlanguagelearning
Asecondlanguagelearnerisdifferentfromaveryyoungchildacquiringa firstlanguage.Thisistrueintermsofboththelearner'scharacteristicsand theenvironmentsinwhichfirstandsecondlanguageacquisitiontypically occur.Thinkabouthowthecharacteristicsandlearningconditionsofthe followinglearnersmaydiffer:(1)ayoungchildlearningafirstlanguage;(2) achildlearningasecondlanguage-indaycareorontheplayground;(3) adolescentstakingaforeignlanguageclassintheirowncountry;(4)anadult immigrantwithlimitedordisruptededucationworkinginasecond languageenvironmentandhavingnoopportunitytogotolanguageclasses. Nowaskyourselfthefollowingquestionsaboutthesedifferentlearners,and completethechartinTable2.1. 1Dotheyalreadyknowatleastonelanguage? 2Aretheycognitivelymature?Aretheyabletoengageinproblemsolving, deduction,andcomplexmemorytasks? 3Howwelldevelopedistheirmetalinguisticawareness?Cantheydefinea word,saywhatsoundsmakeupthatword,orstatearulesuchas'addan
-s
toformtheplura!'? 4Howextensiveistheirgeneralknowledgeoftheworld?Doesthisknow- ledgeenablethemtomakegoodguessesaboutwhatasecondlanguage interlocutorisprobablysaying?
 
Explainingsecondlanguagelearning Explainingsecondlanguagelearning
31
5Aretheylikelytobeanxiousaboutmakingmistakesandconcerned aboutsounding'silly'whenspeakingthelanguage? 6Doesthelearningenvironmentallowthemtobesilentintheearlystages oflearning,oraretheyexpectedtospeakfromthebeginning? 7Dotheyhaveplentyoftimeavailableforlanguagelearning,plentyofcontactwithproficientspeakersofthelanguage? 8Dotheyfrequentlyreceive
CORRECTIVEFEEDBACK
whentheymake errorsingrammarorpronunciation,ordolistenersusuallyoverlook theseerrorsandpayattentiontothemeaning?. 9Dotheyreceivecorrectivefeedbackwhentheirmeaningisnotclear, whentheyusethewrongword,orwhentheysaysomethinginappropri- ateorimpolite?10Is
MODIFIEDINPUT
available?Thatis,dointerlocutorsadapttheirspeechsothatlearnerscanunderstand(e.g.,intermsofspeedofdelivery, complexityofgrammaticalstructure,orvocabulary?) UsingthechartinTable2.1,giveyouropinionaboutthepresenceorabsence oflearnercharacteristicsandlearningconditionsforfourtypesoflearners. Usethefollowingnotation:
+
=
usually
-=
usuallyabsent ?
=
sometimespresent,someimesabsent,oryou'renotsure Then,compareyourviewswiththediscussionoflearnercharacteristicsand learni~gconditionsbelow.
FirstSecondlanguagelanguage
YoungchildYoungchildAdolescentAdult
(at
home)(playground)(classroom)
(on
thejob)
Learnercharacteristics
AnotherlanguageCognitivematurityMetalinguisticawarenessWorldknowledgeAnxietyaboutspeaking
Learningconditions
FreedomtobesilentAmpletimeCorrectivefeedback(grammarandpronunciation)Correctivefeedback(meaning,wordchoice, .politeness)Modifiedinput
Photocopiable
©
OxfordUniversityPress
Table
2.1
Contextsforlanguagelearning
Learnercharacteristics
Bydefinition,allsecondlanguagelearners,regardlessofage,havealready acquiredatleastonelanguage.Thispriorknowledgemaybeanadvantagein thesensethattheyhaveanideaofhowlanguageswork.Ontheotherhand, knowledgeofotherlanguagescanleadlearnerstomakeincorrectguesses abouthowthesecondlanguageworks,andthismayresultinerrorsthatfirst languagelearnerswouldnotmake.Veryyounglanguagelearnersbeginthetaskoffirstlanguageacquisition withoutthecognitivematurityormetalinguisticawarenessthatolder secondlanguagelearnershave.Althoughyoungsecondlanguagelearners havebeguntodevelopthesecharacteristics,theywillstillhavefartogoin theseareas,aswellasintheareaofworldknowledge,beforetheyreachthe levelsalreadyattainedbyadultsandadolescents. Ontheonehand,cognitivematurityandmetalinguisticawarenessallow olderlearnerstosolveproblemsandengageindiscussionsaboutlanguage. Ontheotherhand,someresearchershavesuggestedthattheuseofthese cognitiveskills-sovaluableformanykindsoftasks-canactuallyinterfere withlanguageacquisition.Theirhypothesisisthatsuccessfullan?uage acquisitiondrawsondifferentmentalabilities,~bilitiesthatare.specI~~to languagelearning.ThisviewisrelatedtotheIdeathatthere
IS
acriticalperiodforlanguageacquisition.Ithas~een.s~gges~~d.thato~derlearners drawontheirproblemsolvingandmetalinguisticabilitiespreciselybecause theycannolongeraccesstheinnatelanguageacquisitionabilitytheyhadas youngchildren.In'additiontopossiblecognitivedifferences,therearealso.attitudinaland culturaldifferencesbetweenchildrenandadults.Mostchildlearnersare willingtotrytousethelanguage-s-evenwhentheirproficiencyisquitelimited:." Manyadultsandadolescentsfinditstressfulwhentheyareunabletoexpress themselvesclearlyandcorrectly.Nevertheless,evenveryyoung(pre-school) childrendifferintheirwillingnesstospeakalanguagetheydonotknowwell. Somechildrenhappilychatterawayintheirnewlanguage;otherspreferto listenandparticipatesilentlyinsocialinteractionwiththeirpeers.
 
Explainingsecondlanguagelearning
Learningconditions
Youngerlearners,inaninformalsecondlanguage-learningenvironment,are usuallyallowedtobesilentuntiltheyarereadytospeak.Theymayalsohaveopportunitiestopractisetheirsecondlanguage'voice'insongsandgames thatallowthemtoblendtheirvoiceswiththoseofotherchildren.Older learnersareoftenforcedtospeak-tomeettherequirementsofaclassroom ortocarryouteverydaytaskssuchasshopping,medicalvisits,orjob interviews.Youngchildrenininformalsettingsareusuallyexposedtothesecond languageformanyhourseveryday.Olderlearners,especiallystudentsin languageclassrooms,aremorelikelytoreceiveonlylimitedexposuretothe secondlanguage.Classroomlearnersnotonlyspendlesstimeincontact withthelanguage,theyalsotendtobeexposedtoafarsmallerrangeof discoursetypes.Forexample,classroomlearnersareoftentaughtlanguage thatissomewhatformalincomparisontothelanguageasitisusedinmost socialsettings.Inmanyforeignlanguageclasses,teachersswitchtotheir students'firstlanguagefordisciplineorclassroommanagement,thus deprivinglearnersofopportunitiestoexperienceusesofthelanguageinreal communication.
AI:,
wesawinChapter1,parentstendtorespondtotheirchildren'slanguage intermsofitsmeaningratherthanintermsofitsgrammaticalaccuracy. Similarly,insecondlanguagelearningoutsideofclassrooms,errorsthatdo notinterferewithmeaningareusuallyoverlooked.Mostpeoplewouldfeel theywerebeingimpoliteiftheyinterruptedandcorrectedsomeonewhowas tryingtohaveaconversationwiththem.Nevertheless,interlocutorsmay reacttoanerroriftheycannotunderstandwhatthespeakeristryingtosay. Thus,errorsofgrammarandpronunciationmaynotberemarkedon,but thewrongwordchoicemayreceivecommentfromapuzzledinterlocutor,In asituationwhereasecondlanguagespeakerappearstouseinappropriate language,interlocutorsmayfeeluncomfortable,notknowingwhetherthe speakerintendstoberudeorsimplydoesnotknowthepolitewaytosay whatisintended.Inthiscasetoo,especiallybetweenadults,itisunlikelythat thesecondlanguagespeakerwouldbetoldthatsomethinghadgonewrong. Theonlyplacewherefeedbackonerroristypicallypresentwithhigh frequencyisthelanguageclassroom.Eventhere,itisnotalwaysprovided consistently. Oneconditionthatappearstobecommontolearnersofallages-though perhapsnotinequalqualityorquantity-isexposuretomodifiedor adaptedinput.Thisadjustedspeechstyle,calledchild-directedspeechin firstlanguageacquisition,hassometimesbeencalled
FOREIGNERTALK
or
TEACHERTALK
incertaincontextsofsecondlanguageacquisition.Some peoplewhointeractregularlywithlanguagelearnersseemtohavean
Explainingsecondlanguagelearning
33
intuitivesenseofwhatadjustmentstheyneedtomaketohelplearners understand.Ofcourse,somepeoplearemuchbetteratthisthanothers.We haveallwitnessedthosepainfulconversationsinwhichpeopleseemtothink thattheycanmakelearnersunderstandbetteriftheysimplytalklouder! SomeCanadianfriendstoldusofanexperiencetheyhadinChina.They werevisitingsomehistorictemplesandwantedtogetmoreinformation aboutthemthantheycouldgleanfromtheirguidebook.Theyaskedtheir guidesomequestionsaboutthemonuments.Unfortunately,theirlimited Chineseandhisnon-existentEnglishmadeitdifficultforthemtoexchange information.Theguidekeptspeakinglouderandlouder,butourfriends understoodverylittle.Finally,infrustration,theguideconcludedthatit wouldhelpiftheycouldseetheinformation-sohetookastickandbegan writinginthesand-inChinesecharacters! Ageneraltheoryofsecondlanguageacquisitionneedstoaccountfor languageacquisitionbylearnerswithavarietyofcharacteristicsinavariety ofcontexts.Theemphasisinthischapterisontheoriesthathavebeen proposedtoexplaintheaspectsoflanguageacquisitionthatarecommonto allsecondlanguagelearnersandcontexts.
We
willlookathowbehaviourist andinnatistexplanationshavebeenextendedtoaccountforsecondlangu- ageacquisition.Wewillalsolookatsometheoriesfromcognitivepsych- ologythathaveincreasinglyinformedsecondlanguageresearchinrecent years.These
COGNITIVIST
theoriesemphasizethewaythemindperceives,

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