The Nature of Language
Learning
Agenda
 Questions from last week/information about
Assignment #1
 Review Activity
 Preview next chapter- Essential Questions
 Babies, Children, and Learning
 Personal Reflection
 Nature versus Nurture in language learning
Essential Questions
 How do we learn a language?
 Why do we learn another language?
 Are there any differences in the learning
process between L1 and L2? If so, what are
the differences?
 How does our L1 interfere with learning
L2?
Babies, Children, and Language
 What do you notice about babies and young
children and their language abilities?
 What does this suggest about learning L1
for children?
 How do you think these babies and children
were able to communicate? Why did they
communicate?
Interesting Facts about Children
and Language Abilities
 By the age of six months, an infant has
produced all of the vowel sounds and most
of the consonant sounds of any language in
the world.
 Before they are three years old, mastered
most of the distinctive sounds of their first
language and have an awareness of basic
discourse patterns.
 By the age of five or six, they can control
most grammar patterns.
Personal Reflection
 Think about a student you have in class that
is having difficulties learning English.
 Why do you think the student is having
difficulties learning English?
 What can you attribute the problem to?
Students’ innate abilities? Social
circumstances?
Nature versus Nurture
 The role of nature (natural ability)
 The role of nurture (social experience)
The Role of Natural Ability
 Humans are born with a natural ability or
innate capacity to learn another language.
 Genetically “given” capability. (Since
languages are complex, and children can
learn languages quickly, there is no way they
can “learn” the language.)
 View children as being able to develop more
abilities as they grow up. As children mature,
so do their language abilities.
The Role of Natural Ability
(continued)
 Individual variation may occur in learning;
the rate of learning can differ, but there are
stages everyone goes through.
 “Cut off point”- if the process does not
happen at a young age, you’ll never learn
the language. (Critical Period Hypothesis)
What does this mean for us as teachers?
The Role of Social Experience
 Will never acquire language unless that
language is used with them and around
them, no matter what is their language.
 Immigrant children—no interaction with
their background, they will never learn the
language.
The Role of Social Experience
(continued)
 As long as children are experiencing input
and social interaction, the rate and sequence
of development doesn’t change.
 The only thing that may change is
pronunciation, vocabulary, and social
function.
What does this mean for us as teachers?
L1 versus L2 Learning
 Initial State- knowledge about language
structures and principles
 Intermediate State- Basic language
development
 Final State- Outcome of learning
Initial State
L1- Innate capacity
L2- Innate capacity?
L1 knowledge (transfer)
World knowledge
Interaction skills
Intermediate States- Processes
L1= Maturation (As children mature, so do
their language abilities)
L2= Transfer of prior knowledge from L1 to
L2
 Positive transfer
 Negative transfer
Transfer
 Positive transfer- When an L1 structure is
used in an L2 utterance and that use is
appropriate or “correct”.
-Subject, verb order
-Vocabulary
 Negative transfer/Interference- Opposite of
Positive transfer; considered an “error”.
Example of Negative Transfer
Can I assist to your class?
I have been always to class on time.
Intermediate Stages- Necessary
Conditions
L1= Input, interaction with other people
L2= Input (not necessarily interaction); radio,
television, internet
Intermediate State- Facilitating
Conditions L2
Rate and ultimate level of development can be
determined by this:
 Feedback- Types of correction
 Aptitude- Abilities; memory capacity
 Motivation- Need and desire to learn
 Instruction- Explicit teaching
Personal Reflection
Think how those four conditions impacted
your learning another language. What role
did those conditions had in your language
learning?
 Feedback
 Aptitude
 Motivation
 Instruction
Personal Reflection-Part 2
Think how those four facilitating conditions
appear in your teaching. What conditions do
you think are impacting your students’
learning? Why or why not?
 Feedback
 Aptitude
 Motivation
 Instruction
Final State
L1= Native competence (fluency like a native
speaker)
L2= Multilingual competence
 Never be a “native speaker”
 Level of proficiency is variable
 Still face interference of L1 (“fossilization”
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The Nature of Language Learning