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Neurolinguistic Approach

(NLA) to acquiring a second or foreign language is a new paradigm for the teaching and
learning of spoken communication skills. This new pedagogical approach was conceptualized by
Claude Germain (Dpartement de didactique des langues, Universit du Qubec Montral) and
Joan Netten (Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland) in the context of the
emerging influence of the neurosciences on education. It is based primarily on the research of
Michel Paradis (Institut des sciences cognitive, Universit du Qubec Montral), Nick Ellis
(Centre for Complex Systems, University of Michigan, USA) and Norman Sgalowitz (TESOL
Centre of Concordia University, Montral), and is also influenced by the research on social
interaction by Vygotsky.

Defining characteristic
The defining characteristic of the approach is the need to develop independently in the
classroom the two components of effective communication: implicit competence, or the ability to
use spontaneously an L2/FL, and explicit knowledge, a conscious awareness of how the
language works, grammar rules, and vocabulary. This aspect of the approach is based on the
research of Paradis (1994, 2004) and Nick Ellis (1997, 2010). Paradis research makes a clear
distinction between explicit knowledge, or external grammar, which is the conscious knowledge
about the L2/FL that is learned through noticing and explanations, and implicit competence, or
internal grammar, that can only be acquired unconsciously through the use of the language in
authentic situations of communication. Internal grammar is not composed of rules, but is a
network of neuronal connections or pathways in the brain created by frequent (statistically
significant) use of language structures (Paradis, Ellis). Paradis research further demonstrates
that explicit knowledge (external grammar) is stored in the declarative memory, while implicit
competence (internal grammar) represents a skill or habit, which is stored differently in the brain.
According to Paradis, there is no direct connection between these two components. External
grammar is taught relatively successfully in classrooms, but internal grammar is not. This is why
regular SL/FL programs based on either a traditional or a communicative approach do not lead to
the acquisition of spontaneous communication for most students.