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In this lecture, we will learn about:

Language, Learning & Teaching (Part II)

Features of language
In this lecture, we will continue examining the different aspects of
second language acquisition, but before going deep into these aspects,
I want you to recall the definitions of language that we mentioned in
the first lecture at which end we came to the conclusion that these
definitions imply that language includes the following eight features:
Language is systematic possibly a generative system.
Language is a set of arbitrary symbols.
Those symbols are primarily vocal, but may also be visual.
The symbols have conventionalized meanings to which they refer.
Language is used for communication.
Language operates in a speech community or culture.
Language is essentially human, although possibly not limited to
humans.
Language is acquired by all people in much the same way language
and languages learning both have universal characteristics.

Thus, the conclusion we can reach is that our understanding of the


components of language determines to a large extent how we teach
a language. This brings us to ask two questions regarding learning
and teaching: What is learning? And what is teaching?

What is Learning ?
Traditional definition:
Acquiring or getting of knowledge by study, experience or instruction.
More specialized definition:
A relatively permanent change in a behavioral tendency as the result of
reinforced practice.

What is Teaching?
Traditional definition:
Showing or helping someone to learn how to do something, giving
instructions, guiding in the study of something, providing with
knowledge, causing to know or understand. We have also to realize
the following facts:
1- Teaching cannot be defined apart from learning.
2- Teaching is guiding and facilitating learning; enabling the learner
to
learn; setting the conditions of learning.
Now it is high time to talk about the schools of thought in second
language acquisition.

Schools of Thought in Second Language Acquisition :


1. Structuralism and Behaviorism.
2. Rationalism and Cognitive Psychology.
3. Constructivism.

1. Structuralism and Behaviorism:


Time frame:
Early 1900s&1940s&1950s.
Scholars:
Bloomfield, Sapir, Hockett, Fries, Twaddell, Skinner, Pavlov.
Linguists task:
to describe human languages and to identify the structural
characteristics of those languages, accurately applying the scientific
principle of observation to human language.
Criticism:
1- It examines only the overtly observable data.
2- Because of its non-mentalistic view of Language, it is impossible
to examine topics such as consciousness, thinking, concept
formation, or the acquisition of knowledge.

2- Rationalism and Cognitive Psychology:


Time Frame:
1960s to 1970s.
Scholars:
Noam Chomsky, (Ferdinand de Saussure (1916) who planted the early
seeds of the generative-transformational revolution).
Linguists task:
The generative linguist is interested not only in describing language
(achieving the level of descriptive adequacy) but also in arriving at an
explanatory level of adequacy in the study of language.
Criticism:
1- They lose some ground by daring to ask some difficult questions
about the unobserved.
2- Dealt with language without social context.

3- Constructivism:
Time Frame:
1980s, 1990s & early 2000.
Scholars:
Jean Piaget and Lev Vegotsky.
Linguists Task:
The linguist, the Constructivist, emphasizes that the social Interaction is
foundational in cognitive development and reject the idea of
predetermined stages.
Now, it is high time to talk about the teaching methods used in language
teaching. Of course there are so many methods that differ from one
another in the focus on grammar or oral performance or written
performanceetc. But the most famous and common teaching method
is the Grammar Translation Method that was originally used in teaching
classical languages: Latin and Greek.

The Grammar-Translation Method:


1- Classes are taught in the mother tongue, with little active use of the
target language.
2- Much vocabulary is taught in the form of lists of isolated words.
3- Long elaborate explanations of the intricacies (complicated features
and aspects) of grammar are given.
4- Grammar provides the rules for putting words together, and
instruction often focuses on the form of inflection of words (how the
ending of words indicate their grammatical functions or feature).
5- Reading of difficult classical texts is begun early.

6- Little attention is paid to the content of texts, which are treated as


exercises in grammatical analysis.
7- Often the only drills are exercises in translating disconnected
sentences from the target language into the mother tongue.
8- Little or no attention is given to pronunciation.
9- This method does nothing to enhance a student's communicative
ability in language.
10- It requires few specialized skills on the part of the teachers.