Second Language Theories

 Second Language Theories

 

Theory

 

Basic Tenets            

Behaviorist Theories (CA Hyposesis)

1.             Skinner (1960)

2.             Human learning and animal learning is similar

3.              Late 19th century  research of animal behavior gave rise to school of behaviorism

4.              All behavior  (b) is viewed as a response to stimuli; b happens in associative chain

5.             Learning is habit-formation through reward system

6.              3 types of habit formation : classical conditioning (Pavlov: dog+meat+bell =salivation, then dog +bell =salivation), operant conditioning (if random produces reward, it becomes regular), multiple response learning (a chain of deeds) (Hadley, 2001)

7.              Skinner considered L as a sophisticated response system

8.              Mind is tabula rasa for stamping associations

9.             Tool for SLA is drill and practice with no explanations

10.         Native language is the source of major difficulty for LL

11.           Overcoming interference is essential for CA

12.         CA predicts mistakes

13.         Fossilization and positive transfer

14.         Understanding isn't necessary

15.         Describes result not the process

 

Universal Grammar Theory

 

1.               1957 Syntactic Structures Chomsky (1980-1990)

2.               Marked/unmarked features in languages

3.               Critical period

4.               Theory is originally based on first language acquisition

5.               Closely related to Cognitive psychology principles

6.               Language is genetically determined capacity (66-67)

7.               LAD with innate linguistic properties (distinguishing speech-non s sounds; organize into system; possible and not possible in the system; construction of system according to ling data of exposition - parameter setting takes place

8.               L is formal and substantive universals

9.               Core grammar is true for all languages; peripheral gr is unique

10.           Interested in competence, but not performance

Krashen's Monitor Theory

(Input Hypothesis)

1.      SLA is very different from other types of learning

2.      LAD is used by any age learners when they acquire not learn a language

3.      Distinguish acquisition (like a child) and learning (rules)

4.      Learning leads to a monitor and acquisition leads to a true proficiency

5.      Providing Input is most important part

6.      Natural order Hypothesis morphemes are acquired in a specific order

7.      Monitor Hypothesis SLA generates fluency, Learning edits and monitors output

8.       Input Hypothesis : acquisition happens when i+1, comprehensible and planned input takes place, fluency emerges overtime

9.      Affective filter hypothesis: motivation, confidence, anxiety is low

10.   Implications for classroom:  affective filter is low, class is useful for beginners; optimal input is appropriate to l-ner's level, interesting and relevant, not sequenced grammatically, I+1, off-defensive; error correction is minimal, shouldn't take place simultaneously with acquisition; never force to produce L2 before they are ready to; fluency can't be taught.

Cognitive Theory (Ausubel, McLaughin, Bialystok, Ellis,Anderson, and others)

1.               Understanding  of rules plays critical role

2.               Learning a language is similar to any other kind of learning

3.               Focal attention; when it becomes automatic we use peripheral attention

4.               SLA is based on transfer, simplification, generalization, restructuring

5.               Direct opposition to Behaviorist ,like UG, since learning is a result from internal mental activity

6.               Knowing is different from  responding

7.               Learning is a process of organizing an individual network

8.               Learner is the subject of learning not object, so  SLA must consider understanding, thinking, remembering and producing language

9.               SLA = building a system of cognitive skills

10.           Knowledge base is constantly  changing as proficiency  goes up and sub skills develop

11.           Automatization - skill becomes routine via practice

12.           Controlled processing ( stage before automatic processing) needs full attention

13.           Language styles: vernacular (inf, little attention to form),careful style (under heavy monitoring)

14.           Variables have impact on the accuracy of the language output

15.           Anderson's declarative (explicit, conscious)and procedural knowledge (know how)

16.           Anderson's skill acquisition model: 1)the cognitive stage 2)the associative stage 3)the autonomous stage 

17.           Attempt to understand how LL becomes internalized

18.           Automization and Restructuring are key concepts (organized cognitive structure)

19.           Ausubel puts emphasis on active participation in meaningful tasks: rote (isn't integrated) vs. meaningful learning (integrated into  existing cognitive str)

20.           Building ties in between new and learned is essential for meaningful learning (schema)

Conversation Theories

1.               Speaking is learned through participating in L2 speaking event verbally or non-verbally

2.               Good scaffolding is a strong learning tool and helps learner to take part in conversation

3.               Feedback makes learner aware of required improvements

4.               Negotiation of meaning assists in learning

Schumann's Acculturation Theory

1.               Takes into account learner, target language group , learner group, and their relationship

2.               L is a part of sociological, political and economic context, which are factors in (un)successful  SLA

3.               Emotional receptiveness is key factor of success (low affective filter)

4.               Readiness of target group to accept language learners is important

5.               Social distance determines the degree of possible  acculturation

6.               A list of social distance measurement criteria was elaborated

7.               Willingness of learning group vs. unwillingness of target group  as meaningful   were is first recognized by Schumann

8.               Social incentives and social deterrents

 

1.      Practice for behaviorist is seen as a process of habit formation by reinforcing "right" answers. Practice should take central place because that is how language is learnt, i.e. through extensive drill "without recourse to rationalistic explanation". (p.56 Hadley, 2001) They considered language acquisition a matter of practice or "operant conditioning". (Skinner, 1957 as cited in Hadley,2001) "Behaviors that are reinforced will be learned." (Horwitz, 2008) UG dealt with acquisition of the first language, so their stand is "environmental input" is crucial. The child needs to hear the language spoken in order to select the appropriate parameter for his or her language environment  (Horwitz, 2008).  In the classroom the exposure to the language data helps students to set the value of parameters. Krashen considers practice to consist mostly of comprehensible L+1 input with regard to affective filter. They pay attention to the L1 and positive transfer (language universals) as well as the proximity of languages. Practice in the form of learning is useful for beginners or those students who can't utilize their environment to acquire a language. Students needn't be forced to speak; they will volunteer when they are ready to. "People learn second language by using that language." (Horwitz, 2008)  Cognitive theory considers active mental participation to be one of the crucial components of practice. Practice is a rebuilding activity - new input brings new information restructuring an existing schema. Practice is a good time for controlled processing and internalization of an explicit knowledge. For conversation theories practice is taking place in a real conversation verbally or non-verbally.  Acculturation theory takes into account practice outside of classroom, putting additional emphasis on social environment.

Behavioral Theory:

Conversation Theories:

Cognitive Theory

Memorize a dialog and act it out

Repeat after me

Write new grammatical structure  at home 100 times

 

Make a dialog based on the one you have just read

Teacher speaks to students in L2

Discuss a list of questions

Ask your partner about his or her favorite place

 

Read the text silently and make 4 questions

Translate the text from L1 into L2

Find in the text words with the following grammatical features

 

From my point of view activities based on Behavioral theory aren't compatible with two others, since they are mostly focused on rote learning, while others involve students into a meaningful contexts and shift the attention from teacher to a student.

2.      Error correction  Behaviorism sees error fossilization as the worst sequence of not correcting an error, so overt correction must take place. In UG error is probably a result of unmarked feature which is being neglected a result of interference. Cook (2008) says that parents rarely correct their child's speech and do that for meaning not for grammar. Conversely, in the classroom error correction occurs frequently, for the sake of additional evidence for learners. Krashen assumes that error correction should be limited and used only when we focus on learning, otherwise it triggers affective filter and deters acquisition.  Cognitive theory doesn't take error correction into consideration as it mostly concerned with building up a set of cognitive skills. Congruent with their idea of controlled practice I might conclude that mistakes will be corrected from the very beginning. Within the context of meaningful learning a mistake is being noted only if it prevents conveying idea. Conversation theory sees errors as a good start for scaffolding. Basically, they provoke learning process. Acculturation theory emphasizes a role of low affective filter as a key factor in success of SLA, so it should deal with error correction gently as it usually affects the filter in a negative way.

4.     Success in language learning

BT and CA

UG

Krashen's MT

Cogn T

Conv T

Schumann's

Success is a result of zillion of drills

The proximity between L1 and L2

Formation of language habit

First parameter setting for LAD leads to absolute success;

Presence of more unmarked elements in SL can also lead to a success

Shift attention from learner's capability to rote learning and LAD to learner's affective filter and comprehensible input

Success a result of active mental activity involving building and re-  cognitive structures

Success depends on those who provide scaffolding

The more conversations the better the language

Social distance can influence success more than any other variable

Internet is an idea source of distance-free learning environment

 

5.      I like the ideas of cognitive theory, and not given any other choice would teach in accordance to its tenets. Unfortunately, these theories are very insufficient for utilizing just one at a time. My view is that nowadays teaching is more of a synthetic nature, i.e. application of tenets of these theories to the various stages of the lesson and various levels is a reasonable approach. In the beginner course Behaviorist theory is helpful, especially if students learn how to pronounce sounds. Conversation Theories are better applied in Intermediate level, where students have already had the base to understand L+1, but experiencing difficulty expressing themselves.

Bibliography

Cook, V. (2008). Second Language Learning and Language Teaching (forth edition ed.).

Hadley, A. O. (2001). Teaching Language in Context (3d ed.).

Horwitz, E. K. (2008). Becoming a Language Teacher.