Difference Between Learning and Acquisition in ESL

Stephen Krashen draws a big distinction between learnt and acquired language, a distinction that has caused controversy in itself, quite apart from his ideas for promoting this acquisition. According to Krashen, students who are taught in a formal, form-focussed way will “learn” the language but never fully acquire it. Acquisition, which is the basis for all L1 knowledge, consists of rules and principles that are not available to conscious attention. By contrast, learnt language can only be used as a “monitor” (a check, as it were) to what we say in L2. Krashen argues this is the only use of learnt language and further goes on to say that learnt knowledge can never become acquired knowledge. Krashen’s model has thus been termed a “dual competence” model.

We now we move onto ways in which Krashen states that this acquisition can be promoted in the un-naturalistic setting of the classroom. The crux of Krashen’s theories is that students acquire (as opposed to learn) when they are able to understand something (primarily through context) that is a little above their current level of understanding. Continue reading

The Behaviorist Approach

Parent talking to childLook at the following extract:

Child: Nobody don’t like me.
Mother: No, say ‘nobody likes me’.
Child: Nobody don’t like me.
(Eight repetitions of this exchange)
Mother: No, now listen carefully; say ‘nobody likes me’.
Child: Oh! Nobody don’t likes me.

(McNeill, 1966)

The behaviourist approach to language learning grew out of the belief that students could learn a second language by being taught to produce the correct “response” to the appropriate “stimulus”. The student would then receive either instant positive or instant negative “reinforcement” in the shape of either correction or praise from the teacher.

The resulting methodology, audio-lingualism, was a very heavily teacher-centred approach consisting of a lot of “mimicry and memorization”. The linguist Leonard Bloomfield claimed that “language learning is over-learning” and this, in effect, was what audio-lingualism was based on.
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Developmental Trends

This writer teaches English to speakers of other languages and therefore has decided to critique articles discussing the linguistic development of non-English speaking students and studies of second language acquisition.

Much research has been conducted on linguistic development and second language acquisition. Nevertheless, the ever-present conclusion of this research seems to be the fact that complexity is a determining factor.

The range of beliefs and definitions of second language acquisition is as diversified as the population researched. As the number of children entering early childhood education programs with limited English proficiency increases, the need to know how to access these children’s language development also increases. Understanding children’s language development can be a daunting task due to the fact that second language learners come from different cultural, social, and linguistic backgrounds.
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