Familiarize participants with the main concepts involved in linguistic approaches, so that they are able to identify the processes concerning second language acquisition and to relate them to their teaching practice. Length: Participants: 2 hours. In-service English teachers in Basic Education in D. F.

1. Linguistic approaches
1.1 Structuralism 1.2 Functionalism 1.3 Transformational-Generative Grammar 1.4 Language definition within the NEPBE

2. First language acquisition (L1)
2.1 Terminology 2.2 Theories of language acquisition

3. Second language acquisition (L2)
3.1 Terminology 3.2 Language and the brain 3.3 Factors that influence acquisition 3.4 Learning approaches of L1 and L2


Activity 1.1 Put the following dialogue in order (1-10). _____ Au revoir! _____ Je vais très bien. _____ Je m’appelle Marie. _____ Enchanté! _____ Comment tu t’appelles? _____ Bonjour! Je vais bien. Merci. Et toi? _____ Enchanté! _____ Je m’appelle François. Et toi? _____ Au revoir! _____ Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?

The concept we have about language has implications in the methodology and teaching strategies that we adopt as teachers. The study of language started formally in the early XX century. Since then, different theories have been proposed to understand its structure and function.

1.1 Structuralism Linguistics started to be studied as a science by Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss linguist. Among his numerous contributions we can mention the following:
   Language is a system that functions according to rules established conventionally by speakers. The linguistic sign is the most elemental unit of language, and it is composed by an acoustic aspect (signified) and a semantic component (signifier). There is a distinction between ‘parole’ (the use of language) and ‘langue’ (the theoretical system).

This approach implied that language teaching was centered on grammatical aspects, and in learning formal linguistic elements and rules. Only by means of this knowledge, are speakers able to use language correctly. Along with these studies, there was research in psychology, especially within the behaviorist approach.

1.2 Functionalism In the early decades of the XX century, linguists studied and compared different languages to analyze the relation between the linguistic form and meaning. Emphasis was given to the actual use of language to communicate, and to organize our thought. The research studies in this approach are heterogeneous; however, we can mention the following contributions:
    Description of the elements of communication (Jakobson). Language Functions (Referential, Emotive, Connative, Phatic, Metalinguistic, Poetic ). Establishment of phonology as a linguistic area. Speakers’ culture is reflected in linguistic forms and u ses. 2

1.3 Transformational-Generative Grammar This is considered the most influential linguistic theory, and it was developed by the North American researcher Noam Chomsky. He proposed that language could not be explained only by observable facts. This evidence was incomplete for analysis, and he emphasized a mentalist approach. Although it has been modified through different stages, the following are considered the most significant contributions made by Chomsky:
     Language cannot be learned only by habit formation. Language is an innate faculty for all human beings ( Language Acquisition Device), which contains a common underlying grammar of all languages (Universal Grammar). Development of a theory with emphasis on semantics and syntax that can be analyzed scientifically (Deep and Superficial Structure). Outline of Principles (linguistic rules) common to all languages, and Parameters (exceptions) proper to some languages. Speakers have a linguistic competence (knowledge of the language) that is used in their linguistic performance (use of the language in specific situations).

Activity 1.2 What do you consider are the most important contributions of each approach? 1.4 Language definition within the NEPBE The NEPBE states the following concept of language: Language is a communicative, cognitive, and reflective activity through which we express, exchange, and defend our ideas; we establish and keep interpersonal relations and gain access to information; we participate in knowledge building, organize our thoughts, and reflect on our own discursive and intellectual creation.
(NEPBE Curricular Foundations, 2011:71)

Activity 1.3 What is your concept of language? What does the language definition of the NEPBE imply for your teaching approach?


2. FIRST LANGUAGE ACQUISITION (L1) Activity 1.4 Are all children able to acquire a language?

2.1 Terminology It has been stated that languages can be acquired or learned, according to the context in which these processes occur.
  Language acquisition. It is an unconscious process that takes place through natural exposure and meaningful interaction in the target language. Language learning. It is a conscious process that takes place through formal instruction of the target language.

Nevertheless, several researchers use both terms with no difference when they refer to universal processes. 2.2 Theories of language acquisition The first language, mother tongue or native language (L1) is the one that is acquired in early childhood within a speaking community. Different theories have been proposed to explain essential factors and processes in first language acquisition. A) Innatism. According to this approach, all children acquire their L1 automatically, even if they do not have access to enough stimuli. In addition, children are not required to be explained formal aspects of the language in order to acquire and use it. B) Behaviorism. According to this approach, language is acquired due to the stimuli present in the environment, and to which children respond. For example, an adult uses a word that refers to an object. This action provokes a particular response. Through the repetition of this process, children get to know the meaning of a word, and to use a linguistic stimulus to obtain a response. Although this approach has been considered controversial, it emphasizes important imitative components of the learning process. C) Cognitive Theory. Language is seen as another component of cognitive development, since children acquire it along with notions of abstract thinking, categorization and concepts. D) Theory of Social Interaction. According to this approach, children acquire language by means of others’ mediation, and not only through mental processing of adults’ language. In addition, language acquisition develops from children’s communicative needs according to their context. Taking into account the different approaches as a whole, language can be seen as a biologically based process that requires social, cognitive and affective processes throughout developmental stages.


Activity 1.5  What is the importance of the concepts of learning and acquisition?  Give examples from your teaching practice of each of the theories of acquisition mentioned above.


Decide if the following statements are True or False, and explain why. 1. Children can acquire a second language more quickly and easily than adults. _____ 2. Students automatically learn another language when immersed in an environment where everyone speaks that language. _____ 3. All students learn a second language in the same way. _____ 4. Students learn a second language once they can speak. _____ 5. Students need to learn grammar and vocabulary before they can speak. _____

Half of the world’s population uses two languages at least in everyday communication, and in all countries there are conditions for bilingualism. With the purpose of optimizing L2 teaching, it is important to understand the processes and factors involved. 3.1 Terminology There are several terms used to refer to additional languages to the L1:  Second Language. It is the official language of a speech community, used mainly in education, work and media. It is the language that other minority groups of speakers must learn in order to communicate.  Foreign Language. It is the language that is not part of the immediate social and communicative context, but that is studied or learned because of educational, cultural or working purposes.  Target Language. It is the language that a non-native speaker is in the process of learning.  Additional Language. It is any language different from the native language. The distinction among the different terms has been controversial, due to the new and diverse contexts of learning and use of languages.


Activity 1.7 How is English characterized in the NEPBE? What does this imply for our teaching practice?

3.2 Language and the brain The influence of sciences such as psychology and neurolinguistics has been of great benefit to understand the organization of language in the brain. In a general view, language is processed by most speakers in the left hemisphere; however, different areas are interconnected in language processing and language production. One of the most important contributions in this area is the concept of lateralization. This refers to the phenomenon by which the brain decreases its plasticity or recovery capacities. According to Eric Lenneberg, there is a Critical Period in which language can be acquired in a natural and regular form. After this period, the acquisition of a first language is rarely achieved. Different case studies have been investigated in which children, who have been deprived of human contact and linguistic exposure, have not been able to develop linguistic abilities.

Activity 1.8

Does the concept of lateralization have implications for learning a second language?

3.3 Factors that influence acquisition Activity 1.9

Are there successful language learners? What psychological or biological factors influence language acquisition?

Studies carried out in the 1970’s, contributed with data and theories regarding how personal and individual characteristics of speakers influence language learning. However, it has been pointed out that these factors alone do not determine a successful language learner. A) Age. According to neuropsychological theories, it has been claimed that children have more advantages in language acquisition of an L2 in contrast with adults, taking into account the following aspects:  More brain plasticity  Less inhibitions  Less social identity


However, it has also been considered that adults have cognitive advantages regarding more reflective capacities, pragmatic abilities and a wider and deeper knowledge of the language and of the world. That is why we can consider that each stage of development encompasses different characteristics that can benefit language acquisition. B) Aptitude. This characteristic refers to the belief that there is a natural or innate talent for acquiring an L2. In general, it has been described that students can show aptitudes for different linguistic areas, for example: the ability to recognize and differentiate sounds, the ability to recognize linguistic structures, functions and rules, or the ability to recover and activate linguistic knowledge. C) Motivation. This factor has been recognized and studied due to its importance and effects on language learning. The two main types of motivation are:
  Integrative Motivation: Intention to learn an L2 in order to communicate and interact within the L2 speaking community. Instrumental motivation. Intention to learn an L2 in order to carry out a working, commercial or educational activity.

Even though this dichotomy is not always easy to define, considering the complexity of contexts in which an L2 is learned, it has been useful to understand the relationship between the learning purposes and the learning outcomes. D) Personality. The research done in this area has been correlated with the presence of certain characteristics and the level of performance in the L2. Among the most common researched personality traits are the following:
 Anxiety. This trait has been usually correlated with a low performance in L2, because it is associated with self-confidence and risk-taking. This should be taken into account in the design of classroom activities. For example, oral production and individual activities can create more anxiety for students in contrast with teamwork activities or written tasks. Extrovert personality. For a long time it was thought that extrovert students were more successful in their learning. However, so far it has not been possible to correlate these elements meaningfully. In general terms, it has been found that certain characteristics such as empathy, creativity, and tolerance to ambiguity can contribute positively to language learning.

E) Learning strategies. This refers to the students’ preferred cognitive style, in terms of processes such as organization and recovery of information. The following styles have been identified:
  Field dependent – Field independent: Tendency to analyze information globally or to isolate its elements. Inductive – Deductive. Tendency to generalize patterns and rules from concrete examples, or the tendency to prove what it is already established by means of examples and deductions.


It is important to emphasize that these concepts represent a continuum instead of closed categories. In addition, a cognitive style may depend on previous learning experiences, and it can change through time in different periods. 3.4 Learning approaches of L1 and L2 The following approaches to second language learning have been proposed taking into account the factors mentioned above and the influence of the L1.

Activity 1.10 Do you think that making mistakes is part of the process of learning a second language? Why do students make the following mistakes? 1. Tijers, mochil, cuadern 2. Avisation 3. Mouses 4. ¿What’s your name? 5. House blue. 6. He goed. A) Contrastive Analysis. In the 1970’s Robert Lado developed an approach influenced by structuralist and behaviorist views which considered the importance of students’ L1. One of the concepts that has been more influential is transference in two forms:
 

Positive Transference: Two languages share similar characteristics allowing a correct
transference from the L1 to the L2. Interference: The structure of the L1 is used inappropriately in the L2. This is due to the fact that the linguistic characteristics of the two languages are different.

B) Error Analysis. The proposal developed by S. Pit Corder emphasized that error analysis should take into account other aspects, besides students’ L1, such as language processing:
  Speakers can make two types of errors, those due to the context and external factors (mistakes), and those due to the lack of knowledge of linguistic rules and usage ( errors). Errors can be caused by influence of the L1 ( interlingual) or other factors within the L2 (intralingual).

These categories are of great importance because they imply stages of development in language learning, and they emphasize students’ creativity and use of strategies in their learning process.


C) Interlanguage. In this approach, proposed by Larry Selinker, language learning is described as a continuous process influenced by speakers’ L1 and cognitive characteristics. Interlanguage is defined as an intermediate system between the native and the target language which follows patters of development. The main concepts proposed are the following:
  

Linguistic transference from L1 to L2 is confirmed, although learning strategies are also transference within the L2. Overgeneralization is a term used to describe the tendency to apply rules learned in the L2 as general or universal rules. Fossilization is a term used to describe a stage in which a stage of interlanguage becomes permanent and it is not restructured. In this case learning seems to cease or stop.

D) Natural Order. The purpose of this approach was to establish an acquisition order of linguistic elements in the L2, without taking into account the characteristics of the L1. For example, through this research, it has been proposed that:
  Morphemes like the verb to be and the suffix –ing are usually acquired in early stages. Morphemes such as the possessive ‘s and the third person inflection (-s/-es) in English are usually acquired until later stages.

The importance of these studies is that they reflect the complexity of learning a grammar item. E) Krashen’s Model. Stephen Krashen, who had a great influence from Noam Chomsky, proposed the following hypotheses:
    The concept learning refers to a conscious and formal process, while acquisition refers to an unconscious and innate process. Speakers use their own knowledge as a Monitor in order to correct and/or improve their speech. Second language acquisition is possible when a speaker is exposed to comprehensible and sufficient input. Acquisition can be affected when there are factors that inhibit speakers’ performance and increase their affective filter.

Activity 1.11 How do the concepts from this section impact your planning and teaching practice?



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