Second Language Acquisition

Topics: Linguistics, Language acquisition, Second language acquisition Pages: 7 (2209 words) Published: October 14, 2013

According to Swain,
...producing the target language may be the trigger that forces the learner to pay attention to the means of expression needed in order to successfully convey his or her own intended meaning. (Swain 1985: 249)

In Swain's view, learners need not only input, but output: they need to use language in order to learn it. Krashen, however, as recently as 2009, stated that: Research done over the last three decades has shown that we acquire language by understanding what we hear and read. The ability to produce language is the result of language acquisition, not the cause.

Forcing students to speak English will not improve their ability to speak English. (Korea Times, 2009).

“Is it possible to reconcile these two seemingly opposite views as to what constitutes second language acquisition or ‘learning’, as Swain puts it? Or do the two views represent two extremes of both theory and practice?” Guidelines: To answer this question in essay form, you will need to refer to alternative concepts of acquisition and learning proposed by other theorists, judge them in relation to these two apparent extremes of input versus output, and then try to draw some conclusions. You must ensure that both Krashen and Swain are discussed within the broader framework of SLA theory, and thus demonstrate that you understand the general field.

Important: you have to write your personal details and the subject name on the cover (see the next page). The assignment that does not fulfil these conditions will not be corrected. You have to include the assignment index below the cover.

Numerous theories have been devised to account for second Language Acquisition. Larsen – Freeman and Long (1991, p.221) state that ‘at least 40 theories of SLA have been proposed’. These theories try to provide information about how people acquire their knowledge of the language and point out factors which will lead to successful language learning. The aim of Second Language Acquisition is to find out how learners internalize the linguistic system of another language and how they use that linguistic system during comprehension and speech production. Language acquisition will be tackled as ‘the way in which people learn a language other than their mother tongue, inside or outside a classroom, and ‘Second Language Acquisition’ (SLA) as the study of this (Ellis 1997, p.3) together with Gass and Selinker´s definition (2008, p.1) as ‘the study of how learners create a new language system’. In addition, the idea that SLA is the study of what is learned of a second language and what is not learned has been devised. The following pages will draw on insights gained since Pit Corder´s 1967 essay into SLA and discuss how these insights have influenced different linguists in key ways. Some of the most influential theories will be presented along with a brief inquiry into their theoretical assumptions related to the significance of key features of SLA: input and output. A considerable controversy at present is the issue of whether input and output are opposite views or rather should be reconciled. Strong views exist in support of both sides of this dichotomy, which implies that is worth examining both points of view before reaching any conclusions.

Input and Output are two key terms within SLA research. The former refers to language learners either hear or read in communicative contexts. ‘The samples of language to which a learner is exposed’ (Ellis 1997, p.5) While the latter – output – refers to language (written or oral) produced by learners for the purpose of communication. Input is considered a major source for the language of learner in most of the theories and approaches to SLA. Some theories of SLA recognize the importance of input and output, others consider them as inconsequential yet their interpretations vary. However, what is beyond dispute is the fact...
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