first language acquisition n.
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First language acquisition. The sequence of development of L1. before the first words: listening, babbling, sounds; children can understand language before they speak it small range of first words between 12 and 18 months

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the sequence of development of l1
The sequence of development of L1
  • before the first words: listening, babbling, sounds; children can understand language before they speak it
  • small range of first words between 12 and 18 months
  • from the age of 2 - putting words together, move towards discovering the system ofL1
  • early stages of L1 development - characterized by one and two-word utterances, described as telegraphic: e.g. mommy sock, more page
  • parents respond to telegraphic utterances: intuitively first fill out the telegraphic phraseand then address the meaning of what the child has said
  • by the age of 5: children have mastered basic grammar, able to use adult forms
  • good L1 foundation makes it easier for a child to acquire further languages
children as active learners
Children as active learners

Children’s acquisition of verb inflections - evidence for their active contribution to the learning process:

  • before they master the regular past inflection (e.g. the ending on she walked), they produce a number of common irregular past forms, such as went and came
  • then comes a point where the child seems to regress: instead of the correct forms, he produces deviant utterances such as Where it goed?
  • at a deeper level – progress;mastery of the rule for forming the past tense, later awareness of exceptions
s uperiority of comprehension over production
Superiority of comprehension over production

Children (and also adults) understand more than they can actuallyproduce.

A three-year old called herselfLitha.

*Litha?

*No, Litha, she maintained.

Oh, Lisa.

*Yes, Litha.”

the behaviorist approach
The behaviorist approach

Before the 1960s, the study of child language was dominated mainly by the behaviorist approach to language and learning (B.F. Skinner):

Language is not a mental phenomenon: it is behavior.

Like other forms of human behavior, it is learnt by a process of habit formation (imitation, reinforcement, repetition, conditioning).

criticism of t he behaviorist approach
Criticism of the behaviorist approach
  • Mistakes are seen as a faulty version of adult speech.
  • Language learning is seen as a mechanical activity.
  • Children imitate selectively.

Child: Nobody don’t like me.

Mother: No, say “nobody likes me”.

Child: Nobody don’t like me. (repeated eight times)

Mother: No, now listen carefully; say “nobody likes me”.

Child: Oh! Nobody don’t likes me.

the nativ ist approach
The nativist approach

Children’s language is not simply being shaped by external forces: it is beingcreatively constructed by the children through interaction.

Examples of children using language creatively:

  • overgeneralization:

Mummy, I am hiccing up and I can’t stop.

(perfectly sensible analogy to picking up/standing up … )

A Czech child (age 4y 10m): Já snáším zelenou.(opak k nesnáším)

  • creative use of words:

Father: I’d like to propose a toast.

Son, later: I’d like to propose a piece of bread.

(the child is discovering the full/limited meaning of the word)

A Czech child (age 4y 10m): další zítra (pozítří)

slide8
Task

What are the implications of these ideas for the teaching of foreign languages?

  • sufficient exposure to the FL, allow pupils to listen before they are asked to speak
  • provide good models for imitation
  • teachers’ talk should resemble some features of parental talk: repetition, reasonable speed, expansion of simple utterances, rephrasing (= saying correctly what the child expressed incorrectly)
  • friendlier approach to mistakes (may be a sign of progress), lots of encouragement
  • use of non-verbal communication to support verbal messages
assumptions about age and learning
Assumptions about age and learning
  • Younger children learn languages better than older ones; children learn better than adults.
  • Foreign language learning in school should be started as early as possible.
  • Children and adults learn languages basically the same way.
  • Adults have a longer concentration span.
  • It is easier to interest and motivate children than adults.
1 younger children learn languages better than older ones
1. Younger children learn languages better than older ones.

Common belief, probably based on knowing that children living in a foreign environment pick up the local language with great ease (lots of exposure and attention, “survival” motives – do not apply to formal language instruction).

However, given the same amount of exposure to a FL, there is some evidence that the older children learn more effectively (with the exception of pronunciation); teenagers are probably overall the best learners (esp. better cognitive skills and self-discipline).

2 foreign language learning in school should be started as early as possible
2. Foreign language learning in schoolshould be started as early as possible.

Critical period hypothesis – if you get too old and pass the age limit (approx. 13), you will have more difficulties learning a FL (no conclusive research evidence).

The optimum age for starting effective L2 learning is about 10 → early L2 learning is not cost-effective, but leads to better long-term results if learning is maintained and reinforced.

3 children and adults learn languages basically the same way
3. Children and adults learn languages basically the same way.

Adults in a formal classroom situation:

  • logical thinking
  • developed learning skills and strategies
  • cooperative
  • disciplined
  • learn voluntarily, motivated
4 adults have a longer concentration span
4. Adults have a longer concentration span.

The problem is not the concentration span itself – children will spend hours absorbed in activities which really interest them.

Adults – can persevere with something of no immediate interest to them.

5 it is easier to interest and motivate children than adults
5. It is easier to interest and motivate children than adults.

Yes, in a way, e.g. by selecting interesting activities but you can also easily lose it (monotonous lessons, pointless activities).

Young learner’s motivation is more likely to vary and is more susceptible to immediate surrounding influences; older learners tend to be more stable.