Second Language Acquisition Theories
November 10, 2014
Second Language Acquisition Theories
According to the United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2014), there are approximately 4.4 million English language learners (ELL) in American public schools. This is a little over nine percent of the student population. In some states, such as California and Texas, this percentage is much higher. California currently has an ELL population of 23.3% of all students enrolled in public schools, and Texas currently has an ELL population of more than 15% of the total student population (US Department of Education, 2014). These numbers may be slightly skewed as research indicates that 19% of all students are children of immigrants, and are not classified as ELL (Center for Public Education, 2007). While 79% of ELLs speak Spanish as their primary language, the other 21% of students speak over 400 different languages (Center for Public Education, 2007; US Department of Education, 2014).
As a whole, ELL students lag significantly behind their native English-speaking peers in math and English language arts. This is because it is estimated that it takes four to seven years for an ELL student to reach English proficiency (Collier, 1995). Collier (1995) also argues that first language proficiency is related to achievement in English, as research supports that language skills and conceptual knowledge in the student’s first language transfers to English. However, if students lack primary language skills, it takes much longer for these students to reach proficiency in second language acquisition and academics. Schools with a high ELL population need to have support for students in order to begin to close the achievement gap between students. Additionally, these schools must have well-prepared teachers who are knowledgeable about second language acquisition and how to effectively support these students in both language and academics. Language Acquisition Theories
Krashen’s (1988) theory of second language acquisition is comprised of five main hypotheses: 1) the Acquisition-Learning hypothesis, 2) the Monitor hypothesis, 3) the Input hypothesis, 4) the Natural Order hypothesis, and 5) the Affective Filter hypothesis. Each of these hypotheses has made a huge impact in how educators approach the instruction for English language learners (ELL). The Acquisition-Learning hypothesis is argued to be the most critical of all (Thomas & Collier, 1995). Krashen (1988) argued that second language performance is comprised of two independent systems: the acquired system and the learned system. The acquired system, referred to as acquisition, is the creation of a subconscious process much like the development children go through when learning a primary language (Hernandez-Chavez, 1984). This development relies on meaningful interactions in order to develop. The learned system, known as learning, is the creation of formal instruction which comes from a more conscious method resulting in knowledge about the language (Krashen, 1988). For example, children will obtain knowledge about the rules of grammar. In Krashen’s (1988) opinion, learning is less important than the acquisition process itself. The Monitor hypothesis examines the connections between acquisition and learning, in addition to the influence each has on one another. The purpose of monitoring comes from a direct result of learned grammar. The acquisition method is the language initiator, while the learning system performs the role of the editor or monitor. The monitor then acts as a planner, editor, and corrector function when the ELL has efficient time, focuses on application, and knows the grammatical rule (Jean & Geva, 2009). Krashen (1988) argues that the role of monitor should only be implemented to correct deviations of normal speech patterns. The Input hypothesis is an effort to...
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