Second Language Acquisition
Prepared By:
Dr. Emma Alicia Garza
Assistant Professor
Texas A&M University-Kingsville
What is Second
Language Acquisition?
In second language learning, language plays an
institutional and social role in the community. It
functions as a recognized means of communication
among members who speak some other language as their
native tongue.
In foreign language learning, language plays no major
role in the community and is primarily learned in the
The distinction between second and foreign language learning
is what is learned and how it is learned.
What is the Study of Second Language
It is the study of:
how second languages are learned;
how learners create a new language system with limited exposure to
a second language;
why most second language learners do not achieve the same degree
of proficiency in a second language as they do in their native
language; and
why some learners appear to achieve native-like proficiency in more
than one language.
How Do Learners Acquire a
Second Language?
Learners acquire a second language by making use of
existing knowledge of the native language, general
learning strategies, or universal properties of language
to internalize knowledge of the second language.
These processes serve as a means by which the
learner constructs an interlanguage (a transitional
system reflecting the learner’s current L2 knowledge).
Communication strategies are employed by the
learner to make use of existing knowledge to
cope with communication difficulties.
The Language Learner
Individual differences affect L2 acquisition. These may include: (1)
the rate of development and (2) their ultimate level of achievement.
Learners differ with regard to variables relating to cognitive,
affective and social aspects of a human being.
Fixed factors such as age and language learning aptitude are
beyond external control. Variable factors such as motivation are
influenced by external factors such as social setting and by the
actual course of L2 development.
Cognitive style refers to the way people perceive, conceptualize,
organize and recall information.
Field dependent learners operate holistically. They like to work
with others. Field independent learners are analytic and prefer to
work alone.
Learner Strategies
Learner strategies are defined as deliberate behaviors or
actions that learners use to make language learning more
successful, self-directed and enjoyable.
Cognitive strategies relate new concepts to prior knowledge.
Metacognitive strategies are those which help with organizing a
personal timetable to facilitate an effective study of the L2.
Social strategies include looking for opportunities to converse
with native speakers.
Natural Order of Strategies of
Second Language Development
Chesterfield & Chesterfield (1985) identified a natural order of
strategies in the development of a second language.
repetition (imitating a word or structure);
memorization (recalling songs, rhymes or sequences by rote);
formulaic expressions (words or phrases that function as units i.e. greetings);
verbal attention getters (language that initiates interaction);
answering in unison (responding with others);
talking to self (engaging in internal monologue);
elaboration (information beyond what is necessary);
anticipatory answers (completing another’s phrase or statement);
monitoring (self-correcting errors);
appeal for assistance (asking someone for help);
request for clarification (asking the speaker to explain or repeat); and
role-playing (interacting with another by taking on roles).
Theories of Second Language
Universalist Theory defines linguistic universals from
two perspectives:
The data-driven perspective which looks at surface features of a
wide-range of languages to find out how languages vary and
what principles underlie this variation. The data-driven approach
considers system external factors or input as the basis.
The theory-driven perspective which looks at in-depth analysis
of the properties of language to determine highly abstract
principles of grammar. System internal factors are those found
in cognitive and linguistic processes.
Universalist Theory
Several Characteristics of the data-driven approach include the following:
It has language typology which delves into patterns which exist among languages and
how they vary in human languages.
Language universals focus on what is common. For example, subject/verb/object.
Implicational universals which refer to the properties of language such as “all languages
have vowels” without looking at any other properties.
Several Characteristics of the theory-driven approach include the following:
Language is acquired through innateness. Certain principles of the human mind are
biologically determined.
There are sets of principles and conditions where knowledge of language develops.
Universal grammar is seen as part of the brain.
Theories of Second Language
Acquisition (Continued)
Behaviorist Theory dominated both psychology and linguistics in the
1950’s. This theory suggests that external stimuli (extrinsic) can elicit
an internal response which in turn can elicit an internal stimuli
(intrinsic) that lead to external responses.
The learning process has been described by S-R-R theorists as a process
forming stimulus-response-reward chains. These chains come about because of
the nature of the environment and the nature of the learner.
The environment provides the stimuli and the learner provides the responses.
Comprehension or production of certain aspects of language and the
environment provide the reward.
The environment plays a major role in the exercise of the learners’ abilities
since it provides the stimuli that can shape responses selectively rewarding
some responses and not others.
Behaviorist Theory
When the learner learns a language, this learning includes a set of stimulusresponse-reward (S-R-R) chains.
Imitation provides the learner with a repertoire of appropriate, productive
responses. The learner learns to imitate or approximate the productive
responses provided by the environment.
The characteristics of human and non-human learners include the ability to:
respond to stimuli in a certain way;
intuitively evaluate the reward potential of responses;
extract the important parameters that made up the stimulus response
(positive reward chains); and
generalize these parameters to similar situations to form classes of
S-R-R chains.
Theories of Second Language
Acquisition (Continued)
Nativist Theory views language acquisition as innately determined.
Theorists believe that human beings are born with a built-in device of some
kind that predisposes them to acquire language.
This predisposition is a systematic perception of language around us,
resulting in the construction of an internalized system of language.
Nativists are on the opposite end of the theoretical continuum and use more
of a rationalist approach in explaining the mystery of language acquisition.
Chomsky (1965) claimed the existence of innate properties of language that
explain a child’s mastery of his/her native language in a short time despite
the highly abstract nature of the rules of language.
This innate knowledge, according to Chomsky, is embodied in a “little
black box” of sorts called a Language Acquisition Device (LAD).
Nativist Theory
McNeill (1966) described the LAD as consisting of four innate linguistic
the ability to distinguish speech sounds from other sounds in the environment;
the ability to organize linguistic events into various classes that can be refined later;
knowledge that only a certain kind of linguistic system is possible and that other kinds
are not; and
the ability to engage in constant evaluation of the developing linguistic system in order
to construct the simplest possible system out of the linguistic data that are encountered.
Nativists have contributed to the discoveries of how the system of child
language works. Theorists such as Chomsky, McNeill, and others helped
us understand that a child’s language, at any given point, is a legitimate
system in its own right.
Theories of Second Language
Acquisition (Continued)
Cognitivist Theory views human beings as having the innate capacity to
develop logical thinking. This school of thought was influenced by Jean
Piaget’s work where he suggests that logical thinking is the underlying factor
for both linguistic and non-linguistic development.
The process of association has been used to describe the means by which the
child learns to relate what is said to particular objects or events in the
environment. The bridge by which certain associations are made is meaning.
The extent and accuracy of the associations made are said to change in time as
the child matures.
Cognitivists say that the conditions for learning language are the same
conditions that are necessary for any kind of learning. The environment
provides the material that the child can work on.
Cognitivists view the role of feedback in the learning process as important for
affective reasons, but non-influential in terms of modifying or altering the
sequence of development.
Cognitivist Theory
Language Learning as a Cognitive Process
Learning a language involves internal representations that regulate and guide performance.
Automatic processing activates certain nodes in memory when appropriate input is
present. Activation is a learned response.
Memory is a large collection of nodes.
Controlled processing is not a learned response. It is a temporary activation of nodes in a
Skills are learned and routinized only after the earlier use of controlled processes have
been used.
Learner strategies contain both declarative knowledge i.e. knowing the ‘what’ of the
language-internalized rules and memorized chunks of language, and procedural knowledge
i.e. know the ‘how’ of the language system to employ strategies.
Theories of Second Language
Acquisition (Continued)
Social Interactionist Theory supports the view that the
development of language comes from the early interactions
between infants and caregivers.
Social interactionists stress:
the importance of a child’s interactions with parents and other caregivers;
the importance of “motherese”;
contributions of context and world knowledge; and
the importance of goals
Glew (1998) claims that learners have to be pushed in their negotiation of
meaning to produce comprehensible output. The classroom context needs to
provide adequate opportunities for target language use to allow learners to
develop competence in the target language.
Social Interactionist Theory
Comprehensible output provides opportunities for
contextualized, meaningful use of language.
Social interactionists believe that:
Human language emerged from the social role that language plays
in human interaction;
The environment plays a key role in language development;
Adults in the child’s linguistic environment are viewed as
instrumental in language acquisition.
Social interactions are the key element in language processing and
input from social interactions provides a model for negotiation
Krashen’s Five Hypotheses for
Second Language Acquisition
The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis claims that we have two
independent ways of developing language ability:
Language Acquisition is a subconscious process. It occurs very naturally in a nonthreatening environment. The research strongly supports the view that both children and
adults can subconsciously acquire languages.
Language Learning is what occurs at school in an academic setting. It is a conscious process.
When we talk about rules and grammar of language, we are usually talking about learning.
The Natural Order Hypothesis claims that we acquire parts of a language
in a predictable order. Some grammatical items tend to come earlier in
the acquisition than others. For example, the –ing progressive is acquired
fairly early in first language acquisition, while third person singular –s is
acquired later.
Krashen’s Five Hypotheses
3 The Monitor Hypothesis attempts to explain how acquisition and learning
are used. Language is normally produced using our acquired linguistic
competence. Conscious learning has only one function…as the “Monitor”
or “Editor.” After we produce some language using the acquired system,
we sometimes inspect it and use our learned system to correct errors. This
can happen internally before we actually speak or write, or as a selfcorrection after we produce the utterance or written text.
4 Comprehensible Input Hypothesis contends that more comprehensible
input results in more acquisition.
5 The Affective Filter Hypothesis claims that affective variables do not
impact language acquisition directly, but can prevent input from reaching
what Chomsky called the Language Acquisition Device. The LAD is the
part of the brain that is responsible for language acquisition.
Cummin’s Second Language
Cummins makes a distinction between social language and
academic language.
1. Social language refers to the everyday conversational language which is supported
by the use of illustrations, realia, demonstrations, etc. (Context Embedded). Studies
show that language learners acquire social language in approximately two years.
Social language deals with the here-and-now language, therefore second language
learners tend to acquire it faster.
2. Academic language is the language of school tasks which is more abstract and
decontextualized (Context Reduced).
Some second language learners who develop fluent spoken English have difficulties in
reading and writing because they may be at different levels of proficiency while they are
moving from social language (BICS) to academic language (CALP). It takes between five
to seven years for second language learners to acquire academic language.
Context-Embedded Cognitively
Undemanding Sample Tasks
Context-Embedded/Cognitively Undemanding tasks are supported by the use
of pictures, illustrations, demonstrations, connections with life experiences, etc.
Language learning is non-threatening and learners are able to depend on
environmental cues for assistance.
Some sample tasks include:
developing survival vocabulary;
following demonstrated directions;
playing simple games;
engaging in face-to-face interactions; and
participating in art, music and physical education activities.
Context-Embedded Cognitively
Demanding Sample Tasks
Context-Embedded/Cognitively Demanding tasks are those activities that
provide some environmental cues, but are more cognitively demanding.
Language learners are exposed to more complex tasks that include some
context-embedded cues.
Examples of these tasks include:
participating in hands-on science and mathematics activities;
making maps, models, charts, and graphs;
solving math computational problems;
making brief oral presentations;
understanding academic presentations through the use of visuals,
demonstrations, active participation, realia, etc.; and
writing academic reports with the aid of outlines, structures, etc.
Context-Reduced Cognitively
Undemanding Sample Tasks
Context-Reduced/Cognitively Undemanding tasks are those
activities that are simple to carry out but do not contain any
environmental cues to assist the language learner.
Some sample tasks include:
engaging in telephone conversations;
reading for personal purposes; and
writing for personal purposes: notes,
lists, sketches, etc.
Context-Reduced Cognitively
Demanding Sample Tasks
Context-Reduced/Cognitively Demanding tasks are those that require more
academically demanding language, are more abstract and are
Some examples of these tasks include:
understanding academic presentations without visuals or demonstrations (lectures);
making formal oral presentations;
solving math word problems without illustrations;
writing compositions, essays, and research reports in content areas;
reading for information in content areas; and
taking standardized achievement tests.
Components of Communicative
Canale and Swain (1983) identified four components of communicative competence:
1) grammatical competence
2) sociolinguistic competence
3) discourse competence
4) strategic competence
Grammatical competence means understanding the skills and knowledge necessary to
speak and write accurately. Grammatical competence includes:
1) vocabulary
2) word formation
3) meaning
4) sentence formation
5) pronunciation
6) spelling
Sociolinguistic competence involves knowing how to produce and understand the language
in different sociolinguistic contexts, taking into consideration such factors as:
1) the status of the participants
2) the purpose of the interaction; and
3) the norms or conventions of the interaction.
Components of Communicative
Competence (Continued)
Discourse competence involves the ability to combine and connect
utterances (spoken) and sentences (written) into a meaningful whole.
Discourse ranges from a simple spoken conversation to long written texts.
Strategic competence involves the manipulation of language in order to
meet communicative goals. It involves both verbal and non-verbal behaviors.
Speakers employ this competence for two main reasons:
1) to compensate for breakdowns in communication such as when the
speaker forgets or does not know a term and is forced to paraphrase or
gesture to get the idea across; and
2) to enhance the effectiveness of communication such as when a speaker
raises or lowers the voice for effect.
Competence Vs. Performance
According to Chomsky (1965), competence consists of mental representations
of linguistic rules that constitute the speaker-hearer’s internal grammar.
This internal grammar is implicit rather than explicit. It is evident in the
intuitions, which the speaker-hearer has about the grammaticality of
Performance consists of the use of this grammar in the comprehension and
production of the language.
Communicative competence is that aspect of the language user’s competence
that enables them to convey and interpret messages and to negotiate meanings
interpersonally within specific contexts.
Language is a form of communication that occurs in social interaction. It is
used for a purpose such as persuading, commanding, and establishing social
relationships. No longer is the focus on specific knowledge of grammatical
form. Instead, the competent speaker is recognized as one who knows when,
where, and how to use language appropriately.
Language Learning
Behaviorist’s views of language learning and of language teaching were predominant in the two decades following the second world war. These views drew on
general theories of learning propounded by psychologists such as Watson (1924),
Thorndike (1932), and Skinner (1957).
Dakin (1973) identifies three general principles of language learning derived from
these theories.
According to the law of exercise, language learning is promoted when the learner makes
active and repeated responses to stimuli.
The law of effect emphasizes the importance of reinforcing the learners’ responses and
correcting non-target-like ones.
The principle of shaping claims that learning will proceed most smoothly and rapidly if
complex behaviors are broken down into their component parts and learned bit-by-bit.
Language Learning
Underlying these principles was the assumption that language learning, like any other kind
of learning, took the form of habit formation, “a habit consisting of an automatic response
elicited by a given stimulus.
Learning was seen to take place inductively through analogy rather than analysis.
According to behaviorist theories, the main impediment to learning was interference from
prior knowledge.
Proactive inhibition occurred when old habits got in the way of attempts to learn new ones.
In such cases, the old habits had to be unlearned so that they could be replaced by the new
The notion of unlearning made little sense as learners did not need to forget their L1 in order
to acquire an L2.
For this reason, behaviorist theories of L2 learning emphasized the idea of “difficulty.” This
is defined as the amount of effort required to learn an L2 pattern.
The degree of difficulty was believed to depend primarily in the extent to which the target
language pattern was similar to or different from a native language pattern.
Input and Interaction
L2 acquisition can only take place when the learner has access to input in the second language.
This input may come in written or spoken form.
Spoken input occurs in face-to-face interactions. Non-reciprocal discourse includes listening to
the radio or watching a film.
Behaviorists claim that presenting learners with input in the right doses and then reinforcing
their attempts to practice them can control the process of acquisition.
Chomsky pointed out that in many cases there was a very poor match between the kind of
language found in the input that learners received and the kind of language they themselves
Comprehensible input (Krashen’s, 1985 Input Hypothesis) proposed that learners acquire
morphological features in a natural order as a result of comprehending input addressed to them.
Long (1981a) argued that input which is made comprehensible by means of the conversational
adjustments that occur when there is a comprehension problem is especially important for
Swain (1985) proposed the comprehensible output hypothesis which states that learners need
opportunities for “pushed output” in speech or writing that makes demands on them for correct
and appropriate use of the L2.
The Role of the Native Language in
Second Language Acquisition
The role of native language in second language acquisition has come to be known as
“language transfer.”
It has been assumed that in a second language learning situation learners rely extensively
on their native language.
According to Lado (1957) individuals tend to transfer forms and meanings, the
distribution of the forms and meanings of their native language and culture to the foreign
language and culture.
This transfer is productive when the learner attempts to speak the language.
This transfer is receptive when the learner attempts to grasp and understand the language
and culture as practiced by native speakers.
Lado’s work and much of the work of that time (1950’s) was based on the need to
produce pedagogically relevant materials. A contrastive analysis of the native language
and the target language was conducted in order to determine similarities and differences
in the languages.
Framework for
Explaining L1 Transfer
The L1 system is used for both comprehension and production.
The interlanguage system is also used in comprehending and
receiving messages.
The L1 system is used in hypothesis construction responsible for
interlanguage development.
Comprehensible input serves as a major source of information for
hypothesis construction.
L2 output may be used for hypothesis construction.
Toward a Theory of First
Language Transfer
An important distinction not always made in discussions of transfer is
between transfer in L2 communication and transfer in L2 learning.
Transfer in communication involves the use of the L1 either to receive
incoming messages (reception) or to process output (production).
Transfer in learning occurs when the learner uses the L1 in an attempt
to develop hypotheses about L2 rules.
There are several possibilities for transfer: 1) it is primarily a
characteristic of communication 2) it is primarily a feature of learning
3) both communication and learning transfer are significant and
interrelated aspects of L2 acquisition.
Language Transfer
Where the two languages were identical, learning could take place through
positive transfer to the native-language pattern.
Where the two languages were different, learning difficulty arose and errors
occurred resulting from negative transfer.
Chomsky (1959) set in motion a re-evaluation of many of the behaviorists
claims. This re-evaluation included area such as:
the dangers of extrapolating from laboratory studies of animal behavior
to the language behavior of humans were pointed out;
the terms stimulus and response were exposed as vacuous where
language behavior was concerned;
analogy could not account for the language user’s ability to generate
totally novel utterances; and
studies of children acquiring their L1 showed that parents rarely
corrected their children’s linguistic errors, thus casting doubt on the
importance of reinforcement in language learning.
All this led to the reconsideration of the role of L1 in L2 learning.
The Nature of the
Interlanguage Continuum
Cognitive theories of interlanguage claim that with the assistance of
learning strategies, learners build mental grammars of the second
Learners draw on the rules they have constructed to interpret and
produce utterances.
Learner’s utterances are only erroneous with reference to the target
language norms, not to the norms of their own grammars.
The interlanguage continuum consists of a series of overlapping
grammars. Each share some rules with the previously constructed
grammar, but also contains some new or revised rules.
A rule has the status of a hypothesis.
Selinker’s Interlanguage
Selinker’s Interlanguage Theory maintains the separateness of a second language learner’s system and gives the system a structurally
intermediate status between the native and target languages.
According to Selinker, second language learners are producing their own self-contained linguistic system. The system is not a native language
or target language system, rather it falls between the two.
Stages of Interlanguage Development include:
1) random errors (presystematic);
2) experimentation and inaccurate guessing;
3) emergent-growing in consistency in linguistic production;
4) backsliding-appears to have grasped but later regressed and unable to correct errors;
5) systematic stage-ability to correct errors on their own; rules may not be well-formed but display more internal self-consistency;
6) stabilization-few errors are made, have mastered the system to the point of fluency; and
7) intralingual-inconsistencies within the target language; Global errors-affect meaning;local errors-close similarities in word form (i.e.
Interlanguage Continuum
Interlanguage Stages
Identification of
Learner Errors
An error can be defined as a deviation from the norms of the target language although questions are
raised as to which variety of the target language should serve as the norm.
The general practice where classroom learners are concerned is to select the standard written dialect
as a norm.
The distinction between errors and mistakes is a concern in this type of research. Errors take place
when the deviation arises as a result of lack of knowledge. Mistakes occur when learners fail to
perform their competence.
Overt errors are deviations in form i.e. I runned all the way. Covert errors occur in utterances that are
superficially well-formed but which do not mean what the learner intended them to mean i.e. It was
stopped. What does it refer to?
Should the analysis of errors examine only deviations in correctness or also deviations in
appropriateness? Correctness errors involve rules of language use i.e. learner invites a stranger by
saying I want you to come to the cinema with me. The code was used correctly it was not used
There are three types of interpretation of errors: 1) normal- can assign a meaning to an utterance
based on the rules of the target language; 2) authoritative-involves asking the learner to say what the
utterance means in order to make an authoritative reconstruction; and 3) plausible-can be obtained by
referring to the context in which the utterance was produced or by translating the sentence literally
into the learner’s L1.
Learner Errors
Error Analysis is used for examining errors as a way of investigating learning
Much of the early work on learner errors focused on the extent to which L2 acquisition
was the result of L1 transfer or creative construction (construction of unique rules
similar to those which children form in the course of acquiring the native language).
The presence of errors that mirrored L1 structures was taken as evidence of transfer
(interlingual), while those errors similar to those observed in L1 acquisition were
indicative of creative construction (intralingual).
The study of learner errors showed that although many errors were caused by
transferring L1 habits, many more were not.
It was found that learners went through stages of acquisition and the nature of errors
varied according to their level of development.
Error analysis could not show when learners resorted to avoidance and it ignored what
learners could do correctly.
Error Analysis
The conceptualization and significance of errors took on a different
role with the publication of an article by Pit Corder (1967) entitled
“The Significance of Learner Errors.” Errors are not just to be seen as
something to be eradicated, but rather can be important in and of
Errors provide evidence of a system (learners attempt to figure out
some system). This evidence can provide information on the state of a
learner’s knowledge of the L2. They are not to be viewed solely as a
product of imperfect learning.
The distinction of error and mistake is also important in EA. Mistakes
are slips of the tongue. The speaker who makes a mistake is able to
recognize it as a mistake and correct it if necessary.
Error Analysis
An error is systematic. It is likely to occur repeatedly and is not recognized
by the learner as an error. The learner has incorporated a particular
erroneous from the perspective of the target language into his/her own
The learner has created a systematic entity called an interlanguage.
Errors are only errors with reference to some external norm such as the
target language. For example, if a learner produces “No speak.” or “No
understand.” and if we assume that these are consistent deviations and form
a part of a learner’s system, then it is only possible to think of them as errors
with regard to English, but not with regard to the learner’s system.
Error analysis is a type of linguistic analysis that focuses on the errors
learners make. The comparison made in EA is between the errors a learner
makes producing the target language and the target language form itself.
Research in EA was carried out within the context of the classroom. The
goal was pedagogical remediation.
Contrastive Analysis
Contrastive analysis is a way of comparing languages in order to determine potential
errors for the ultimate purpose of isolating what needs to be learned and what does not
need to be learned in a second language learning situation.
Lado detailed that one does a structure-by-structure comparison of the sound system,
morphological system, syntactic system and even the cultural system of two languages
for the purpose of discovering similarities and differences.
The ultimate goal of contrastive analysis is to predict areas that will be either easy or
difficult for learners.
There are two positions that developed with regard to CA: (1) strong (2) weak.
The strong version (predictive) maintained that one could make predictions about
learning and hence about the success of language teaching materials based on a
comparison between two languages.
The weak version (explanatory) starts with an analysis of learners’ recurring errors (error
analysis). It begins with what learners do and then attempts to account for those errors on
the basis of native language-target language differences.
Language Acquisition for School: The
Prism Model
Thomas & Collier, 1997
L1 + L2 Cognitive Development
Cognitive Development
The cognitive dimension is a natural subconscious process that occurs
developmentally from birth to the end of schooling and beyond.
An infant initially builds thought processes through interacting with
loved ones in the language of the home.
This is an important stepping-stone to build on as cognitive
development continues.
It is important that cognitive development continue through a child’s
first language at least through the elementary years.
Extensive research has demonstrated that children who reach the
threshold in L1 by around age 11 to 12 enjoy cognitive advantages
over monolinguals.
Academic Development
Academic development includes all school work in language arts, math, the
sciences, and social studies for each grade level, K-12.
With each succeeding grade, academic work dramatically expands the
vocabulary, sociolinguistic, and discourse dimensions of language to higher
cognitive levels.
Academic knowledge and conceptual development transfer from first
language to second language.
It is most efficient to develop academic work through the student’s first
language, while teaching second language during other periods of the
school day through meaningful academic content.
In earlier decades, schools in the United States emphasized teaching
second language as the first step and postponing the teaching of
Research has shown that postponing or interrupting academic development
is likely to promote academic failure.
Language Development
Linguistic processes consist of the subconscious aspects of language
development, an innate ability all humans possess for acquisition of
oral language, as well as the metalinguistic, conscious, formal teaching
of language in the school and acquisition of the written system of
This includes the acquisition of the oral and written systems of the
student’s first and second languages across all language domains, such
as phonology, vocabulary, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics
and discourse.
To assure cognitive and academic success in a second language, a
student’s first language system, oral and written, must be developed to
a high cognitive level at least through the elementary school years.
Sociocultural Processes
At the heart of the figure is the individual student going through the process of
acquiring a second language at school.
Central to that student’s acquisition of language are all of the surrounding social and
cultural processes occurring through everyday life within the student’s past, present,
and future, in all contexts-home, school, community, and the broader society.
Sociocultural processes may include individual student variables such as self-esteem,
anxiety, or other affective factors.
At school the instructional environment in a classroom or administrative program
structures may create social and psychological distance between groups.
Community or regional social patterns such as prejudice and discrimination expressed
towards groups or individuals in personal and professional contexts can influence
students’ achievement in school, as well as societal patterns such as the subordinate
status of a minority group or accuturation vs. assimilation forces.
These factors can strongly influence the student’s response to a new language,
affecting the process positively only when the student is in a socioculturally
supportive environment.
In Conclusion
The Learner/The Teacher
The learner needs:
expectations of success;
the confidence to take risks and make mistakes;
a willingness to share and engage;
the confidence to ask for help; and
an acceptance of the need to readjust.
The teacher needs:
respect for and interest in the learner’s language, culture, thought and
the ability to recognize growth points, strengths and potential;
the appreciation that mistakes are necessary to learning;
the confidence to maintain breadth, richness and variety, and to match
these to the learner’s interests and direction;
to stimulate and challenge; and
a sensitive awareness of when to intervene and when to leave alone.
Cummins, J. (1979a). Cognitive/academic language proficiency, linguistic
interdependence, the optimal age question and some other matters. Working
Papers in Bilingualism. No. 19 (pp. 197-205). Toronto: Ontario Institute for
Studies in Education.
Ellis, R. (2003). The study of second language acquisition (10th ed.). Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Gass, S.,& Selinker, L. (2001). Second language acquisition (2nd ed.).
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Krashen, S. D. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language
learning. Oxford: Pergamon press.
Thomas, W., & Collier, V. (1997). School effectiveness for language minority
students. National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education Resource Collection
Series, No. 9.
For More Information Contact:
Dr. Frank Lucido
Program Director
Institute for Second Language Achievement
[email protected]
Graphics and slide design by:
JoAnn McDonald and Sheryl Roehl

Second Language Acquisition