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Second Language Acquisition, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1703

Essay

Definitions: CLT Versus TBLT

Teaching foreign languages to students proposes a series of challenges that requires the instructor to determine how people learn to speak the most effectively. Whether acquiring a second language or learning English as a foreign language, it is important to consider that similar techniques are used. Communicative language teaching (CLT) is an approach that has been conventionally used to provide language instruction to students, regardless of context. Through this methodology, the teacher would help students learn to translate words from their own language to their new one, and engage in exercises that would help them understand the application of the language in practice, in terms of verb, adjective, and noun use that are characteristic of the language being learned. However, many professionals argue that the CLT approach was largely ineffective because it does not promote interaction between the students. Thus, these individuals do not have the opportunity to practice speaking their new language, which many believe is a more effective way of providing language instruction (Littlewood, 2014).

Educators have been developing a broader support for task-based language teaching (TBLT), in which students are provided with specific language learning tasks that involve more hands on practice with the language that they are learning. Because many individuals learn their native language from hearing it repeatedly during the initial stages of their development, language educators believe that similar methodology will allow students to learn foreign languages more readily, whether this language is English or a language other than English (Thorne, 2000). Thus, TBLT mimics the natural learning process, which will not only make it easier for the language to be learned, but also retained and used properly.

The Importance of Learning a Secondary Language

Currently, many people are debating the importance of learning a secondary language altogether. Accorded to a 2007 publication, “A recent survey by the European Union found that over half its citizens reported that they speak a second language. In Britain, the percentage drops

to 30% and, in the United States to 9%, according to a recent U.S. Senate Resolution designating

2005 as the Year of Languages” (Blake et al., 2007). In an increasingly globalized world, it will become essential for children living in the United States and elsewhere to have at least a basic understanding of important foreign languages. A majority of people in the world are from Spanish speaking cultures and China is one of the world’s leaders in commerce. Thus, a large percentage of available jobs will require individuals to be knowledgeable about these and other languages. Most academic institutions agree that it is necessary to provide English as a second language programs to learners in the United States so they will be able to take full advantage of the education available to them. However, it is important for these individuals to consider that learning second languages is also beneficial to native English speakers for a similar reason. Being bilingual will provide them with a greater degree of opportunities to support themselves in the future and to communicate with people from diverse cultures.

Theories and Methods: Chomsky, Behaviorism, and Beyond

Understanding the way how most languages, including English, should be taught is largely dependent on the context of the society in which the language is spoken. By understanding the context of a language, its words have greater meaning. Chomsky argues that as a consequence of this idea, languages are not static. New words need to be created to generate new meanings, so the languages themselves are constantly changing. In the context of modern English, this can be exemplified by slang. Many individuals reject the validity of slang words because they were not included in the language when they were growing up. However, the widespread use of new words is what causes a language to evolve and become more effective. Thus, Chomsky would argue that slang words are a valid part of the English language if they are consistently used. Behaviorism is also an important application of the study of language for this reason. Because young children learn to mimic their parents when they are developing, it is easy for them to learn language because they are simply copying without understanding. When new words are developed, it shows that meaning has been formed, indicating that the individual fully understands what is being said and why. Thus, this practice contributes to the overall value of language. An example of a new technique frequently used as a part of the behaviorist school is the audio-lingual method, which helps train language learners through use of repetition. Some proponents of this method believe that repeated use of words and phrases helps understanding and pronunciation of language. Thus, both behaviorism and Chomsky’s beliefs can be incorporated in language education.

To help linguists gain a greater appreciation of word development in language, Chomsky has distinguished between the concepts of linguistic and pedagogic grammar. Linguistic grammar is necessary for speakers to understand the structure and meaning of a sentence (Rivers, 1983). Meanwhile, pedagogic grammar provides the student with an ability to understand these sentences. Native speakers can more easily alter sentence structure and words to produce phrases with a meaning. However, to truly understand a language, it is valuable to achieve the point of comprehension when the use of new words appears to be natural and makes sense within the context of a phrase. Thus, the addition of new words serves to clarify meaning rather than to confuse it.

Linguistic theory can be utilized to ultimately understand how individuals in diverse countries learn language and how these principles can be applied to help them understand other languages. The principles of universal grammar can be used, for example, to help draw connections between the native language and the native language being learned (VanPatten & Williams, 2008). This becomes problematic when the native languages have very different structures, but is reasonable when the languages have similar in structure (Seeley & Carter, 2004). It may therefore be more reasonable for an individual who already knows Italian to learn Spanish, but it may be more challenging for an individual who knows Italian to learn Chinese.

The Challenges Pertaining to Secondary Language Education in the United States

Teaching language in the United States has had some disappointing outcomes because students living in the country have had a decreased opportunity to practice the language they are learning. Studies that have demonstrated that at least half of all people living in Europe know a second language is supported by the fact that European residents live in closer proximity to one another. Thus, even though residents of these countries belong to diverse cultures, they are able to visit the nations of their neighbors more readily. As a consequence, it could be said that there is a greater ability for these individuals to learn and retain these foreign languages because they are provided with a greater ability to practice them (Skehan, 1998). Furthermore, they are able to learn these languages in a more natural manner; practicing the language by speaking with natives is more natural than memorizing phrases in an isolated classroom (Tarone, 1988).

The present evidence demonstrates that it is necessary to alter the way that educators in the United States teach language. A majority of Americans have been exposed to language in a manner that requires them to work through textbook exercises and memorize vocabulary (Schumann, 1978). Furthermore, many of these learners have not visited a country that speaks the language that they are trying to learn. Thus, it would be more beneficial to immerse these students into the language on the first day of their learning experience by speaking to them primarily in the language that is being taught. Supplementing this experience by introducing them to native speakers of the language and media that is available in the language will add to the learning experience. This evidence demonstrates that it is necessary to rethink the way that both English as a second language and foreign languages are taught in the United States. The use of communicative language teaching is outdated and should therefore be replaced by the use of more immersive techniques (Young et al., 2004). It will become more important for language teachers to determine how to improve the efficacy of their education practices in the near future because language is a necessary tool in the modern century. People in distinct countries are becoming more connected and it is plausible to draw upon these connections to make language learning more effective. It is therefore expected that using online tools to help students communicate with English learners in other countries is a plausible way to facilitate a language exchange, which will make language learning more effective for students across the world. It is therefore necessary to take immediate action and begin using these modern applications in the classroom. Not only will the results be more effective, but the students will appreciate having the ability to use their time in the classroom more efficiently, actually learning the language that they have selected to study.

References

Blake, R., Kramsch, C., Byrnes, H. (2007). Introduction to Perspectives. The Modern Language Journal, 91(2): 247-249.

Littlewood, W. (2014). Communication-oriented language teaching: Where are we now? Where do we go from here? Language Teaching, 47(3): 349 – 362.

Rivers, W.M. (1983) Communicating Naturally in a Second Language: Theory and practice in language teaching. Cambridge University Press.

Schumann, J. (1978) The pidginization process: a model for second language acquisition. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House.

Seeley, A, & B. Carter (2004) Applied linguistics as social science. London: Continuum.

Skehan, P. (1998) A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford University Press.

Tarone, E. (1988) Variation in interlanguage. London: Edward Arnold.

Thorne, S.L. (2000) Second language acquisition theory and the truth(s) about relativity.

In J. Lantolf (ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language learning. Oxford University Press. 219–43.

VanPatten, B., & Williams, J. (2008). Theories in second language acquisition: an introduction. New York: Routledge.

Young, Richard F. and Elizabeth R Miller (2004). Learning as changing participation: Discourse roles in ESL writing conferences. The Modern Language Journal, 88: 519–535.

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