You are on page 1of 25

Second Language Acquisition Theories as a Framework for Creating Distance Learning Courses

Eileen N. Ariza and Sandra Hancock Florida Atlantic University, USA

Moore and Kearsley (1996) maintain distance educators should provide for three types of interaction: a) learner-content; b) learner-instructor; and c) learner-learner. According to interactionist second language acquisition (SLA) theories that reflect Krashens theory (1994) that comprehensible input is critical for second language acquisition, interaction can enhance second language acquisition and fluency. Effective output is necessary as well. We reviewed the research on distance learning for second language learners and concluded that SLA theories can, and should, be the framework that drives the development of courses for students seeking to learn languages by distance technology. This article delineates issues to consider in support of combining SLA theories and research literature as a guide in creating distance language learning courses. Keywords: Distance learning; second language acquisition and distance learners; interactionist second language learning; ESOL and distance learning; SLA theories and creating distancelearning courses; language learning and distance technology

Second Language Acquisition Theories as a Framework for Creating Distance Learning Courses
Following the trend of distance learning courses in other domains, distance learning courses for second or foreign language learners are on the rise throughout the world, thus confirming the prediction that distance learning will soon become the hottest education fad in decades (Gonzalez, 1997, p. 8). Fad or not, the boom in language distance learning opportunities is evidenced by the number of search results evoked by searching Daves ESL Cafe ( and other language search engine sites. Much of the appeal of distance courses stems from their ability to provide access to individuals who are motivated to learn or improve proficiency in another language, but who are geographically isolated or restricted by work, schedules, and/or other considerations. Current thought about distance learning calls for courses to be designed in ways that follow the constructivist philosophy in which learners are seen as constructors of their own knowledge through active participation in the learning process, using computers as a problem-solving tool (Dixon-Krauss, 1996; Gavelek and Raphael, 1996; Lapp, 2000; Passerini and Granger, 2000; Willis, Stephens, and Matthew, 1996). This type of learning is based on ample interaction in the

learning process that allows students to resolve cognitive quandaries through concrete experience, collaborative discourse, and reflection (Brooks and Brooks, 1993). Moore and Kearsley (1996) maintain that distance educators should provide for three types of interaction: a) learner-content, b) learner-instructor, and c) learner-learner. According to interactionist second language acquisition (SLA) theories, two-way interaction is critical in learning a second language (Pica, 1996). Interaction must consist of comprehensible input (Krashen, 1985, 1994), which allows the message to be understood, as well as output (Swain, 1995), which provides opportunities for expression and negotiation of meaning. When distance second language course design and practice adhere to quality distance learning pedagogy and are driven by SLA theories and research, the subsequent courses can provide learners with opportunities to acquire other languages in more flexible and accessible settings than traditional classrooms and language labs. In this article, we discuss SLA innatist and interactionist theories and research to examine the appropriateness of using Moore and Kearsleys distance learning interaction model to design lessons for second language learners. Due to the paucity of research about interaction and distance language courses, we include literature that highlights computer-assisted language learning in English as a second language (ESL) and foreign language traditional classrooms and language laboratory settings. We have taken this approach to the literature because of the potential application to distance learning practice and the possible influence it can have in defining a second language distance learning research agenda. To better understand the issues and ramifications of language acquisition on distance learning courses, we begin this discourse by presenting an overview of major second language acquisition theories that advance the notions of comprehensible input, comprehensible output, and interaction, differentiating this term from Moore and Kearsleys usage of interaction.

SLA Theories
Theorists place different values on the role of interaction in second language acquisition (SLA). Krashens (1985, 1994) theory became a predominant influence in both second language teaching practice and later theories. Krashen postulates that SLA is determined by the amount of comprehensible input, that is, one-way input in the second language that is both understandable and at the level just beyond the current linguistic competence of learners. Similar to Vygotskys zone of proximal development (1962), Krashens scaffolding theory is referred to as i+1. Viewed as an innatist perspective, this theory maintains that a second language is acquired unconsciously in a manner similar to the acquisition of a first language. According to Krashen (1996), acquiring language is predicated upon the concept of receiving messages learners can understand (1996). Teachers can make language input comprehensible through a variety of strategies, such as linguistic simplification, and the use of realia, visuals, pictures, graphic organizers, and other current ESOL strategies. While Krashen (1994) believes that only one-way comprehensible input is required for SLA, others take an interactionist position acknowledging the role of two-way communication. Pica (1994), Long (1985), and others assert that conversational interaction facilitates SLA under

certain conditions. According to Lightbrown and Spada (1999), When learners are given the opportunity to engage in meaningful activities they are compelled to negotiate for meaning, that is, to express and clarify their intentions, thoughts, opinions, etc., in a way which permits them to arrive at a mutual understanding. This is especially true when the learners are working together to accomplish a particular goal . . . (p. 122). Pica (1994) goes on to say that negotiation is defined as modification and restructuring that occurs when learners and their interlocutors anticipate, perceive, or experience difficulties in message comprehensibility (p.495). A variety of modifications, which may involve linguistic simplification as well as conversational modifications such as repetition, clarification, and conformation checks, may be used to gain understanding. The interaction hypothesis of Long and Robinson (as cited in Blake, 2000) suggests that when meaning is negotiated, input comprehensibility is usually increased and learners tend to focus on salient linguistic features. Cognizance of these language forms and structures is seen as beneficial to SLA. Other interactionist theorists apply Vygotskys socio-cultural theory of human mental processing to define the role of interaction in SLA (Lightbrown and Spada, 1999) and hypothesize that second language learners gain proficiency when they interact with more advanced speakers of the language, for example, teachers and peers. Scaffolding structures such as modeling, repetition, and linguistic simplification used by more proficient speakers are believed to provide support to learners, thus enabling them to function within their zones of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1962). Although theorists adhering to interactionist thought consider both input to, and input from, the learner as important, output is often viewed as secondary. However, Swain (1995) in her comprehensible output hypothesis asserts that output is also critical and hypothesizes that it serves four primary functions in SLA: 1) enhances fluency; 2) creates awareness of language knowledge gaps; 3) provides opportunities to experiment with language forms and structures; and 4) obtains feedback from others about language use. Comprehensible output assists learners in conveying meaning while providing linguistic challenges; that is, . . . in producing the L2 (the second, or target language), a learner will on occasion become aware of (i.e., notice) a linguistic problem (brought to his/ her attention either by external feedback or internal feedback). Noticing a problem pushes the learner to modify his/ her output. In doing so, the learner may sometimes be forced into a more syntactic processing mode than might occur in comprehension (Swain and Lapkin in Chapelle, 1997, p. 2b). From this perspective, comprehensible output plays an important role in interaction. In summary, interactionists elaborate upon the innatist notion of comprehensible input explaining that interaction, constructed via exchanges of comprehensible input and output, has at least an enhancing effect when meaning is negotiated and support structures are used. Based on this premise, distance second language learning courses should be designed to provide interaction that includes negotiation of meaning where comprehensible output results from input.

Using SLA Theory and Research for Quality Design of Distance Language Courses

SLA theory and research can be useful in designing quality second language distance education courses when applied to the three-component model of distance learning interaction supported by Moore and Kearsley (1996). By reviewing the literature, we can determine implications for developing distance education courses that are most appropriate for the learning of a second language. Moore and Kearsley (1996) describe three types of interaction that they believe should be integrated in distance learning courses in general. We offer an overview of each category and make reference to complementary SLA literature that supports the interactionist SLA view. Based on their overlap, the information can be helpful in generating and establishing distance second language course practice.

Learner - Content Interaction

According to Moore and Kearsley (1996), a major role of the distance educator is to present appropriate content and to promote interaction between this content and the learner in ways that will cause the learner to construct knowledge through a process of personally accommodating information into previously existing cognitive structures (p. 128). Such interaction should induce the learner to develop new or modified knowledge and skills. In addition to textual materials used to present subject matter via distance learning, a wide array of options exist such as audio and video recordings, computer software, radio and television broadcasts, and interactive media such as CD-ROM and videodiscs. Learner-content interaction cannot occur if learners do not understand the content; therefore, a critical design feature for second language learners includes comprehensible input. Creed and Koul (1993), among others, developed two models, the concurrent model and the integrated model, that make the meaning of text more accessible in materials for non-native speakers. Components of the concurrent model include attention to vocabulary selection, text form and rhetorical structure, and learner support. The integrated model calls for the use of illustrations, explications, and a variety of genres to provide motivation and increase accessibility. Graddol (1993) points out that many language issues need to be addressed to ensure learner understanding. He counsels that the linguistic and communicative competence of learners needs to be determined, such as familiarity of particular discourses, including the media discourses of distance learning. Cultural issues pertaining to the subject matter, prior knowledge, and nonverbal language issues may also affect understanding. Diaz-Rico and Weed (2002) suggest that teachers find out about the cultural background of students. Additionally, implications of page design and visual representations should be considered in course design. Warschauer (1998) finds that the use of strategies such as re-reading the text, soliciting help, or using a dictionary aids the comprehension of text-based, computer-mediated discussions. Anderson (2002) maintains that the teaching of meta-cognitive strategies can help students develop stronger language learning skills. Because of the limited skills of beginners to access materials in the target language, Lambert (1991) believes that distance instruction is best suited for learners with intermediate and advanced second language skills. However, Davis (as cited in Boyle, 1995) maintains that audio

and videocassettes provide comprehensible input for beginners and thus may mitigate anxiety. Krashens (1985) insistence upon a non-threatening environment to facilitate language acquisition by lowering the affective filter is yet another strategy to enhance learning for both beginners and advanced language learners. The use of multimedia may provide additional support for comprehension and also accommodate different learning styles. For example, an individual who needs more cooperative learning to interact with others, may respond better to an assignment that necessitates group communication (e.g., synchronous activities, group discussions), while a more field independent individual might prefer an individual assignment with time to be introspective (Savard, Mitchell, Abrami, and Corso, 1995). Software programs that have inherent learner-content interaction, such as one described by Chapelle (1997) in which the computer acts as a participant while learners construct questions about past actions to solve a crime mystery. The computer responds to moves and queries, asking for clarification when it does not understand. Such computer-assisted language learning activities have pragmatic and linguistic objectives structured into tasks to allow second language learners to learn while doing. Distance second language course designers should plan for interaction that results in the use of targeted language objectives, allowing learners to practice new forms, functions, and structures. Another software program described by Chapelle (1997) uses hotspots that learners click when they do not understand idioms. This technique helps make input comprehensible and may also cause learners to notice form, which is beneficial in language acquisition. This and other computer-assisted language learning practices, such as highlighting forms and signaling when errors occur, may be integrated in learning applications. Chapelle cautions that using links to provide lexical meanings does not provide appropriate interaction because it does not require comprehensible output from learners. Activities should be planned so that they provide interaction demanding comprehensible output in the form of learners attending to and modifying problematic forms. Learner-content interaction can occur through cooperative learning activities while providing opportunities to develop linguistic and communicative competence. In Blakes study (2000), findings indicated that the cooperative learning strategy called jigsaw is superior to information gap, decision-making, and opinion tasks. Jigsaw activities combine learner-content interaction with learner-learner interaction.

Learner - Instructor Interaction

According to Moore and Kearsley (1996), most learners regard learner-instructor interaction in distance learning environments as essential. The instructors role is to present content and then maintain the learners motivation and interest, while assisting them as they interact with the content. Individualized attention is essential because it addresses the needs, motivation, and performance of each individual learner. The instructors responses to learners application of content are seen as especially valuable, as they provide constructive feedback concerning learners achievement of instructional objectives.

In distance learning environments, the instructor acts as facilitator, providing guidance and support while presenting content in ways that encourage engagement. Creed and Koul (1993) recommend that the instructor help to make linguistic features and content comprehensible. Repetition, comprehension checks, and other strategies can be used in learner-instructor interactions to negotiate meaning. Even though techniques may be embedded in course design and strategies explicitly taught to learners, some learners might need additional assistance in order to increase their understanding and reduce anxiety. In discussing asynchronous computer-mediated-interaction, Lamy and Goodfellow (1999) remind instructors that self-sustaining threads arise in response to questions deemed worth asking by the learning community, but these questions may not necessarily coincide with those deemed worth asking by the teacher (p. 57). Recognizing that formal learning programs require that a syllabus be followed, Lamy and Goodfellow caution that this situation may cause the dialogue to be controlled by the teacher, which discourages learner reflection and facilitative interaction. A goal of their online course was to discuss language and learning strategies. As a result of this emphasis, findings indicated that learners engaged in what they termed reflective conversations. Although online instructors did not control the shifts in topics of the postings, they did encourage students to talk about words, which did provide adequate control while allowing learners certain freedom. In addition, instructors interrupted on occasion to re-focus students on form, a practice that, according to Chapelle (1997), causes learners to notice form without interfering with the overall communicative goal. Because of this input, Lamy and Goodfellow believe that students viewed instructors as experts who modeled language use, which they hypothesized would encourage learners to practice these terms and phrases.

Learner - Learner Interaction

Moore and Kearsley (1996) describe learner-learner interaction in distance education as interlearner interaction, interaction between one learner and other learners, alone or in group settings, with or without the real time presence of an instructor (p. 131). They point out that younger learners may find this more stimulating and motivating than adult and advanced learners. Different types of learner-learner interaction should be thoughtfully planned to address goals. For example, inter-learner discussion can promote reflection about content, while group settings are appropriate for other types of collaborative projects. Many researchers believe that computer-mediated interaction for second language learners has beneficial features (Blake, 2000; Lamy and Goodfellow, 1999; and Warschauer, 1998). Warschauer believes it is less threatening than face to face interaction and may encourage risk taking while allowing students to set their own pace. In addition, it allows learners to have access to their texts, which can be later analyzed (Lamy and Gooddfellow, 1999; Warschauer, 1998) as well as provide an equalization effect on participation. Warschauer (1998), citing his own study, found that computer-mediated interaction has greater syntactical and lexical complexity than face to face exchanges, which may be as a result of increased planning time. Citing the findings and conclusions of Pellettieris study of interactional modifications in synchronous electronic discussion by intermediate level learners, Warschauer also infers that computer-mediated interaction is more beneficial than oral exchanges because the extended time to process and view language increases the possibility that learners will monitor and edit their speech (Krashen,

1985), resulting in interlanguage of higher quality. Blake (2000) is convinced that computermediated interaction is similar to face to face interaction, and is without the temporal and spatial constraints imposed by the classroom (p. 132). Lamy and Goodfellow (1999) suggest that asynchronous computer-mediated-interaction may be better for encouraging meta-linguistic reflection, because it allows learners more time to think about their own and others messages. Based on their study, Lamy and Goodfellow argue that reflective conversation . . . that is, computer-mediated asynchronous discussion around language topics and language-learning issues (p. 43), should be integrated in the design of distance second language courses. It is seen as beneficial because it has features that facilitate SLA, including negotiation of meaning and attention to form and strategy use. Lamy and Goodfellow (1999) also found that for learners to be effective in asynchronous chat settings, they needed linguistic skills that enabled them to produce texts that:
Are well formed and unambiguous not only linguistically but also as pieces of interactive discourse . . . [and] move the topic on in a way that takes account of what precedes and creates curiosity for what might follow, that is, that contains the combination of familiarity and unpredictability typical of contingent interaction (p. 54).

These points made by Lamy and Goodfellow suggest that this type of activity may not be appropriate for beginning second language learners, a view supported by Lambert (1991) in referring to distance second language courses overall. Designers of distance language learning courses should consider learner, pragmatic, and linguistic goals in planning learner-learner interaction tasks. Chapelle (1997) reminds us that the type of learner goal affects the interaction. Communicative goals focus on the construction and interpretation of linguistic meaning, while non-communicative goals focus strictly on form. Embedding language function and linguistic objectives in interaction offers learners opportunities to develop linguistic and communicative competence.

Based on this review of literature, SLA theory, research, and practice, an interactionist model may be applied to Moore and Kearsleys three-component distance education interaction model (1996). If these factors are considered, distance second language courses appear to hold promise for providing students with comprehensible input and output while they interact and negotiate meaning. However, this review also reveals that a need exists for more extensive research about distance second language course design. With careful planning, instructors can design courses that encourage comprehensible input, output, interaction, and negotiation of meaning, characteristics identified by interactionist theorists as crucial for SLA. While distance second language courses may lack valuable face to face interaction, they do provide viable alternatives to learners that are geographically isolated or need flexible learning environments.

The Interactionist Theory

First Language Acquisition
The theory under discussion concentrates on the relation between the linguistic environment and the childs mental capacities. The interactionists claim that language maturation is a result of the complex interplay between the unique human faculties and the environment in which the child grows up. Unlike generative linguists, the interactionists argue that the modification of speech to suit the abilities of the learner is an essential component of the language acquisition process (Lightbown and Spada 1993: 13-14; Davies and Elder 2004: 518). Many interactionist researchers have studied the adult modified speech used to address children and noticed that this type of speech involves slower simple sentences, repetition and paraphrase. They have also found that conversation is often restricted to the childs environment and that adults often repeat childrens speech in a syntactic correct way. It is extremely difficult to say whether the modification of children speech by adults is important. Children who do not receive such modified speech will still acquire language, but they may also access this type of input when they are with their siblings or other adults (Lightbown and Spada 1993: 14). To the interactionist, the importance lies in the speech interaction in which the adult estimates the level of language the child is capable of processing. The significance of child-adult interaction seems to be clear when examining the unusual cases in which it is missing.

Second Language Acquisition

As indicated above, a crucial element in the process of language acquisition is the modified input to which learners are exposed and the way native speakers interact with learners. Proponents of the interactionist view (Long 1985) claim that interactional modification makes input comprehensible which, in turn, facilitates and promotes acquisition. Therefore, interactional modification must be necessary for language acquisition. Long argues that there are no cases of acquiring a second language from natives without the modification of speech in some way. In fact, research shows that native speakers modify their speech when they talk with nonnative speakers (Lightbown and Spada 1993: 30). Research which has been carried out to examine these claims proved that conversational tuning can aid comprehension, but no research provided conclusive evidence that comprehensible input causes or explains acquisition (Davies and Elder 2004: 518).

Interactionist Theory in Second Language Acquisition Part I Introduction Over the last several decades, while second language researchers have proposed many theories of second language acquisition (SLA), there has been little agreement on any single SLA theory. Language acquisition theories have traditionally centered on nurture and nature distinctions, advanced by the social-interactionist and nativist camps respectively. Social-interactionists see language as a rule-governed cultural activity learned in interaction with others, while nativists perceive language ability as an innate capacity to generate syntactically correct sentences. In other words, interactionists believe environmental factors are more dominant in language acquisition, while nativists believe inborn factors are more dominant.

Vygotsky, a psychologist and social constructivist, laid the foundation for the interactionists view of language acquisition. According to Vygotsky, social interaction plays an important role in the learning process and proposed the zone of proximal development (ZPD), where learners construct the new language through socially mediated interaction (Brown, p. 287). Vygotsky's social-interactionist theory was proposed about 80 years ago, and still serves as a strong foundation for the interactionists perspective today (Ariza and Hancock, 2003). On the other hand, nativists such as Krashen assume that natural internal mechanisms operate upon comprehensible input which leads to language competence. This is evident in Krashens input hypothesis of SLA. Krashens input hypothesis was first proposed over 30 years ago, expanding from Chomskys Language Acquisition Device. Since that time, there have been many theories put forward under influence Krashens input hypothesis. Although Vygotsky and Krashen can be categorized into distinct positions, the application of their theories to second language teaching shares a number of similarities. According to Krashens input hypothesis, language acquisition takes place during human interaction in the target language environment. The learner is then exposed to rich comprehensible input in the target language. However, in order for acquisition to occur, the input would need to be slightly beyond the learners current level of linguistic competence. Both Vygotsky and Krashen put great emphasis on the role of interaction in SLA. Long, among other interactionists, also believes in the importance of comprehensive input. His interaction hypothesis also stresses the importance of comprehensible input as a major factor in second language acquisition; however, he also believes that interactive input is more important than noninteractive input. In addition, Long stresses the significance of interactional modifications which occur in the negotiating meaning when communication problems arise (Ellis, 1994). The major distinction between interactionist and nativist theories of SLA is that scholars such as Krashen emphasize comprehensible target language input which is one-way input and, on the contrary, interactionists acknowledge the importance of two-way communication in the target language (Ariza and Hancock, 2003). Interactionists agree that Krashens comprehensible input is a crucial element in the language acquisition process, but their emphasis is on how input is made comprehensible (Lightbown and Spada, 1998, p. 29). Moreover, Krashen distinguishes between language acquisition and language learning; however, this paper will focus mainly on Longs theory of SLA. This discussion will focus primarily on the interaction hypothesis proposed by Long. The following sections will highlight the main claims advanced by Long and discuss them critically in light of other competing perspectives on SLA and consider its EFL pedagogical implications.

The Interaction Hypothesis The Main Claims Krashens sees the relevance of social contextual factors as conversational gambits in securing more input for the learner, which eventually relate to the notion of an affective filter that is said to determine what input gets through to the brain's central language acquisition mechanism (Allwright, 1995). Long believes thatwhat makes input to be comprehensible is modified interaction, or negotiation of meaning. In Krashens input hypothesis, comprehensible input itself remains the main causal variable, while Long claims that a crucial element in the language acquisition process is the modified input that learners are exposed to and the way in which other speakers interact in conversations with learners. (Lightbown and Spada, 1993). Long (1983, cited in Gass, 2002) investigates conversations between a native speaker (NS) and nonnative speaker (NNS) and proposes his interaction hypothesis as follows: Negotiation for meaning, and especially negotiation work that triggers interactional adjustments by the NS or more competent interlocutor, facilitates acquisition because it connects input, internal learner capacities, particularly selective attention, and output in productive ways. (cited in Gass, 2002, p. 174). In other words, interactional adjustments make input comprehensible, and comprehensible input promotes acquisition, thus interactional adjustments promote acquisition (Lightbown and Spada, 1993, p.30). Long believes that when meaning is negotiated, input comprehensibility is usually increased and learners tend to focus on salient linguistic features (Ariza and Hancock, 2003). Caroll (2000) also summarizes Longs Interaction hypothesis as follows: Speakers in conversations negotiate meaning. In the case of conversations between learners and others, this negotiation will lead to the provision of either direct or indirect forms of feedback, including correction, comprehension checks, clarification requests, topic shifts, repetitions, and recasts. This feedback draws the learners attention to mismatches between the input and the learners output (p.291). Negotiation of meaning leads to modified interaction, which consists of various modifications that native speakers or other interlocutors make in order to render their input comprehensible to learners. For example, native speakers in a conversation with non-native speakers often slow their speech down, speaking more deliberately. This kind of language modification by native speakers addressing to language learners is sometimes referred as foreigner discourse (FD). Modifications identified in FD vary significantly depending on individual factors such as speech style, the discourse, social and cultural contexts. In FD, for example, it is reported that individual utterances tend to be shorter and syntactically less complex, more frequent and concrete vocabulary is used while slang and idioms are avoided, NSs tend to restate information using synonyms, etc.

At the discourse level, modifications include feedbacks such as recasts, comprehension checks, clarification requests, self-repetition or paraphrase, restatement and expansion of NNS statement and topic switches (Wesche, 1994; Brown, 2000; Lightbown and Spada, 1998). An example of clarification request is as follows (Gass, 2002, p.174): NS: theres theres just a couple of more things NNS: a sorry? Couple? NS: couple more things in the room only just a couple NNS: Couple? What does it mean couple? Long claims that these modifications can provide greater transparency of semantic or syntactic relationships for learners, and he further proposes that interactional modifications may be the crucial factor in facilitating comprehension by non-NSs. (Wesche, 1994). Is Comprehensible input through interaction enough? Both Long and Krashen, as well as many language teachers and researchers, see comprehensible input as a source of acquisition, support the view that comprehensible input is necessary for language acquisition to occur. However, some researchers argue that comprehensible input is not sufficient to promote acquisition. For example, Swain (1995) advances her comprehensible output hypothesis which claims that output, in addition to input, is also critical in SLA. Swains hypothesizes states that output allows learners to create awareness of language knowledge gaps, experiment with language forms and structures, and obtain feedback from others about language use (Ariza and Hancock, 2003). Comprehensible output assists learners to notice a gap between what they want to say and what they can say, leading them to recognize what they do not know or are forgetting about the target language. Noticing a problem pushes the learner to modify his or her output and in doing so, the learner may sometimes be forced into a more syntactic processing mode (Ariza and Hancock, 2003). For example:

NNS: so I went to shopping yesterday NS: oh you went shopping? NNS:yes I went- I went shopping From this perspective, not only comprehensible input obtained through interaction is crucial, but also does comprehensible output play an important role in interaction. Effects of Negotiation in Language Acquisition Many researchers agree that interaction enriches the input to the learning mechanisms. According to Long, negotiation of meaning promotes language acquisition to occur.

Gass (1997) also acknowledges negotiation as a facilitator of learning, and claims that negotiation draws attention to erroneous or inappropriate forms, and also creates a situation in which learners receive feedback through direct and indirect evidence, and, as a result, this facilitates second language learning. However, as Carroll (2001, p.291) points out, how interaction does this is not addressed by any of the standard literature on interaction. She attempts to clarify possible functions of negotiation of meaning in relation to enhancing of learning and argues that negotiation helps the learner make more precise his/her choice of lexical item, and this might strengthen the learners encoding of a given form and lead to greater practice, which in turn will enhance recall of the relevant items. Carroll, however, states that it is still unclear whether the negotiated interaction can accomplish anything else other than practice. Thus, further research is needed to demonstrate any relationships between negotiated input and the any learning which occurs. Ellis (1994, p.280) also notes experimental studies which have attempted to discover whether negotiation leads to interlanguage development and whether modifications help acquisition at least where vocabulary is concerned. However, Ellis also claims that there has been no empirical test of the claim that negotiation of meaning aids the acquisition of new grammatical features. Ellis (1994), in summarizing findings of empirical studies concerning the relationship between feedback and learner output, states that learners are much more likely to produce output modifications in response to clarification requests than to confirmation requests and repetitions, as clarification requests require learners to produce improved output, instead of native speakers modeling of what the learner intended to mean. In addition, pushing learners to produce more comprehensible output may have a long-term effect, but not necessarily for all learners. However, Ellis again notes that there is little hard evidence to support the output hypothesis so far, and it is not clear whether pushed output can result in the acquisition of new linguistic features (pp 280-284). To summarize the above discussion, negotiation of meaning and pushed output are said to have the following effects on second language acquisition: - It helps to promote communication - It facilitates learning as it helps noticing a gap between received input and the learners output - It enables learners to receive feedback through direct and indirect evidence Recall of the relevant item will be enhanced - It helps acquisition at least where vocabulary is concerned - Clarification requests facilitate learners to produce output modifications - Pushing learners to produce more comprehensible output may have a long-term effect

However, so far a relationship between the amount or type of negotiated input and the amount or type of learning which occurs still remains unresolved at this point and further empirical research is needed.

Second language acquisition (SLA) research: its significance for learning and teaching issues
Author: Florence Myles

Florence Myles

The purpose of this general overview article is to outline how research into second language acquisition (SLA) over the last few decades has fed into our understanding of learning and teaching in foreign language classrooms. After a very brief overview of SLA research findings concerning both route and rate of L2 development, theoretical models attempting to explain these findings are presented, ranging from purely linguistic to cognitive models and social/interactionist models. The relationship between SLA research and second language pedagogy is then explored. Finally, recent developments investigating specifically the relationship between instruction and L2 development are outlined.

Table of contents

1. Introduction 2. Systematicity 3. Variability 4. Conclusion - SLA research and good practice 5. Glossary Bibliography Related links

1. Introduction
The two main, well documented findings of SLA research of the past few decades are as follows:
1. second language acquisition is highly systematic 2. second language acquisition is highly variable

Although these two statements might appear contradictory at first sight, they are not. The first one primarily refers to what has been called the route of development (the nature of the stages all learners go through when acquiring the second language - L2). This route remains largely

independent of both the learner's mother tongue (L1) and the context of learning (e.g. whether instructed in a classroom or acquired naturally by exposure). The second statement usually refers to either the rate of the learning process (the speed at which learners are learning the L2), or the outcome of the learning process (how proficient learners become), or both. We all know that both speed of learning and range of outcomes are highly variable from learner to learner: some do much better much more quickly than others. Before we expand on these findings a little more, it is important to note that, traditionally, the concern for rate of learning has been the centre of teachers' and learners' attention. This is because it has obvious pedagogical implications: if we understand what makes learners learn faster and progress further, then maybe we can be better teachers or learners. However, these two lines of enquiry are both part and parcel of the same endeavour, which is to understand thoroughly how learners learn. In fact, understanding the route learners follow, and therefore having clear expectations of what learners can achieve at given points on the developmental continuum, is crucially important for both learners and teachers. Such study leads us, for example, to a better understanding of the significance of errors in the learning process. Producing them need not be seen as necessarily problematic (in fact, some errors can be evidence of a more advanced linguistic system than the equivalent correct form: for example, learners will usually produce rote-learned formulaic questions such as 'where's X?', e.g. 'where's the ball?', in which 'where's' is an unanalysed chunk, before producing the developmentally more advanced 'where the ball is?', the second stage in the development of the interrogative system before the final stage in which 'where is the ball?' is produced correctly; See e.g. Myles et al 1998 and 1999 for a discussion. This is often referred to as the 'U shape of learning', typical also of L1 learners, by which learners start with the correct rote-learned form, e.g. took, before over-applying the past tense rule and producing taked, prior to learning the exception to the rule and producing took again, creatively rather than rote-learned this time. Teachers will also be less frustrated, and their learners too, when they become aware that teaching will not cause skilful control of a linguistic structure if it is offered before a learner is developmentally ready to acquire it. Now, of course, if we can speed up progression along the route that research has identified we need to understand how to do so. But understanding this route is inseparably bound up with clarifying the question of rapid and effective teaching. The robust research findings regarding the systematicity of the route followed by L2 learners do not have straightforward implications for language teaching, however. One logical possibility might be that curricula should closely follow developmental routes; this is not sensible however, given (a) the incomplete nature of our knowledge of these routes, (b) the fact that classrooms are typically made up of learners who are not neatly located at a single developmental stage, and (c) the fact that developmental stages typically contain non-target forms. (For example, typical stages in the acquisition of negation will be: 1. 'no want pudding'; 2. 'me no want pudding' 3. 'I don't want pudding', with forms 1 and 2 representing normal developmental stages, therefore to be expected in early L2 productions, but which will not be taught). Other possibilities are that curricula should be recursive with inbuilt redundancy, and that teachers should not expect immediate accuracy when teaching a new structure, or that they should give up on closely

prescribed grammar curricula and opt instead for functional and/or task-based syllabus models. Many teachers/language educators have actively welcomed the role of 'facilitator' rather than 'shaper' of development, implied by such models. I will now briefly summarise research findings relating to both systematicity and variability, drawing implications for teaching methodology as I go along.

2. Systematicity
A substantial part of the SLA research community has concentrated on documenting and trying to understand the discovery that language learning is highly systematic. A defining moment for the field was in the late 70s / early 80s when it became evident that L2 learners follow a fairly rigid developmental route, in the same way as children learning their L1 do, and not dissimilar in many respects from the L1 route. Moreover, this developmental route, crudely represented below as a series of interlocking linguistic systems (or interlanguages: La, Lb, Ln ), sometimes bore little resemblance to either the L1 of the learner, or the L2 being learnt. Developmental route

Crucially, these interlanguages are linguistic systems in their own right, with their own set of rules. For example, Hernndez-Chvez (1972) showed that although the plural is realised in almost exactly the same way in Spanish and in English, Spanish children learning English still went through a phase of omitting plural marking. It had been assumed prior to this that second language learners' productions were a mixture of both L1 and L2, with the L1 either helping or hindering the process depending on whether structures are similar or different in the two languages. This was clearly shown not to be the case, even if the L1 of learners does of course play some role, especially in early stages and more persistently at the level of pronunciation (more about this later). For example, the developmental stages in the acquisition of German word-order, in both naturalistic and instructed learning contexts and irrespective of the L1 of the learners, are claimed to be as follows (Pienemann 1998):
Stage 1: Canonical Order (SVO) Die kinder spielen mim ball (= the children play with the ball) Learners initially hypothesise that German is SVO, with adverbials in sentence-final position.

Stage 2:

Adverb preposing Da kinder spielen (= there children play) Learners now place the adverb in sentence initial position, but keep the SVO order (no verb-subject inversion yet). Verb separation Aller kinder muss die pause machen (= all children must the pause make) Learners place the non-finite verbal element in clause-final position. Verb-second Dann hat sie wieder die knoch gebringt (= then has she again the bone brought) Learners now place the verb in sentence-second position, resulting in verb-subject inversion. Verb-final in subordinate clauses Er sagte dass er nach hause kommt (= he said that he to home comes) Learners place the finite verb in clause-final position in subordinate clauses.

Stage 3:

Stage 4:

Stage 5:

Similar sequences of acquisition have been found for a wide range of structures in a range of languages (see e.g. Ellis 1994; Mitchell & Myles 1998). After the 1980s the SLA research agenda focused on (a) documenting the route followed by learners in a range of structures and languages - although English remains by far the most studied L2, and increasingly (b) explaining this route which, if it is for the most part independent of both the L1 and the context of learning, must be due to learner-internal processes. This still remains today a crucial part of the SLA research agenda.
2.1 Learning Development Models (Universal Grammar, Cognitive models, Interactionist / Sociocultural models)

The theoretical approaches which have been used in order to investigate L2 development fall into three broad categories:
Universal Grammar (UG)

The UG approach, following in the footsteps of L1 acquisition research, applies the Chomskyan paradigm (Cook & Newson 1996; White 1989; 1996; 2000) to the study of L2 development. See papers by Adger and Sorace in this guide. In a nutshell this linguistic theory claims that humans inherit a mental language faculty which highly constrains the shape that human languages can take and therefore severely limits the kind of hypotheses that children can entertain regarding the structure of the language they are exposed to. This is why children acquire their first language easily and speedily, in spite of its complexity and abstractness, at an age when they are not

cognitively equipped to deal with abstract concepts generally. In this view, the core of language is separate from other aspects of cognition, although it operates in close interaction with them of course. If the L2 developmental route is similar in many respects to the L1 route, then it must also be because the innate UG constrains L2 development. This approach has given rise to a wealth of studies (see for example White 1989, 1996, 2000; Flynn, Martohardjono & O'Neil 1998; Schwartz 1998; Archibald 2000; Herschensohn 2000; Balcom 2001; Hawkins 2001a, 2001b).
Cognitive models

The cognitive and information processing models generally, which originate from psychology (and neurolinguistics), claim, on the other hand, that language learning is no different from other types of learning, and is the result of the human brain building up networks of associations on the basis of input. Information processing models see learning as the shift from controlled processes (dealt with in the short term or working memory and under attentional control) to automatised processes stored in the long term memory (retrieved quickly and effortlessly). Through this process, what starts as declarative knowledge (knowing 'that') becomes procedural knowledge (knowing 'how') which becomes automatic through repeated practice. Recently, connectionist models have further assumed that all learning takes place through the building of patterns which become strengthened through practice. Computer models of such processes have had some success in replicating the L1 and L2 acquisition of some linguistic patterns (e.g. past tense, gender; Sokolik & Smith 1992; Ellis & Schmidt 1997). The view of language encapsulated within connectionism, as this view of cognition is called, is fundamentally different from linguistic models, where language is seen as a system of rules rather than as patterned behaviour. In both the UG and cognitive models, the focus is on explaining learner-internal mechanisms, and how they interact with the input in order to give rise to learning. The emphasis on the role played by the input however, varies, with the UG approach assuming that as long as input is present learning will take place, and the other models placing a larger burden on how the input is decoded by learners, paying particular attention to concepts such as noticing or attention.
Interactionist/sociocultural models

In contrast to these models, the interactionist approach has paid particular attention to the nature of the interactions L2 learners typically engage in. It has focused on investigating, for example, the role of negotiation for meaning in the context of NS-NNS (Native Speaker - Non-Native Speaker) conversations (Gallaway & Richards 1994; Gass 1997; Gass & Varonis 1994; Pica 1994; Oliver 1995; Long 1996), in order to see how interactions are modified by both NSs and NNSs to ensure that the input the latter receive is comprehensible. The role of feedback given to learners when they make mistakes has also been the object of attention (Aljaafreh & Lantolf 1994; Lyster & Ranta 1997; Long, Inagaki & Ortega 1998). For example, Lyster & Ranta (1997) found that the most common feedback given to learners when they produce incorrect forms are recasts, i.e. a repetition of the learner's utterance minus the error; however, they also found that recasts were the kind of negative feedback learners were most likely to ignore.

Researchers adopting a socio-cultural framework, following in the footsteps of Vygotsky (1978; 1986), who believed that all learning was essentially social, have explored the way in which L2s are learned through a process of co-construction between 'experts' and 'novices'. Language learning is seen as the appropriation of a tool through the shift from inter-mental to intra-mental processes. Learners first need the help of experts in order to 'scaffold' them into the next developmental stages before they can appropriate the newly acquired knowledge. This is seen as a quintessentially social process, in which interaction plays a central role, not as a source of input, but as a shaper of development (Lantolf & Appel 1994; Lantolf 2000).
2.2 Teaching implications

The implications of these models of learning for teaching methodologies are essentially as follows: UG If the development of the L2 linguistic system is primarily driven by learner-internal mechanisms, requiring the learner to map the L2 input onto an innate highly constrained linguistic blueprint, then all the classroom needs to provide is linguistic input, and learning will take care of itself. In this view, the L2 acquisition process is seen as very similar to L1 acquisition, and children do not need to be taught grammar in order to become fluent native speakers. The UG view of language learning is consistent with the communicative language teaching approach, in the sense that both believe that learning will take place if rich natural input is present. It is important to stress though, that the two approaches developed independently of one another, with UG evolving out of the need to understand how children acquire their mother tongue, and then being applied to L2 acquisition, and communicative language teaching being the result of the perceived failure of grammar-translation or audiolingual methodologies by teachers, who felt that they did not prepare learners for real life communication needs. Krashen (1982, 1985) was influential in articulating the first model putting together these views of learning and teaching, and the subsequent work on the role of input and interaction helped us better to understand how different kinds of interactions may contribute to providing usable input for the learner (Gass 1997; Pica 1994; Long 1996; Swain 1995). Cognitivism The information processing or connectionist models, on the other hand, which see learning as the strengthening of associations and the automatisation of routines, lead to much more behaviourist views of learning. Thus learners are seen as central to the acquisition process, in the sense that they have to practise until patterns are well established, and external variables take on a much greater role. For example, the role of input, interaction and feedback, and how they can speed up development, is seen as much more crucial, as is the role of practice in the development of fluency and control of the L2 system. Combining the models These two apparently conflicting approaches are not the only ones that have been applied to the study of second language learning and teaching, but they have received most interest and generated most empirical work. These models might appear contradictory at first sight, but in fact they can be reconciled in so far as they are concerned with different aspects of SLA, which is, after all, a highly complex process.

Even if one accepts the view that language development is highly constrained, possibly by UG (and, after all, the robust developmental routes that learners follow, as illustrated earlier, seem to be a strong argument in favour of this view), it is not the whole picture. We also need to understand many aspects of the SLA process other than the acquisition of syntax and morphology, such as lexical acquisition or the development of pragmatic and sociolinguistic repertoires. Moreover, if developmental sequences show how learners construct the L2 linguistic system, they do not tell us anything about how learners develop their ability to access in real time the system they have constructed. In other words, if we believe UG constrains the mental grammars constructed by L2 learners, we still need to understand how learners become more fluent. In order to understand SLA, we need to know not only what the system constructed by learners looks like, but also the procedures which enable efficient use of this system, and how the two interact in real time, as well as develop over time. The fact that these two endeavours are independent is clearly evident when we think of learners who are good system builders, i.e. they are accurate in their productions, but not necessarily good at accessing this system in real time, i.e. they are very non-fluent. The reverse is also true, with some learners developing high levels of fluency quickly, but remaining very inaccurate in their productions. Similarly, if we are to find out what can facilitate the learning process, we need to gain a much better understanding of the kinds of interactions and social settings which promote learner development. Gass (1997), for example, argues that task-based methodologies (in which learners have to negotiate with one another in order to perform a meaning-focused activity) force learners to notice 'gaps' in their L2, a prerequisite for filling such gaps. Swain (1995), in her 'pushed output hypothesis', argues that it is when learners' own productions fail to meet their communicative goals that they are forced to revise their linguistic system. Some recent teaching methodologies have recognised the important role played by the setting of learning, and by the quality of interactions therein. Although not necessarily well-informed either theoretically or empirically, a number of humanistic teaching methodologies such as 'suggestopaedia' (which aims to relax the student through e.g. listening to music), or 'the silent way' (making use of coloured rods to express meaning), which believe that L2 learning is facilitated if the learner's inner-self is set free from inhibitions by providing a stress-free learning environment, have been very popular in some parts of the world.

3. Variability
The variability that occurs in L2 development, in terms of rate of acquisition and outcome, have received much less attention in the SLA literature until relatively recently. This was because of the very robust general findings showing that, in key respects, learners develop in similar ways no matter what their age is, whether they are learning the L2 in a classroom or in a country where the language is spoken, no matter what their L1 is, and no matter what they were actually taught. As more and more empirical research has been carried out, however, a number of important points have emerged which have meant qualifying these statements somewhat.

3.1 Variability in route

Despite the relative rigidity of the L2 learning route, transfer does occur in so far as the L1 has an impact upon L2 learning, even if it remains true that it is primarily in the sense of speeding up the learning process in the case of closely related languages or similar linguistic structures, rather than changing the route of development itself (i.e. learners still follow the same stages, but at different speeds, depending on their L1). For example, Italian learners of French will acquire the idiosyncratic placement of object pronouns in French more quickly than say English learners because it is similar in both languages, but they will still go through the same stages, when in fact transferring their L1 structure would lead to acquisition of the correct system. In fact there is ample evidence, in the literature, of transfer not taking place when it would help, and conversely of transfer taking place when it leads to errors. Moreover, transfer often occurs one way and not the other, with English learners of French, for example, producing la souris mange le (the mouse eats it) rather than la souris le mange (the mouse it eats), but French learners of English never produce the mouse it eats in their interlanguage, which one would expect if transfer was taking place (Hawkins 2001a). But there are also areas in which the L1 gives rise to structures not found in the language of other L2 learners (see e.g. Odlin 1989; Selinker 1992). The impact of the L1 on interlanguage development needs to be better understood, even if its potential influence on SLA remains limited since we know that only a small subsection of structures from the L1 are likely candidates for transfer.
3.2 Variability in rate and outcome

In contrast to the undeniable systematicity of the route of development (bar the relatively minor differences alluded to previously) the rate of acquisition and the outcome of the acquisition process are highly variable, unlike L1 acquisition in which children seem to progress at roughly similar rates (give or take a few months), and all become native speakers of the language they are exposed to. It is very difficult to predict in second language acquisition what makes some people learn faster and better than others. Some factors have been isolated as playing some part in this. For example, age is one such factor (Singleton & Lengyel 1995). Although the commonly held view that children are better L2 learners is a gross oversimplification if not a complete myth, differences have been found between children and adults, primarily in terms of eventual outcome. Although teenagers and adults have been found to be generally better and faster L2 learners than young children in the initial stages of the learning process (on a wide range of different measures), children, however, usually carry on progressing until they become indistinguishable from native speakers whereas adults do not, especially as far as pronunciation is concerned. Whether this is due to the process of acquisition having changed fundamentally in adulthood (e.g. because UG is not available anymore once the L1 has been acquired), or for other reasons (e.g. the process remains the same but stops short of native competence), is an issue hotly debated today, and the source of much empirical investigation (Birdsong 1999). The fact remains, though, that the route followed by young and older L2 learners is essentially the same, and is similar in many respects to that followed by children learning that language as a native language.

Another salient difference when comparing L1 and L2 outcomes is that whereas native competence is the norm in the L1 context, it is the exception in the case of L2s. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as fossilisation. Some structures seem very difficult to acquire in the L2, even when there is plenty of input. In immersion programmes in Canada, in which English-speaking children are taught the normal curriculum through French and are therefore exposed to large amounts of input within a communicative focus, end results have been mixed. Although these children become very proficient and fluent in French, their accuracy in some areas (e.g. gender, adverb placement etc.; White 1996; Harley 1998; Hawkins 1998) remains far from native-like, suggesting that some aspects of language resist spontaneous acquisition. In order to explain variability in rate and outcome, SLA researchers have focused primarily on the role of external factors in the acquisition process. As we have seen, one line of research inquiry has addressed questions about the nature of the input and the role of interaction in the learning process. Other lines of inquiry have investigated the role of learner variables, such as intelligence, aptitude, motivation, attitude, as well as the social and sociolinguistic variables which impact on them (Skehan 1989; 1998; Berry 1998; Drnyei 2001; Sawyer & Ranta 2001). These variables have been found to play an important role in determining how successful learners are. For example, recent motivation research has witnessed something of a boom since the nineties, with research questions becoming more sophisticated and addressing more directly language teaching issues. Motivation is now seen as situation-dependent as well as a relatively stable learner trait, and much work has been carried out investigating issues such as the role of tasks in motivating learners, the role of the teacher in motivating learners, or the role of learning strategies in enhancing motivation (Drnyei 2001 and 2002). If motivation, as well as other learner variables, is now widely recognised as playing a determining role in SLA, more research needs to be carried out on its pedagogical implications, i.e. on how to motivate learners. For further discussion, see article in this Guide on Learner Difference by Skehan .

4. Conclusion - SLA research and good practice

The picture emerging from research into second language development is, unsurprisingly, highly complex, and many factors have been identified as playing a role. Here I will outline more systematically the relationship which is emerging between SLA research and language pedagogy at the beginning of this century. As SLA research has matured, and the key constructs which form its theoretical basis have become established, the field has become better able to look outwards and investigate the role of different contexts of learning. Furthermore, there has been renewed interest in grammar pedagogy (Lightbown 2000; Mitchell 2000), partly because of the perceived failure of contexts of learning promoting 'natural' communication (immersion, and Communicative Language Teaching) in producing learners who are consistently accurate in their productions. Consequently, the role of instruction and the role of the input in facilitating the L2 learning process have increasingly become foci of interest.

Form-focused instruction Many researchers have used current understanding of the relationship between cognition and SLA in order to investigate what kind of instruction is most helpful (Doughty & Williams 1998; Doughty 2001; Ellis 2001; Robinson 2001). In an extensive review of the empirical literature on the effectiveness of instruction, Norris & Ortega (2000, 2001) conclude that explicit form-focused instruction is effective in promoting learning. The object of most of these studies is to test what kind of instruction is most effective, such as 'input enhancement' (that is ways of making the input more noticeable for learners, such as e.g. having all object pronouns in bold in a text if the focus of the class is object pronouns, or 'input flood' in which learners are exposed to vast quantities of a given structure). Different ways of presenting structural input have also been explored, with explicit form-focused instruction being contrasted with implicit form-focused instruction (with learners having to work out the rule for themselves, or having the rule made explicit to them). Although the results of this increasingly rich and sophisticated new body of research are tentative at present, it has identified key themes/agendas for further research, such as the role of explicit vs. implicit instruction, the role of negative evidence or the role of noticing. This research is crucial for gaining a better understanding of the relationship between learning and teaching (Mitchell 2000). Concluding observations To conclude, SLA research is an extremely buoyant field of study which has attracted much theoretical and empirical work in the last two or three decades. Much progress has been made in gaining a better understanding of the processes involved in learning second languages, as well as the different external factors which affect this process. Although these complementary agendas remain less integrated than one might wish, bridges are being built which connect them. Similarly, the implications of SLA research for teaching are now receiving more attention, as is the specificity of the classroom context for understanding learning, but much more work remains to be done in these areas. There is still a huge gap - not unsurprisingly, given the limits of our knowledge - between the complementary agendas of understanding the psycholinguistic processes involved in the construction of L2 linguistic systems, and understanding what makes for effective classroom teaching.

I wish to thank Rosamond Mitchell and Emma Marsden for useful comments on an earlier version of this article, as well as Christopher Brumfit and David Bickerton for their helpful suggestions as reviewer and editor of this piece. Any remaining errors are my own.

5. Glossary
Audiolingual method The behaviourist teaching method popular in the sixties and seventies, based on the premise that you learn to speak languages through habit-formation, and therefore need to practise drills until the new habit has been learnt.
Audiolingual method The behaviourist teaching method popular in the sixties and seventies, based on the premise that you learn to speak languages through habit-formation, and therefore need to practise drills until the new habit has been learnt.

Communicative This approach to teaching believes that languages are learnt through Language Teaching communication, and that the focus of the classroom should be on encouraging learners to engage in speaking activities which simulate 'real life' communication. This approach de-emphasises the role of a metalinguistic knowledge of the L2 linguistic system. Fossilisation The phenomenon by which L2 learners often stop learning even though they might be far short of native-like competence. The term is also used for specific linguistic structures which remain incorrect for lengthy periods of time in spite of plentiful input (e.g. in immigrant speakers whose fluent L2 still contains non-target like structures).

Grammartranslation method Immersion

The traditional teaching method which believed that the best way to teach languages is through the teaching of grammar and the translation of texts.

This term refers to educational programs in which children are taught academic subjects (e.g. maths, geography etc) through the L2. These programs are well established in Canada, where many anglophone children are educated partly through the means of French (especially in the province of Quebec). A term used both to refer to the linguistic system of L2 learners at a specific point in time, and to the series of interlocking L2 systems typical of L2 development. The significance of this term is the emphasis it places on the L2 system being a linguistic system in its own right, independently of both L1 and L2. Use of L1 properties in the L2. Transfer can be positive, when the borrowing of an L1 structure leads to a correct form in the L2 (e.g. the German learner producing 'I am twelve years old' in English L2 as a direct translation of the German structure), or negative when it leads to an incorrect form (e.g. the French learner producing 'I have 12 years').



Socio-cultural theory
Vygotsky, a psychologist and social constructivist, laid the foundation for the interactionists view of language acquisition. According to Vygotsky, social interaction plays an important role in the learning process and proposed the zone of proximal development (ZPD) where learners construct the new language through socially mediated interaction. Although Vygotsky's socialdevelopment theory was proposed many years ago, it has then begun to serve as a foundation for the interactionists approaches to language acquisition recently and as the social interactionists model in recent years.[2] In contrast to the theoretical modalities in behaviourism, the approach to language acquisition emphasizing that children are conditioned to learn language by a stimulus-response pattern, the social interactionist approaches rest on the premises of both the Nativist and the Empiricist approaches. It levels an outline of a language acquisition theory in combining of both the traditional behavioral and linguistic position in language production; the essentials of this theory, which differentiate it from a semantically based theory, are that the deepest level of representation specifies the communicative intent primarily and semantic content secondarily. Thus, within this theory the language acquisition can easily be realized differently in emphasizing the role of the environment in producing such differences, as is most often the case in child language and not infrequently the case in adult language. It is incumbent on this model as on any serious attempt to provide a theory of language acquisition, to answer questions about how the model accounts for changes in the child's knowledge with development, and how the model can be different to account for the adult's language system. And as the behavioral approaches view that children as passive beneficiaries of the language training techniques employed by their parents and the linguistic approaches view that children as active language processors of whose maturing neural systems guide development; conversely, social integrationists communication enjoys a rather curious position in contemporary theories of language acquisition as a dynamic system where typically children cue their parents in to supplying the appropriate language experience that children require for language advancement. In essence, it turns in supplying of supportive communicative structure that allows efficient communication despite its primitives.[3] This field of language acquisition has been studied from many angles as such and primarily concerned with the environment in which language learning takes place. From the subset of the perspective by and large neutral as to the role of innateness, it is also compatible with a model of learning that posits as such mechanism must interact with the environment in order to mature. It suggests, for example, that innate linguistic mechanism alone cannot explain childrens mastery of language, and that what is intended is that the relationship of interaction to acquisition per se does not entirely depend on whether there is or is not an innate mechanism that guides the learning task; also suggesting that the linguistic competence goes beyond conditioning and imitation to include also nonlinguistic aspect of interactions.[4]