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L2 Acquisition: The Social Perspective. Guadalupe Vald é s Stanford University. First steps:. In order to talk about the social in L2 acquisition, we need to expand the ways that in which we think about language. We have to focus on why and how language varies

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L2 Acquisition: The Social Perspective

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l2 acquisition the social perspective

L2 Acquisition:The Social Perspective

Guadalupe Valdés

Stanford University

first steps
First steps:
  • In order to talk about the social in L2 acquisition, we need to expand the ways that in which we think about language.
  • We have to focus on
    • why and how language varies
    • how people learn to talk in different ways
the first question that concerns us today
The first question that concerns us today:
  • Why do people talk the way they do?
a thought experiment
A thought experiment
  • Speaking well in a biker bar
a second question
A second question:
  • How do people learn to talk the way they do?
language socialization
Language socialization
  • Children are socialized through language.
  • Children are socialized to use language.
in monolingual speakers language varies
In monolingual speakers, language varies
  • A child from Boston and a child from Mississippi will acquire the accents of the adults and children with whom they interact.
  • A child whose family emphasizes displaying information will learn how to do that. She will display what she knows at home and at school.
A child whose parents care about how well she can think on her feet and defend herself will learn how to do that also.
  • In every case, children acquire the grammatical and sociolinguistic rules used by adults and children around them.
  • By the time they arrive in school, children know how to use language in effective ways in their families and communities.
studies of different communities
Studies of different communities
  • Heath (1983) studied three different communities:
      • Maintown
      • Roadville
      • Trackton
  • She described how children were expected to use language and to engage in literacy events very differently.
speech repertoires
Speech repertoires
  • Over a life time, individuals acquire a repertoire of styles and ways of speaking that allow them to present themselves appropriately and /or effectively in different contexts, for different purposes.
  • Researchers have argued that there are no single style speakers.
they acquire different ways of speaking
They acquire different ways of speaking
  • Not by overt teaching and instruction but by becoming members of particular social groups who use language in particular ways.
for many theorists l1 acquisition
For many theorists, L1 acquisition
  • Is not merely a question of acquiring the linguistic system.
as is the case for l1
As is the case for L1
  • Much of the focus of SLA research has been on the acquisition of the linguistic system.
  • Many theorists have focused on L2 acquisition as a mental process that occurs within the brains of individual learners.
by comparison a social view of sla focuses on
By comparison, a social view of SLA focuses on:
  • Issues of identity
  • The relationship between learners and more knowledgeable others
  • Ways in which learners become a part of a larger conversation
  • Communities of practice
in terms of identity
In terms of identity:
  • This group of theorists considers that social explanations must go beyond merely taking into account the context and particular “social” factors (race, class, gender).
  • They view identity not as an essence, but as a positioning.
theorists influenced by vygotsky 1978 believe that
Theorists influenced by Vygotsky (1978) believe that:
  • Learners’ mental processes are constructed through their relationships with others.
  • More skilled “knowledgeable others” provide the scaffolding needed by learners in acquiring the next levels of development.
theorists influenced by bakhtin 1981 maintain that
Theorists influenced by Bakhtin (1981) maintain that:
  • All speakers participate in a dialogue of a linked utterances (voices in a conversation) that surround them.
  • They respond to these utterances appropriating them for use for their own particular purposes.
community of practice theorists e g lave wegner 1991
Community of practice theorists (e.g., Lave & Wegner, 1991):
  • Consider that all learning takes place in a participation framework--not in the individual mind.
  • Learners are part of “communities of practice.”
  • They move from “legitimate peripheral participation” to full participation in the practices of the community.
to summarize
To summarize:
  • Theorists who view L2 acquisition from a social perspective believe that the process must involve relationships and interactions with speakers of the target language.
what does all of this mean for teachers
What does all of this mean for teachers?
  • Let’s first look at the ways that individuals acquire an L2 outside of school.
all over the world
All over the world:
  • Many middle class professionals often decide to raise their children using two languages.
  • They carefully plan their children’s exposure to the two languages, purchase materials, and plan trips to provide optimal exposure to the two languages.
working class immigrant families
Working class immigrant families:
  • Use only their home language with their children.
  • Are isolated among other immigrants.
  • May have little education.
  • May have little contact with English-speaking people.
  • Assume that the children will acquire English at school.
youngsters who are english language learners
Youngsters who are English language learners:
  • Often have little contact with native English-speaking students both at home in their community.
  • At school, Interactions in English take place at a ratio of 25 or 30 to 1.
  • If they are lucky, they will have regular access to English from relatives who have been here longer, from older siblings, and from neighbors.
if they are not lucky
If they are not lucky:
  • They will be ridiculed by their peers when they attempt to speak English.
  • They will be excluded from all opportunities to hear fluent English from their native-speaking peers.
  • They will be exposed to a watered-down curriculum.
  • They will be at great risk for academic failure.
what about teaching the l2
What about “teaching” the L2?
  • Approaches to “teaching” L2 have varied over time from the analytical to the experiential (Stern 1990).
  • Handout
what about ultimate attainment
What about “ultimate attainment”?
  • Many theorists maintain that the key difference between L1 and L2 acquisition is ultimate attainment. (Cook, 2002)
  • Native-like attainment is considered to be exceedingly rare in L2 acquisition.
be that as it might
Be that as it might,
  • Some theorists believe that in order for English language learners in American schools to acquire the English that they need in order to learn through English:
    • Learners must have available to them speakers of English who know the language well enough to provide both access to English and help for learning it.
    • The social setting must bring learners and English speakers into frequent enough contact to make language learning possible. (Wong Fillmore, 1991)
to conclude
To conclude:
  • Considering the social in L2 acquisition raises a variety of questions
    • whether one is concerned with the characteristics of the social setting
    • or whether one believes that the full language system can only be acquired in everyday interactions with fluent speakers of that language
subject matter teachers need to consider
Subject-matter teachers need to consider:
  • The dilemmas involved in working with English language learners when the ratio of fluent English speakers is 25 or 30 to 1.
  • The significance of students “flawed” English in learning content.