Saturday, 16 November 2013

Second language learning in the classroom

Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can; there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.
‒Sarah Caldwell-


I am here after a while. I am so busy in my school, I am busy with my private business (tranlsating and interpreting). I am so happy one to see that many people still do visit my blog. I am so glad that I can share everything with you and I have to say that I will share many rewarding things. Today, I will post a few things about learning the second language in the classroom. In this case, it is English because it is the second language in my country. My students start learning English from the third grade of primary school and they continue with it till the end of their university studies. I really like my students who are always ready to work and learn. They always want something new, so I try to do my best in order to meet their needs.

Second language learning in the classroom

Most people would agree that learning a second language in a natural acquisition context or `on the street` is not the same as learning in the classroom. Many believe that learning `on the street` is more effective. Natural acquisition contexts should be understood as those in which the learner is exposed to the language at work or in social interaction. The traditional instruction environment is one where the language is being taught to a group of second or foreign language itself. The teacher’s goal is to see to it that students learn the vocabulary and grammatical rules of the target language. The goal of learners in such courses is often to pass an examination rather than to use the language for daily communicative interaction. Supporters of communicative language teaching have argued that language is not learned by the gradual accumulation of one item after another.

Five proposals for classroom teaching

Theories have been proposed for the best way to learn a second language in the classroom. But the only way to answer the question: ‘Which theoretical proposal holds the greatest promos for improving language learning in classroom settings?’ is through the research which specifically investigates relationship between teaching and learning. Both formal and informal researches are needed. Formal research involves careful control of the factors which may affect learning. It often uses large numbers of teachers and learners.
Informal research often involves small numbers, perhaps only one class with one teacher, and the emphasize here is not on what is most general, but rather on what is particular about this group or this teacher. For each proposal, a few relevant studies will be presented, discussed and compared with one another.
These proposals are:
1) Get it right from the beginning
2) Say what you mean and mean what you say
3) Just listen
4) Teach what is teachable
5) Get it right in the end 

Get it right in the beginning

The `Get it right in the beginning` proposal for second language teaching best describes the underlying theory. It is the proposal which probably best describes the way in which most of us were taught a second language in school. The behaviorist view of language acquisition is in assuming that learners need to build up their language knowledge gradually by practicing only correct forms. Teachers avoid letting beginning learners speak freely because this would allow them to make errors. Here are some examples:
S1: And uh, in the afternoon, uh, I came home and, uh, uh, I uh, washing my dog.
T: I wash.
S1: My dog.
T: Every day you wash your dog.
S2: He doesn’t have dog.
S1: No, but we can say it.

Say what you mean and mean what you say

This proposal emphasizes the necessity for learners to have access to meaningful and comprehensible input through conversational interactions with teachers and other students. When students are given the opportunity to engage in conversations, they are compelled to negotiate meaning, that is, to express and clarify their intentions, thoughts, opinions and so on. The negotiation leads learners to acquire the language forms-the words and grammatical structures-which carry the meaning. The claim is that as learners work toward a mutual understanding in the negotiation process, language acquisition is facilitated.
S: Me and Jo see, we don’t have the same as hers.
T: That’s fine. Yeah, because there’ll be different answers.
S: Why...uh, we do that with a partner?
T: Simply so you can control.

Just listen

This proposal is based on the assumption that it is not necessary to drill and memorize language forms in order to learn them. Here, the emphasize is on providing comprehensible input through listening and/or reading activities.
`Just listen` is one of the most influential - and most controversial - approaches to second language teaching because it not only holds that second language learners need not drill and practice language in order to learn it. According to this view, it is enough to hear and understand the target language. One way to do this is to provide learners with a steady diet of listening and reading comprehension activities with no (or very few) opportunities to speak or interact with the teacher or other learners in the classroom.

Teach what is teachable

The proposal referred to as `Teach what is teachable` is one which has received increasing attention in second language acquisition. Researchers supporting this view also claim that certain other aspects of language-vocabulary, some grammatical features- can be taught at any time. A learner’s success in learning these varational features will depend on factors such as motivation, intelligence and quality of instruction.

Get it right in the end

`Get it right in the end` is similar to the `teach what is teachable` proposal. Its proponents recognize a role for instruction, but also assume that not everything has to be taught. This proposal emphasizes the idea that some aspects of language must be taught. ‘Get it right in the end’ also differs from ‘Just listen’ in that it is assumed that learners will need some guidance in learning some specific features of the target language. It is assumed that what learners learn when they are focusing on language itself can lead to changes in their inter-language systems. The supporters of this proposal will prevent learners from making errors. It is sometimes necessary to draw learners` attention to their errors and to focus on certain linguistic points.
S1: Make her shoes brown.
T: Wow, her shoes. Are those mom’s shoes or dad’s shoes?
S1: Mom’s.
T: Mom’s. How do you know it is mom’s?
S1: Because it’s her shoes.

I hope that some of you will find this rewarding for your work. If you have some questions and proposals, please feel free to contact me at: 
Looking forward to hear from you.
Best regards,