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Explaining Second Language Learning. Contexts for Language Learning Behaviorism Innatism Cognitive/developmental perspective Information Processing Connectionism The Competition Model The Sociocultural Perspective . Contexts for Language Learning.

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Explaining Second Language Learning

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Explaining Second Language Learning

  • Contexts for Language Learning

  • Behaviorism

  • Innatism

  • Cognitive/developmental perspective

    • Information Processing

    • Connectionism

    • The Competition Model

  • The Sociocultural Perspective


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Contexts for Language Learning

  • A child or adult learning a second language is different from a child acquiring a first language in terms of both

    1) learner characteristics

    and

    2) learning conditions


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Differences in Learning L1 & L2

Learner Characteristics

1. Knowledge of another language

2. Cognitive maturity

3. Metalinguistic awareness

4. World Knowledge

5. Anxiety about speaking


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Differences in Learning L1 & L2

Learning Conditions

6. Freedom to be silent

7. Ample time & contact

8. Corrective feedback: (grammar and pronunciation)

9. Corrective feedback: (meaning, word choice, politeness)

10. Modified input


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Differences in Learning L1 & L2

  • Summary:

    SLA (Second Language Acquisition) theories need to account for language acquisition by learners with a variety of characteristics and learningin a variety of contexts.


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Behaviorism

  • Four characteristics of behaviorism:

    1) imitation, 2) practice, 3) reinforcement, and

    4) habit formation

  • Brooks (1960) & Lado (1964):

    - emphasizing mimicry and memorization

    (audiolingual teaching methods)


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Behaviorism / CAH

  • A person learning an L2 starts off with the habits formed in the L1 and these habits would interfere with the new ones needed for the L2.

  • Behaviorism was often linked to the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH):

    It predicts that where there are similarities between the L1 and the target language, the learner will acquire target-language structures with ease; where there are differences, the learner will have difficulty.


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Behaviorism / CAH

  • Criticisms about the CAH:

    Though a learner’s L1 influences the acquisition of an L2, researchers have found that L2 learners do not make all the errors predicted by the CAH.

    • Many of their errors are not predictable on the basis of their L1 (e.g. ‘putted’; ‘cooker’ meaning a person who cooks; ‘badder than’)

    • Some errors are similar across learners from a variety of L1 backgrounds (e.g. he/she; “th” sound; the use of the past tense; the relative clauses)


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Behaviorism / Summary

  • The L1 influence may not simply be a matter of the transfer of habits, but a more subtle and complex process of

    - identifying points of similarity,

    - weighing the evidence in support of some particular feature, and

    - reflecting (though not necessarily consciously) about whether a certain feature seems to ‘belong’ in the L2.

  • By the 1970s, many researchers were convinced that behaviorism and the CAH were inadequate explanations for SLA.


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Innatism

  • Universal Grammar (UG) in relation to second language development

  • Competence vs. Performance

  • Krashen’s “monitor model”


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Innatism:Universal Grammar

  • UG and SLA

  • Chomsky has not made specific claims about the implications of his theory for second language learning.

  • Linguists working within the innatist theory have argued that UG offers the best perspective to understand SLA. UG can explain why L2 learners eventually know more about the language than they could reasonably have learned (i.e. UG can explain L2 learners’ creativity and generalization ability).

  • Other linguists argue that UG is not a good explanation for SLA, especially by learners who have passed the critical period (i.e. CPH does not work in SLA).

    (*Note: See Chapter 3: Age of acquisition and CPH)


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Innatism: Universal Grammar

  • How UG works in SLA:

    Two different views -

    • The nature and availability of UG are the same in L1 and L2 acquisition.

      Adult L2 learners, like children, neither need nor benefit from error correction and metalinguistic information. These things change only the superficial appearance of language performance and do not affect the underlying competence of the new language (e.g., Krashen’s “monitor model”).


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Innatism: Universal Grammar

  • How UG works in SLA:

    Two different views -

  • UG may be present and available to L2 learners, but its exact nature has been altered by the prior acquisition of the first language.

    L2 learners need to be given some explicit information about what is not grammatical in the L2. Otherwise, they may assume that some structures of the L1 have equivalents in the L2 when, in fact, they do not.


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Innatism: Competence vs. Performance

  • Competence:

    It refers to the knowledge which underlies our ability to use language.

  • Performance:

    It refers to the way a person actually uses language in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Performance is subject to variations due to inattention, anxiety, or fatigue whereas competence (at least for the mature native speaker) is more stable.


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Innatism: Competence vs. Performance

  • SLA researchers from the UG perspective (innatism) are more interested in the language competence (i.e., knowledge of complex syntax) of advanced learners rather than in the simple language of early stage learners.

  • Their investigations often involve comparing the judgments of grammaticality made by L2 and L1 learners, rather than observations of actual language performance (i.e., use of language).


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Innatism: Krashen’s “monitor model” (1982)

  • The acquisition-learning hypothesis

  • The monitor hypothesis

  • The natural order hypothesis

  • The input hypothesis

  • The affective filter hypothesis


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Innatism: Krashen’s “monitor model”

  • The acquisition-learning hypothesis

    • Acquisition: we acquire L2 knowledge as we are exposed to samples of the L2 which we understand with no conscious attention to language form. It is a subconscious and intuitive process.

    • Learning: we learn the L2 via a conscious process of study and attention to form and rule learning.

    • Krashen argues that “acquisition” is a more important process of constructing the system of a language than “learning” because fluency in L2 performance is due to what we have acquired, not what we have learned.


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Innatism: Krashen’s “monitor model”

  • The monitor hypothesis

    • The acquired system acts to initiate the speaker’s utterances and is responsible for spontaneous language use, whereas the learned system acts as a “monitor”, making minor changes and polishing what the acquired system has produced.

    • Such monitoring takes place only when the speaker/writer has plenty of time, is concerned about producing correct language, and has learned the relevant rules.


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Innatism: Krashen’s “monitor model”

  • The natural order hypothesis

    • L2 learners acquire the features of the TL in predictable sequences.

    • The language features that are easiest to state(and thus to ‘learn’) are not necessarily the first to be acquired.

      e.g. the rule for adding an –s to third person singular verbs in the present tense


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Innatism: Krashen’s “monitor model”

  • The input hypothesis

    • Acquisition occurs when one is exposed to language that is comprehensible andthat contains “i +1”.

    • If the input contains forms and structures just beyond the learner’s current level of competence in the language (“i +1”), then both comprehension and acquisition will occur.


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Innatism: Krashen’s “monitor model”

  • The affective filter hypothesis

    • “Affect” refers to feelings, motives, needs, attitudes, and emotional states.

    • The “affective filter” is an imaginary/metaphorical barrier that prevents learners from acquiring language from the available input.

    • Depending on the learner’s state of mind, the filter limits what is noticed and what is acquired. A learner who is tense, anxious, or bored may “filter out” input, making it unavailable for acquisition.


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Innatism: Krashen’s “monitor model”

  • Summary

    • Krashen’s “monitor model” (i.e., acquisition vs. learning, monitor, natural order, comprehensible input, and affective filter) has been very influential in supporting communicative language teaching (CLT), which focuses on using language for meaningful interaction and for accomplishing tasks, rather than on learning rules.

    • Krashen’s hypotheses are intuitively appealing, but those hypotheses are hard to be tested by empirical evidence.


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Information processing

  • Cognitive psychologists working in this model

    • compare language acquisition to the capacities of computers for storing, integrating, and retrieving information.

    • do not think that humans have a language-specific module (i.e. LAD) in the brain.

    • do not assume that ‘acquisition’ and ‘learning’ are distinct mental processes.

    • see L2 acquisition as the building up of knowledge that can eventually be called on automatically for speaking and understanding (i.e., general theories of learning can account for SLA).


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Information processing

  • Attention-processing

  • Skill learning

  • Restructuring

  • Transfer appropriate processing


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Information processing

  • Attention-processing:

    • This model suggests that learners have to pay attention at first to any aspect of the language that they are trying to understand or produce.

    • It also suggests there is a limit to how much information a learner can pay attention to or engage in at one time.

    • Gradually, through experience and practice, information that was new becomes easier to process, and learners become able to access it quickly and even automatically.

    • This can explain why L2 readers need more time to understand a text, even if they eventually do fully comprehend it.


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Information processing

  • Skill Learning:

    • Some researchers regard SLA as ‘skill learning’. They suggest that most learning, including language learning, starts with declarative knowledge (knowledge that).

    • Through practice, declarative knowledge may become procedural knowledge (knowledge how).

    • Once skills become procedualized and automatized, thinking about the declarative knowledge while trying to perform the skill disrupts the smooth performance of it.

    • In SLA, the path from declarative to procedural knowledge is often like classroom learning where rule learning is followed by practice.


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Information processing

  • Restructuring:

    • Sometimes changes in language behavior do not seem to be explainable in terms of a gradual build-up of fluency through practice.

    • Restructuring may account for what appear to be sudden bursts of progress and apparent backsliding.

    • It may result from the interaction of knowledge we already have and the acquisition of new knowledge (without extensive practice).

      e.g. “I saw” → “I seed” or “I sawed” –

      overapplying the general rule.


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Information processing

  • Transfer appropriate processing:

    • This hypothesizes that Information is best retrieved in situations that are similar to those in which it was acquired. This is because when we learn something our memories also record something about the context and the way in which it was learned.

    • This can explain why knowledge that is acquired mainly in rule learning or drill activities may be easier to access on tests that resemble the learning activities than in communicative situation.

    • On the other hand, if learners’ cognitive resources are occupied with a focus on meaning in communicative activities, they may find grammar tests very difficult.


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Connectionism (I)

  • Connectionists attribute greater importance to the role of the environment than to any specific innate knowledge.

  • They argue that what is innate is simply the ability to learn, not any specifically linguistic principles.

  • They emphasize the frequency with which learners encounter specific linguistic features in the input and the frequency with which features occur together.


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Connectionism (II)

  • Connectionists suggest that learners gradually build up their knowledge of language through exposure to the thousand of instancesof the linguistic features they hear or see.

  • Eventually, learners develop stronger mental ‘connections’ between the elements they have learned; thus, the presence of one situational or linguistic element will activate the other(s) in the learner’s mind.

  • Evidence comes from the observation that much of the language we use in ordinary conversation is predictable or formulaic. Language is often learned in chunks larger than single words.


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Connectionism (III)

  • Findings of connectionist Research :

    • Research has shown that a learning mechanism, simulated by a computer program, can not only “learn” what it hears but can also “generalize”, even to the point of making overgeneralization errors.

    • These studies have dealt almost exclusively with the acquisition of vocabulary and grammatical morphemes, that is, aspects of the language which innatists will grant may be acquired largely through memorization and simple generalization. How this model can lead to knowledge of complex syntactic structure is still under investigation.


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The Competition Model

  • The competition model is closely related to the connectionist perspective. It is based on the hypothesis that language acquisition occurs without the necessity of a learner's focused attention or the need for any innate capacity specifically for language.

  • This model takes into account not only language form but also language meaning and language use.

  • Through exposure to thousands of examples of language associated with particular meanings, learners come to understand how to use the ‘cues’ with which a language signals specific function.

  • Most languages make use of multiple cues, but they differ in the primacy of each. Therefore, SLA requires that learners learn the relative importance of the different cues appropriate in the language they are learning.


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L2 Applications

  • The interaction hypothesis

  • The noticing hypothesis

  • Input processing

  • Processability theory


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The Interaction Hypothesis

  • SLA takes place through conversational interaction.

  • Long (1983) argued that modified interaction is the necessary mechanism for making language comprehensible.

  • What learners need is not necessarily simplification of the linguistic forms but rather an opportunity to interact with other speakers, working together to reach mutual comprehension.

  • Research shows that native speakers consistently modify their speech in sustained conversation with non-native speakers.


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The Interaction Hypothesis

  • Long’s original formulation (1983) of the Interaction Hypothesis:

    1. Interactional modification makes input comprehensible;

    2. Comprehensible input promotes acquisition;

    Therefore,

    3. Interactional modification promotes acquisition.


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The Interaction Hypothesis

  • Modified interaction involves linguistic simplifications and conversational modifications.

    • Examples of conversational modifications:

      elaboration, slower speech rate, gesture, additional contextual cues, comprehension checks, clarification requests, and self-repetition or paraphrase.

  • Research has demonstrated that conversational adjustments can aid comprehension in the L2.


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The Interaction Hypothesis

  • Long’s revised version (1996) of the Interaction Hypothesis:

    - more emphasis is placed on the importance of

    corrective feedback during interaction.

    - “negotiating for meaning” is seen as the opportunity for

    language development.

  • “Comprehensible output hypothesis” (Swain, 1985)

    The demands of producing comprehensible output “push” learners ahead in their development.


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The Noticing Hypothesis

  • NoticingHypothesis (Schmidt, 1990, 2001)

    - Nothing is learned unless it has been noticed.

    - Noticing does not itself result in acquisition, but it is the

    essential starting point.

    - L2 learners could not begin to acquire a language

    feature until they had become aware of it in the input.

  • Whether learners must be aware that they are “noticing” something in the input in order to acquire linguistic feature is considered debatable.


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Input Processing

  • Input processing (VanPatten, 2004)

    - Learners have limited processing capacity and cannot

    pay attention to form and meaning at the same time.

    - They tend to give priority to meaning. When the

    context in which they hear a sentence helps them

    make sense of it, they do not notice details of the

    language form.


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Processability Theory

  • Processability theory (Pienemann, 1999, 2003)

    - The research showed that the sequence of development

    for features of syntax and morphology was affected by

    how easy these were to process.

    - It integrates developmental sequences with L1 influence.

    - Learners do not simply transfer features from their L1

    at early stages of acquisition.

    - They have to develop a certain level of processing

    capacity in the L2 before they can use their knowledge

    of the features that already exist in their L1.


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The Sociocultural Perspective

  • Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory

    • Language development takes place in the social interactions between individuals.

    • Speaking (and writing) mediate thinking.

    • Zone of proximal development (ZPD): when there is support from interaction with an interlocutor, the learner is capable of performing at a higher level.

    • L2 learners advance to higher levels of linguistic knowledge when they collaborate and interact with speakers of the L2 who are more knowledgeable than they are.


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The Sociocultural Perspective

  • The difference between Vygotsky’s socialcultural theory and the interaction hypothesis:


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Summary

  • There is no agreement on a “complete” theory of second language acquisition yet.

  • Each theoretical framework has a different focus and its limitations.

  • Behaviorism: emphasizing stimuli and responses, but ignoring the mental processes that are involved in learning.

  • Innatism: innate LAD, based on intuitions

  • Information processing and connectionism: involving controlled laboratory experiments where human learning is similar to computer processing.

  • Interactionist position: modification of interaction promotes language acquisition and development.


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