Learning And Acquisition   

Language acquisition vs. language learning

There is an important distinction made by linguists between language acquisition and language learning. Children acquire language through a subconscious process during which they are unaware of grammatical rules. This is similar to the way they acquire their first language. They get a feel for what is and what isn’t correct. In order to acquire language, the learner needs a source of natural communication. The emphasis is on the text of the communication and not on the form. Young students acquire the language to communicate with classmates.

Language learning, on the other hand is the result of direct instruction in the rules of language. And it certainly is not an age-appropriate activity for your young learners. In language learning, students have conscious knowledge of the new language and can talk about that knowledge. They can fill in the blanks on a grammar page.

Learning And Acquisition, Language acquisition vs. language learning, Description of Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition, ENGLISH PEDAGOGY Notes, CTET 2015 Exam Notes, TEACHING OF ENGLISH Study Material

Research has shown, however, that knowing grammar rules does not necessarily result in good speaking or writing. A student who has memorized the rules of the language may be able to succeed on a standardized test of English language but may not be able to speak or write correctly

Description of Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition

Krashen’s theory of second language acquisition consists of five main hypotheses:
  • the Acquisition-Learning hypothesis,
  • the Monitor hypothesis,
  • the Natural Order hypothesis,
  • the Input hypothesis,
  • and the Affective Filter hypothesis.
According to Krashen there are two independent systems of second language performance: ‘the acquired system’ and ‘the learned system’. The ‘acquired system’ or ‘acquisition‘ is the product of a subconscious process very similar to the process children undergo when they acquire their first language. It requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concentrated not in the form of their utterances, but in the communicative act. The ‘learned system’ or ‘learning‘ is the product of formal instruction and it comprises a conscious process which results in conscious knowledge ‘about’ the language, for example knowledge of grammar rules. According to Krashen ‘learning’ is less important than ‘acquisition’.

The Monitor hypothesis explains the relationship between acquisition and learning and defines the influence of the latter on the former. The monitoring function is the practical result of the learned grammar. According to Krashen, the acquisition system is the utterance initiator, while the learning system performs the role of the ‘monitor’ or the ‘editor’. The ‘monitor’ acts in a planning, editing and correcting function when three specific conditions are met: that is, the second language learner has sufficient time at his/her disposal, he/she focuses on form or thinks about correctness, and he/she knows the rule. It appears that the role of conscious learning is somewhat limited in second language performance. According to Krashen, the role of the monitor is – or should be – minor, being used only to correct deviations from ‘normal’ speech and to give speech a more ‘polished’ appearance.

The Natural Order hypothesis is based on research findings (Dulay & Burt, 1974; Fathman, 1975; Makino, 1980 cited in Krashen, 1987) which suggested that the acquisition of grammatical structures follows a ‘natural order’ which is predictable. For a given language, some grammatical structures tend to be acquired early while others late. This order seemed to be independent of the learners’ age, L1 background, conditions of exposure, and although the agreement between individual acquirers was not always 100% in the studies, there were statistically significant similarities that reinforced the existence of a Natural Order of language acquisition. Krashen however points out that the implication of the natural order hypothesis is not that a language program syllabus should be based on the order found in the studies. In fact, he rejects grammatical sequencing when the goal is language acquisition.

The Input hypothesis is Krashen’s attempt to explain how the learner acquires a second language. In other words, this hypothesis is Krashen’s explanation of how second language acquisition takes place. So, the Input hypothesis is only concerned with ‘acquisition’, not ‘learning’. According to this hypothesis, the learner improves and progresses along the ‘natural order’ when he/she receives second language ‘input’ that is one step beyond his/her current stage of linguistic competence. For example, if a learner is at a stage ‘i’, then acquisition takes place when he/she is exposed to ‘Comprehensible Input’ that belongs to level ‘i + 1′. Since not all of the learners can be at the same level of linguistic competence at the same time, Krashen suggests that natural communicative input is the key to designing a syllabus, ensuring in this way that each learner will receive some ‘i + 1′ input that is appropriate for his/her current stage of linguistic competence.
Finally, the fifth hypothesis, the Affective Filter hypothesis, embodies Krashen’s view that a number of ‘affective variables’ play a facilitative, but non-causal, role in second language acquisition. These variables include: motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. Krashen claims that learners with high motivation, self-confidence, a good self-image, and a low level of anxiety are better equipped for success in second language acquisition. Low motivation, low self-esteem, and debilitating anxiety can combine to ‘raise’ the affective filter and form a ‘mental block’ that prevents comprehensible input from being used for acquisition. In other words, when the filter is ‘up’ it impedes language acquisition. On the other hand, positive affect is necessary, but not sufficient on its own, for acquisition to take place.

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