Theories of Language
(a set of proponents –written/rsch done – that are
authorised in their own and widely accepted)
Behavouristic Theory
• It is believed that theory is vital for teachers
because it provides insight into why studs
respond to instruction in certain ways “How lg is
• Allwright “Why don’t lners learn what teachers
• While lrng theory may not allow us to predict or
explain all the variations in lners, it can provide a
framework for u/standg commonalities among
studs and possible reasons for ind’l variations.
• Different Instructional approaches are
based on explicit or implicit beliefs abt
human lrng – hw lg is learnt.
• Many systems of c/room management /
tchg app are based on the behavioural
theory that emphasizes the pairing of
appropriate stimuli and rewards to desired
responses…(what a tchr & trainer needs)
+ve reinforcement
eg. Reward/
-ve reinforcement
(immediately – bad
habit isn’t formed)
• Stimulus
(habit formation)
* Lg lrng is a habit formation process
Behaviouristic Theory of Learning
• For decades, behaviouristic & Skinnerian
lrng theory had a great impact on foreign
& SL tchg methodology (mtdlogy).
• It was believed that:
– Human behaviour could be predicted and
– Children come into this world with TABULA
RASA, a clean slate bearing no pre-conceived
notions abt the world / lg.
– They are then shaped by their environment,
slowly conditioned through various schedules
of reinforcement
– Lg – a form of behaviour
– Lg lrng - a habit formation
Learning Model (SRR)
Repetitions – habit formation & lrng
Reinforcement or rewards is :
– Very important in the early stages of lrng
– Should be given frequently
• Each step in the lrng process should be as
small as possible so that correct behaviour
is reinforced with rewards.
• Mistakes are corrected immediately, eg.
Audio-Lingual Method (50’s & 60’s)
• It was claimed that a carefully designed
programme of step by step reinforcement
could teach virtually any sbjct matter
effectively & successfully.
• Lg lrng, often in the form of lg stimuli,
provided the first input. Lners were
expected to adapt to this ‘input’.
• As a result, most rschers concentrated on
app or methods of tchg or instruction,
which would bring abt effective lg
Paradigm Shift
• Now, the change is from:
– Teacher to lner
– Teaching to learning
– Tchg methods to lrng methods
• Since the early seventies, the focus of
foreign and 2nd lg studies has shifted from
methods of tchg to:
– Lrng process
– Lner characteristics
– Their influence on 2nd lg acquisition
• Gardner and Lambert (1972). Seminal
research on attitude and motivation,
pointed to the importance of affective
• Schumann (1976) have found that social
factors could determine the extent to
which a non-native group may remain
socially distant from the culture of the
target lg group.
• Since then, other personal chrcteristics of
the lner such as intelligence, aptitude,
personality, innovation and attitude, lrng
styles and age, as well as the structures of
the native and target lg and interaction
opportunities with native speakers have all
been found to affect 2nd lg lrng (Light
Brown & Spada, 1993).
• Besides the factors, cognitive science has
offered some answers to how lners learn a
2nd lg and the lrng process.
• Approaches that call for higher level
thinking and studs autonomy, such as
LHTL model are based on cognitive lrng
Lrng Theories Supporting
the Use & Development of
Lrng Strategies
• A) Cognitive lrng models which focus on
lners’ mental process
• B) Social – Cognitive models which
investigate the roles of interaction between
individuals and group processes in lrng
Cognitive Model of Lrng
• So far, linguistic theories have assumed
that lg is lrned separately from cognitive
• However, O’Malley & Chamot (1990:16),
who are responsible for advancing a
cognitive – based theory in 2nd lg acqstn
(SLA), have concluded that SLA cannot be
u/stood without adressg the interaction
btwn lg & cognition.
• According to Steven,
– LEARNING – is the act of obtaining k/ledge in
a formal context. (eg. c/room – lrng in class)
– ACQUISITION – is the act of obtaining
k/ledge through natural setting.
Cognitive Learning Theories
• Anderson’s Information Processing Theory
K/ledge / Informatn
Static Info
Declarative K/ledge
(eg. Facts/rules (gmmr)
Dynamic Info
Procedural K/ledge
(eg. Lrng strategies)
• Anderson’s informtn processg theory of
cognition and memory, was reviewed and
it is found that this theory could be used
for explaining SLA.
• It is also found that cognitive theory could
be extended to describe lrng strategies as
complex cognitive skills. More over,
viewing lg acquisition as a cognitive skills
provides how lg is lrnt.
• Anderson (1983-1985) in O’ Malley &
Chamot (1990:20) distinguishes btwn
linguistic informtn stored as
– “What we know abt somethg”, or static
informatn in memory know as “Declarative
– “What we know how to do smthg” or dynamic
informtn in memory known as “Procedural
• The two types of k/ledge have diff roles in
lg lrng:
– Declarative K/ledge – consists of internalised
2nd lg (L2) rules and memorised chunks of lg.
it is stored in the form of schemata, framework
or as meaningful informtn of facts abt lg forms
and functions.
– Procedural K/ledge – on the other hand,
consists of the strategies and procedures
employed by the lner to process L@ data for
acquisition and for use. It serves as an
informtn and processor to acquire bodies of
informtn/ k/ledge in their environment.
• Whereas, declarative k/ledge or factual
informtn may be acquired quickly,
procedural k/ledge such as lg acquisition
is acquired gradually and only with
extensive opportunities for practise.
• Therefore, to attain procedural k/ledge or
complex cognitive skills, lners, need to
develop their skills in thinkg and learn how
to use strategies specific to lrng.
• Lners use lrng strategies when they are involved
in mental actvts such as ‘analysing data to form
abstractions, concepts, generalisation and
theories abt the lg they are lrng.
• Hence, it is logical to assume that lrng cannot
take place without procedural k/ledge which
plays a vital role in the lrng process. By
employing and developing lrng strategies or
procedural k/ledge, lners will ultimately “Learn
How To Learn”.
• Cognitivism, emphasizes on the lners & their
lrng process (How they organise their k/ledge).
Lrng is an Active Mental Process.
Cognitive Lrng Theory
• Teaches how lners to analyse problems, how to
think for themselves & how to employ and
develop lrng strategies to learn.
• Aspects related to this theory:
Discovery lrng
Inductive & Deductive lrng
Errors as integral part of lrng
Lg awareness
Strategy training
Social – Cognitive Models of Learning
• Lrng does not take place in a vacuum.
Factors other than the lner’s thoughts or
cognitions can effect lrng.
• Social – cognitive models focus not only
on the individual lner, but also on the
social nature of lrng and other factors.
Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory
• Lrng is based on complex, reciprocal
interactions among behaviour,
environment and personal factors.
• The theory emphasizes on the role of
personal motivation – when a lner
experiences success at a valued task, he
or she develops a sense of self efficacy –
a belief that one that one has the
capability to succeed at the kind of task.
• Self efficacy can in turn, affect whether the
student is willing to try a task, as well as
the stud’s persistence at the task, thoughts
during the task and eventual performance
(Bandura, 1997)
• Using appropriate strategies can help build
self-efficacy by creating success
experiences and by giving studs the tools
for future successes.
• Research by Chamot, found that foreign lg studs
with high self-efficacy use more lrng strategies
than do foreign lg studs with low self-efficacy.
Strategy (to improve performance)
• During strategies instruction, it is critical that
tchrs ensure that studs see how each strategy
help them experience success. This success
will, in turn develop their feelings of self-efficacy.
Humanistic Psychology in
Language Learning
• Krashen says “Affective Filter Theory”
– When lners are happy and like the teachg, the
affective filter goes down.
– Affective Theory Factors
Emotions / Feelings
– Besides Cognitive lrng theory, Carl Rogers’
Humanistic psychology has a significant
impact on our u/stdg of lg lrng, particularly in
pedagogical context.
• He focused on the development of an
individual’s self-concept and of his or her
personal sense of reality, which causes a
person to act.
• Given a non-threatening environment, he
believed that human beings are able to
adapt and grow in the direction that
enhances their existence.
• The focus of humanistic psychology is
away from “teaching” and towards
• According to Rogers, tchrs should only be
facilitators of lrng.
• LHTL is more important than being ‘taught’
something from the ‘superior advantage
point of a tchr who unilaterally decides
what shall be taught’.
• Paolo Freira (1970 in Brown,1994:86) an
educational theorist also argued that stus
shld not be ‘spoon-fed’.
• They shld instead be allowed to ‘negotiate
lrng outcomes, to cooperate with tchr and
other lners in a process of discovery, to
engage in critical thinking and to relate
everything they do in school to their reality
(outside the c/room).
• Our present system of education in
prescribing lrng goals and dictating tchg
content, actually denies our stus’ both
“freedom and dignity” and prevents them
from taking responsibility for their own
Humanistic Tchg Model
• Stus’ attitude must be positive
• Tchr’s role – create conducive, non –
threatening environment and develop stus’selfesteem
• materials – take into acc stus’ affective domain
• Stus – set own goals and follow own pace
• Experiental lrng / lrng by doing
• Reasonable involvement / stimulation of feelings
and thinking / self-initiation / self-evaluation
Language learning
Not knowg how to lrn – Negative
behavior Syndromes.
• Through LHTL or processing informtn
using lrng strategies, man develops
abstractions, learns a new skill and
acquire a lg.
• If this is the case, according to Ng
(1992:4), it is inherent in man to want to be
involved in acts that bring the intellectual
faculty to play, to use the mind to arrive at
conclusion and draw inferences and to
perform any mental operation to reason.
• Thus it is important to nurture this use of
the lrng strategies in human beings
otherwise, not knowg HTL will result in -ve
behaviour syndrome as identified by Ruth
(1967 in Ng:1992:4).
• Firstly, claimed Ruth, et all, one of the
syndromes caused by a habitual disregard
for the applictn of lrng strategies is
• Lners who are implusive do not think
before acting or deliberate on the tasks at
hand, nor do they “consider the problems
and their alternatives”.
• Secondly, these lners are overdependent
on their tchr
– Inability to plan and to execute certain
• Another syndrome identified is the inability
of lners to concentrate or pay attention to
the task at hand and hence meetg failure
in their work.
• Lastly, Dogmatic and assertive behaviour
is yet another syndromw which results in
the lners making assertions that cannot
stand up to critical examine or is not
supported by evidence.
The end wt main theories!!!

Theories of Language Learning