Introduction: describing and explaining L2 acquisition. What is second language acquisition ?. “L2 acquisition”, then can be defined as the way in which people learn a language other than their mother tongue, inside or outside of classroom, and ‘Second Language Acquisition’ as the study of this.
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“L2 acquisition”, then can be defined as the way in which people learn a language other than their mother tongue, inside or outside of classroom, and ‘Second Language Acquisition’ as the study of this.
One of the goals of SLA, then, is the description of SLA acquisition. Another is explanation; identifying the external and internal factors that account for why learners acquire an L2 in the way they do.
It tries to describe how L2 acquisition proceeds and to explain internal and external factors of learning second language and why some learners seem to be better at it than others.
Wes was a thirty-three year old artist, a native speaker of Japanese. He had little formal instruction in English. He began to visit Hawaii, in connection with his work. Richard Schmidt, a researcher at the university of Hawaii, studied Wes’s language development. Among other things, Schmidt was interested in how Wes’s knowledge of English grammar developed over the three years.
Strong evidence would be if Schmidt could show that Wes had learned to use the grammatical features with the same level of accuracy as native speakers of English. Furthermore, there were very view verbs which Wes used in both the simple form.
J was a ten-year-old Portuguese boy. R was an eleven-year-old boy from Pakistan. Both learners were learning English in a language unit in London. The focus of the research by the author was request. He wanted to know how the two learners acquired the ability to perform request for services and goods over the period of study.
When he analyzed J’s and R’s request, he found clear evidence of development taking place. Moreover, the two learners appeared to develop in much the same way. Initially, their requests were verb less. “big circle” when he needed a cut out of a big circle in a mathematic lesson.
Moreover, the two learners appeared to develop in much the same way. Initially, their requests were verb less. “big circle” when he needed a cur out of a big circle in a mathematic lesson.
By the end of the study, therefore, the two learners’ ability to use request had grown considerably.
One issue has to do with what it is that needs to be described. Schmidt was concerned broadly with how Wes developed the development, his ability to use English in situationallyapproriate ways, and how he learned to hold successful conversation. The author’s goal was narrower; he was concerned with how J and R acquired the ability to perform a single language function (request).
Another issue concerns what it means to say that a learner has ‘acquired’ a feature of the target language.
Wes might be said to know how to make plurals even though he does not always add an –s to a plural noun. There is another problem, learners may manifest target-like use of a feature in formula without having acquired the ability to use the feature productively.
One finding is that learners make erorrs of different kinds. Wes failed to use some grammatical features at all and used others incorrectly.
Another finding is that L2 learners acquire a large number of formulaic chunks, which they use to perform communicative functions that are important to them and which contribute to the fluency of their unplanned speech.
An explanation of L2 acquisition must account for both item and system learning and how the two interrelate.
The systematic nature of L2 acquisition also requires explanation. Why did Wes seem to learn some grammatical items before others ? Why did J and R learn the different ways of making a request in the particular sequence they did ?
One is that learners follow a particular development pattern because their mental faculties are structured in such a way that this is the way they have learn.