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Introduction: Describing and explaining L2 acquisition. Chapter 1 Rod Ellis, 2003 Page: 3-14 By: Fresi Yuliana Rahma Yusita 2201410123. The Elements. What Is ‘Second Language Acquisitio’? The Goals Of Sla Two Case Studies Methodological Issue

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Introduction describing and explaining l2 acquisition

Introduction: Describing and explaining L2 acquisition

Chapter 1

Rod Ellis, 2003

Page: 3-14


Fresi Yuliana Rahma Yusita


The elements
The Elements

  • What Is ‘Second Language Acquisitio’?

  • The Goals Of Sla

  • Two Case Studies

  • Methodological Issue

  • Issues In The Description Of Learner Language

  • Issues In The Explanation Of L2 Acquisition

What is second language acquisition

What is ‘Second Language Acquisition’?

At fisrst sight, the meaning of term ‘second language acquisition’ seems transparentbut, in fact, it requires careful explanation. For one thing, in this context ‘second’ can refer to any language that is learned subsequent to the mother tongue. Thus, it can refer to the learning of a third or fourth language. Also, ‘second’ is not intende to contrast with ‘foreign’. Whether you are learning a language naturally as a result of living in a country where it is spoken, or learning it in classroom through instruction, it is customary to speak generically of ‘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 class.

The goals of sla
The Goals of SLA

  • Description

  • Expalnation

D escription


A better approach might to be find out what learners actually do, as opposed to what they think they do, when they try to leran language, the language the learners produce when they are called on to use an L2 in speech or writing, and analyses carefully. These samples provide evidence of what the learners know about the language they are trying to learn ( the target language). If samples are collected at different points in time it may also be possible to find out how learner’s knowledge gradually develops.



Explantion is identifying the external and internal factors that account for why learners acquire an L2 in the way they do

External factors

External Factors

1. External factors is the social milieu in which learning takes place.

2. The input that learners receive, that is, the samples of language to which a learner is exposed.

Internal factor

Internal Factor

Internal factors explain why learners vary in the rate they learn an L2 and how successful the ultimately are. For example, it has been suggested that people vary in their language aptitude (i.e. their natural disposition for learning an L2), some finding it easier than others.

Two case studies
Two Case Studies

  • A Case Study Of An Adult Learner

  • A Case Study Of Two Child Learners

A case study of an adult learner

A Case Study Of An Adult Learner

Wes was a thirty-three year-old artist, a native speaker of Japanese. He had had little formal instruction in English, having left school at fifteen.

Richard Schmidt, a researcher at the University of Hawaii, studied Wes’ language development over a three-year period from the time he forst started visiting Hawaii until he eventually took up residence there.

2 a case study of two child learners

2. A Case Study Of Two Child Learners

I investigated two child learners in a classroom context. J was a ten years old Portuguese boy, literate in his native language. He was an adventurous and confident learner, willing to struggle to communicate in English, even when he had veru limited resources.

R was an eleven years old boy from Pakistan, speaking (but unable to write) Punjabi as his native language. Initially, he lacked confidence, using his native langauge extensively and relying on his elder sister to help him communicate in English. Gradually, however, he become more confident and independent.

Methodological issues

Methodological Issues

1. One issues has to do with what it is that needs to be described. Schmidt was concerned broadly with how Wes developed the ability to communicate in an L2, examining his grammatical development, his ability to use English in situationally appropriate ways, and how learned to hold successful conversation.

Methodological issues1

2. Another issue concerns what it means to say that a learner has ‘acquired’ a feature of the target language.

3. A third problem in trying to measure whether ‘acquisition’ has taken palce concern learners’s overuse of linguistic forms.

Methodological Issues

Issues in the description of learner language

Issues in The Description of Learner Language

Both of these studies set out how to describe how learners’ use of an L2 canges over time and what this shows about the nature of their knowledge of the L2.

One finding is that learners make errors of different kinds. J and R also made grammatical errorsin their requests. In addition, they made sociolinguistic errors. That is, they failed to use request in a socially appropriate manner.

Another finding is that L2 learners acquire a large number of formulaic chuncks, which they use to perfome communicative functions that are important to them and which contribute to the fluency of their unplanned speech. An important issue in SLA is the role that these formula play, not just in enchanging learners’ perfomance but also in their acquisition of an L2. One of the most interesting issues raised by these case studies is whether learners acquire the laguage systematically.

Issues in the explanation of l2 acquisition

Issues in The Explanation of L2 Acquisition

The hypothesis that L2 acquisition involves different kinds of learning. On the one hand, learners internalize chunks of language structure (i.e. formulas). On the other hand, they acquire rules (i.e. the knowledge that a given linguistic feature is used in a particular context with a particular function). In other words, learners must engage in both item learning and system learning.

The systematic nature of L2 acquisition also requires explanation. One is that learners follow a particular developmental pattern because their mental faculties are structured in such a way that this is the way they have to learn.