Friday, 31 May 2013

second language acquisition

Second-language acquisitionsecond-language learning, or L2 acquisition, is the process by which people learn a second language. Second-language acquisition (often abbreviated to SLA) also refers to the scientific discipline devoted to studying that process... Second-language acquisition refers to what learners do; it does not refer to practices in language teaching.

SLA research began as an interdisciplinary field, and because of this it is difficult to identify a precise starting date.[2] However, two papers in particular are seen as instrumental to the development of the modern study of SLA: Pit Corder's 1967 essay The Significance of Learners' Errors, and Larry Selinker's 1972 article Interlanguage.[3] The field saw a great deal of development in the following decades.[2] By the year 2010, second-language acquisition was studied from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives, and there was a proliferation of different theories. However, the main two approaches were linguistic theories based upon Noam Chomsky's universal grammar, and psychological theories such as skill acquisition theory and connectionism.[3]

The term acquisition was originally used to emphasize the subconscious nature of the learning process,[4] 
[Krashen (1982) made a sharp distinction between learning and acquisition, using learning to refer to the conscious aspects of the language learning process andacquisition to refer to the subconscious aspects. This strict separation of learning and acquisition is widely regarded as an oversimplification by researchers today, but his hypotheses were very influential and the name has stuck.]
but in recent years learning and acquisition have become largely synonymous.
There has been much debate about exactly how language is learned, and many issues are still unresolved. There are many theories of second-language acquisition, but none are accepted as a complete explanation by all SLA researchers. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the field of second-language acquisition, this is not expected to happen in the foreseeable future.
Learning second language depends on ability to learn patterns
Saturday, June 1, 2013 | 01:10 AM IST

Learning to understand and read a second language may be driven, at least in part, by your ability to pick up on statistical regularities, a new study has found. Some research suggests that learning a second language draws on capacities that are language-specific, while other research suggests that it reflects a more general capacity for learning patterns.

According to psychological scientist and lead researcher Ram Frost of Hebrew University, the data from the new study clearly point to the latter. "These new 
results suggest that learning a second language is determined to a large extent by an individual ability that is not at all linguistic," said Frost.

In the study, Frost and colleagues used three different tasks to measure how well American students in an overseas programme picked up on the structure of words and sounds in Hebrew. The students were tested once in the first semester and again in the second semester. The students also completed a task that measured their ability to pick up on statistical patterns in visual stimuli. The participants watched a stream of complex shapes that were presented one at a time. Unbeknownst to the participants, the 24 shapes were organised into 8 triplets - the order of the triplets was randomised, though the shapes within each triplet always appeared in the same sequence. After viewing the stream of shapes, the students were
tested to see whether they implicitly picked up the statistical regularities of the shape sequences. The data revealed a strong association between statistical learning and language learning: Students who were high performers on the shapes task tended to pick up the most Hebrew over the two semesters. "It's surprising that a short 15-minute test involving the perception of visual shapes could predict to such a large extent which of the students who came to study Hebrew would finish the year with a better grasp of the language," said Frost.

According to the researchers,
establishing a link between second language acquisition and a general capacity for statistical learning may have broad implications. "This finding points to the possibility that a unified and universal principle of statistical learning can quantitatively explain a wide range of cognitive processes across domains, whether they are linguistic or nonlinguistic," they concluded.

The study was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.


Thursday, 30 May 2013

chomsky and language acquisition

Noam Chomsky

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Chomskyan linguistics, beginning with his Syntactic Structures, a distillation of his Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory (1955, 75), challenges structural linguistics and introduces transformational grammar.[63] This approach takes utterances (sequences of words) to have a syntax characterized by a formal grammar; in particular, a context-free grammar extended with transformational rules.
Perhaps his most influential and time-tested contribution to the field is the claim that modeling knowledge of language using a formal grammar accounts for the "productivity" or "creativity" of language. In other words, a formal grammar of a language can explain the ability of a hearer-speaker to produce and interpret an infinite number of utterances, including novel ones, with a limited set of grammatical rules and a finite set of terms. He has always acknowledged his debt to Pāṇini for his modern notion of an explicit generative grammar, although it is also related to rationalist ideas of a priori knowledge.
It is a popular misconception that Chomsky proved that language is entirely innate, and that he discovered a "universal grammar" (UG). In fact, Chomsky simply observed that while a human baby and a kitten are both capable of inductive reasoning, if they are exposed to exactly the same linguistic data, the human child will always acquire the ability to understand and produce language, while the kitten will never acquire either ability. Chomsky labeled whatever the relevant capacity the human has that the cat lacks the "language acquisition device" (LAD) and suggested that one of the tasks for linguistics should be to figure out what the LAD is and what constraints it puts on the range of possible human languages. The universal features that would result from these constraints are often termed "universal grammar" or UG.[64] Though Chomsky generated the universal grammar theory with the belief that language is uniquely human, a series of studies from various laboratories have shown the existence of acquired language in several great ape species, includingcommon chimpanzees,[65][66][67][68][69][70][71] bonobos,[71][72] gorillas,[73] and orangutans.[74] Thus, great apes at least partially possess whatever mental functions might underlie the LAD, and are therefore important species of study for exploring the neural basis of language.
Chomsky's ideas have had a strong influence on researchers of language acquisition in children, though many researchers in this area such as Elizabeth Bates[75] and Michael Tomasello[76] argue very strongly against Chomsky's theories, and instead advocate emergentist or connectionist theories, explaining language with a number of general processing mechanisms in the brain that interact with the extensive and complex social environment in which language is used and learned.

Generative grammar

The Chomskyan approach towards syntax, often termed generative grammar, studies grammar as a body of knowledge possessed by language users. Since the 1960s, Chomsky has maintained that much of this knowledge is innate, implying that children need only learn certain parochial features of their native languages.[77] The innate body of linguistic knowledge is often termed universal grammar. From Chomsky's perspective, the strongest evidence for the existence of Universal Grammar is simply the fact that children successfully acquire their native languages in so little time. Furthermore, he argues that there is an enormous gap between the linguistic stimuli to which children are exposed and the rich linguistic knowledge they attain (the "poverty of the stimulus" argument). The knowledge of Universal Grammar would serve to bridge that gap.

Language acquisition

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language, as well as to produce and use words and sentences to communicate. Language acquisition is one of the quintessential human traits, because nonhumans do not communicate by using language.[1] Language acquisition usually refers to first-language acquisition, which studies infants' acquisition of their native language. This is distinguished from second-language acquisition, which deals with the acquisition (in both children and adults) of additional languages.
The capacity to successfully use language requires one to acquire a range of tools including phonology, morphology,syntax, semantics, and an extensive vocabulary. Language might be vocalized as speech or manual as in sign. The human language capacity is represented in the brain. Even though the human language capacity is finite, one can say and understand an infinite number of sentences, which is based on a syntactic principle called Recursion. Evidence suggests that every individual has three recursive mechanisms that allow sentences to go indeterminately. These three mechanisms are: relativizationcomplementation and coordination.[2]
A major debate in understanding language acquisition is how these capacities are picked up by infants from the linguistic input. Input in the linguistic context is defined as "All words, contexts, and other forms of language to which a learner is exposed, relative to acquired proficiency in first or second languages". Nativists find it difficult to believe, considering the hugely complex nature of human languages, and the relatively limited cognitive abilities of an infant, that infants are able to acquire most aspects of language without being explicitly taught. Children, within a few years of birth, understand the grammatical rules of their native language without being explicitly taught, as one learns grammar in school.[4] A range of theories of language acquisition have been proposed in order to explain this apparent problem. These theories, championed by the likes of Noam Chomsky and others, include innatism and Psychological nativism, in which a child is born prepared in some manner with these capacities, as opposed to other theories in which language is simply learned as other cognitive skills, including such mundane motor skills as learning to ride a bike. The conflict between the theories assuming humans are born with syntactic knowledge and those that claim all such knowledge is the product of learning from one's environment is often referred to as the "Nature vs. Nurture" debate. Some think that there are some qualities of language acquisition that the human brain is automatically wired for (a "nature" component) and some that are shaped by the particular language environment in which a person is raised (a "nurture" component). Others, especially evolutionary biologists, strongly object to assuming syntactic knowledge is genetically encoded and provided by automatic wiring of the brain.

extensive reading

From the British Council's TeachingEnglish website:
In 2013 on TeachingEnglish, we hope to have even more new tools and materials to help you in the classroom and with your development, so be sure to come back and find out what's new!
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Extensive reading: why it is good for our students… and for us.
In this, the first of two articles for TeachingEnglish, Alan Maley considers the benefits extensive reading can bring to English language learners and teachers.
What is Extensive Reading (ER)?
Extensive Reading is often referred to but it is worth checking on what it actually involves.  Richard Day has provided a list of key characteristics of ER (Day 2002). This is complemented by Philip Prowse (2002). Maley (2008) deals with ER comprehensively. The following is a digest of the two lists of factors or principles for successful ER:
  1. Students read a lot and read often.
  2. There is a wide variety of text types and topics to choose from.
  3. The texts are not just interesting: they are engaging/ compelling.
  4. Students choose what to read.
  5. Reading purposes focus on: pleasure, information and general understanding.
  6. Reading is its own reward.
  7. There are no tests, no exercises, no questions and no dictionaries.
  8. Materials are within the language competence of the students.
  9. Reading is individual, and silent.
  10. Speed is faster, not deliberate and slow.
  11. The teacher explains the goals and procedures clearly, then monitors and guides the students.
  12. The teacher is a role model…a reader, who participates along with the students.
The model is very much like that for L1 reading proposed by Atwell (2006).  It has been variously described as Free Voluntary Reading (FEVER), Uninterrupted Silent Reading (USR), Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), or Positive Outcomes While Enjoying Reading (POWER).
So what are the benefits of ER?
Both common sense observation and copious research evidence bear out the many benefits which come from ER (Waring 2000, 2006). There are useful summaries of the evidence in Day and Bamford  (1998: 32-39) and The Special Issue of The Language Teacher (1997) including articles by Paul Nation and others, and passionate advocacy in Krashen’s The Power of Reading. (2004). The journals Reading in a Foreign Language and the International Journal of Foreign Language Learning are also good sources of research studies supporting ER. (see references for websites) And there is the indispensable annotated bibliography,
So what does it all add up to?
ER develops learner autonomy.
There is no cheaper or more  effective way to develop learner autonomy. Reading is, by its very nature, a private, individual activity. It can be done anywhere, at any time of day. Readers can start and stop at will, and read at the speed they are comfortable with. They can visualise and interpret what they read in their own way. They can ask themselves questions (explicit or implicit), notice things about the language, or simply let the story carry them along.
ER offers Comprehensible Input.
Reading is the most readily available form of comprehensible input, especially in places where there is hardly any contact with the target language. If carefully chosen to suit learners’ level, it offers them repeated encounters with language items they have already met. This helps them to consolidate what they already know and to extend it. There is no way any learner will meet new language enough times to learn it in the limited number of hours in class. The only reliable way to learn a language is through massive and repeated exposure to it in context: precisely what ER provides.
ER enhances general language competence.
In ways we so far do not fully understand, the benefits of ER extend beyond reading. There is ‘a spread of effect from reading competence to other language skills ~ writing, speaking and control over syntax.’ (Elley 1991) The same phenomenon is noted by Day and Bamford (1998: 32-39) but they even note evidence of improvements in the spoken language. So reading copiously seems to benefit all language skills, not just reading.
ER  helps develop general, world knowledge.
Many, if not most, students have a rather limited experience and knowledge of the world they inhabit both cognitively and affectively. ER opens windows on the world seen through different eyes. This educational function of ER cannot be emphasised enough.
ER extends, consolidates and sustains vocabulary growth.
Vocabulary is not learned by a single exposure.  ER allows for multiple encounters with words and phrases in context thus making possible the progressive accretion of meanings to them.  By presenting items in context, it also makes the deduction of meaning of unknown items easier. There have been many studies of vocabulary acquisition from ER (Day et al 1991, Nation and Wang 1999, Pigada and Schmitt, 2006). Michael Hoey’s theory of ‘lexical priming’  (Hoey  1991, 2005) also gives powerful support to the effect of multiple exposure to language items in context.
ER helps improve writing.
There is a well-established link between reading and writing.  Basically, the more we read, the better we write.  Exactly how this happens is still not understood (Kroll 2003) but the fact that it happens is well-documented (Hafiz and Tudor 1989) Commonsense would indicate that as we meet more language, more often, through reading, our language acquisition mechanism is primed to produce it in writing or speech when it is needed. (Hoey 2005).
ER creates and sustains motivation to read more.
The virtuous circle - success leading to success - ensures that, as we read successfully in the foreign language, so we are encouraged to read more. The effect on self-esteem and motivation of reading one’s first book in the foreign language is undeniable. It is what Krashen calls a ‘home run’ book : ‘my first’! This relates back to the point at the beginning of the need to find ‘compelling’, not merely interesting, reading material. It is this that fuels the compulsion to read the next Harry Potter. It also explains the relatively new trend in graded readers toward original and more compelling subject matter. (Moses)

Friday, 24 May 2013

more videos

Another student pointed me in the direction to this alternative to YouTube:

Videojug - Get Good At Life. The world’s best how to videos plus free expert advice and tutorials.

Some great videos, for example:

And another:

Film Noir - Explained: So, you want to learn about the film noir genre, and sound like a brainy movie buff? Then watch our film noir tribute, and learn everything you need to know about film noir in just two minutes.

There is an excellent video channel especially designed for English students - with lots of free lessons:
5 Phrasal Verbs with GET – get up, get along, get ahead, get by… · engVid
Vocabulary: ONLY, JUST, BARELY, MERELY · engVid
IELTS Speaking Task 1 – How to get a high score · engVid

But of course, YouTube leads the way for so much. Here someone has recently created their own trailer for 'the best film ever':

Vertigo Trailer (HD) - YouTube

more on-line dictionaries

This dictionary is a favourite of a student because of the useful sentences:

Linguee | Dictionary for German, French, Spanish, and more

It takes examples from documents available on-line:

The Commission and the Parliament must make ivery clear that we will push throughout this year to guarantee that... European Parliament

And we have lots of examples in phrases, together with a translation:


The problem is that with single-word translation, you'll have too much choice!

Editorial Dictionary

 make verb
machen vtgestalten v· führen v·bilden v· arbeiten v·treffen v· geben v·vornehmen vt·schaffen vt·erzeugen v·erzielen v (Profit)

etc, etc...

So, do make use of all those lovely sentence and phrase examples