Second Language Theories

Topics: Linguistics, Language acquisition, Behaviorism Pages: 19 (3424 words) Published: March 10, 2013

BEHAVIORIST THEORIES (INCLUDING THE CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS HYPOTHESIS) • • • Behaviorists: Pavlov, Skinner, and Bruner Definition: It is the theory saying human and animal learning are similar. Reinforcement: L2 learning is achieved through reinforcement that is a kind of award or positive response given to students after their demonstration of L2. • Stimulus-response: All learning takes places as learners receive linguistic input from speakers in their environment. Stimulus=input, response=students’ L2 responses • Tabula Rasa: Child’s mind is seen as a blank sheet that is a place for new input coming from child’s environment. • Habit Formation (Conditioning / Associative Learning): Learner form associations between words and objects or events in their environment. These associations become stronger as soon as experiences are repeated. If the encouragement for correct imitations is provided the learner forms habits. This formation has three types: 1) Classical conditioning: The correlation between environmental stimuli and behavioral response: eg. salivation of dogs Ø Unconditioned Stimulus: food Ø Unconditioned response: salivation Ø Conditioning: ringing the bell while giving the food Ø Conditioned stimulus: ringing the bell Ø Conditioned response: salivation How can the conditioning process be applied to learning a language? Ø Unconditioned stimulus: water Ø Unconditioned response: drinking Ø Conditioning: saying the word “water” when water is presented Ø Conditioned stimulus: word “water” Ø Conditioned response: drinking



  2) Operant Conditioning (instrumental conditioning): eg. a pigeon in a cage (Skinner). Positive reinforcement: giving food after a desired action (pecking the desk) Initial pecking: free operant Arguments of Behaviorists: experiments using operant conditioning can be extended to complex behaviors, habits. In order to evoke complex behaviors, another element (shaping or progressive approximation) is added to the conditioning paradigm. 3) Multiple-Response Learning: learner learns a chain of behaviors (L2) always in the same order. This is the extended principle of behaviorism to cope with “creative aspect of language” Behaviorists’ Argument: we gradually build up associations between the words and group of words.

Behaviorists think that for second language, there is interference of first language habits. Behaviorism is linked to Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH): -If the first language and target language (second language) are similar, the learner will be successful in learning. -If there are differences between L1 and L2 the learner will have difficulty and will make mistakes. Positive Transfer: Learners use the similarities between their L1 and L2. Negative Transfer (Interference): When a grammatical structure or sound is different in the first language and the target language, the first language may intrude and cause difficulty in producing the new form (Horwitz, 2008). This is known as interference. Fossilization: When the L2 structures differed from L1 structures, reinforcement is needed. However, some errors become permanent and are resistant to change if not corrected. So error correction is important.

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  • The role of practice: Audio-lingual Method practices based on Behaviorism. Activities are based on repetition for the habit formation, and they are isolated from each other and contexts. For example, dialogue memorization, chain drill, single-slot substitution drill, transformation drill are some of the activities. They are all mechanical. • • • • Accuracy is important. Classroom setting is teaching-centered. Children only listen and memorize, they don’t produce by using their creativity Error Correction: Errors have to be corrected as soon as they occur because they may cause fossilization. • • The role of Input: It is important...
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