Second Language Acquisition

Lecs. 4 & 5
• Second language acquisition (SAL)
• Second language acquisition research focuses on the
developing knowledge and use of a language by children &
adults who know at least one language.
• Understanding how languages are learned will lead to more
effective teaching practices.
• Second-language acquisition or second-language learning is
the process by which people learn a second language. Secondlanguage acquisition (often abbreviated to SLA) is also the
name of the scientific discipline devoted to studying that
process. Second language refers to any language learned in
addition to a person's first language; although the concept is
named second language acquisition, it can also incorporate the
learning of third, fourth or subsequent languages.[1] Secondlanguage acquisition refers to what learners do; it does not
refer to practices in language teaching.
• L2 may be learned
1. simultaneously with L1, or
2. successively with L1 (Childhood/ adolescence/ adulthood)
L2 may be learned in
1. L1 environment (Instruction)
2. L2 environment (verbal contact with native speakers)
Subconscious process of
picking up a language
through exposure
Contact with natives
Conscious process of
studying it
Formal setting
• Attempts have been made to answer the following question:
• How do individuals acquire an L2?
• What are the different thoughts & premises that have been
offered in order to explain the process of SLA?
• What needs to be taught in L2 classes?
The behavioristic approach
The cognitive/ psychological approach
The creative construction approach
The sociological approach
1950s  pedagogic (the teacher)
1970s  pedagogic (the learner)
External factors  internal factors
Mental grammar processes of the speaker, NOT the linguistic
• Why?
1. Research in linguistics, psychology, & L1 acquisition
2. The need to understand the mechanisms underlying SLA.
3. Are these mechanisms similar to those involved in FLA?
• (Skinner, 1957)
SLA is a process of imitation & reinforcement
• (Lado, 1957)
The acquisition of L2 is essentially a task of overcoming the L1
habits & learning (in their place) the habits of the L2. Only the
different elements between L1 & L2 are to be learned.
• Positive vs. negative transfer (Arabic & English)
I’m going to home
In my way to home
This is the house I live in it
Open the light & close the light
To drive a plane
• To identify the structural similarities & difference between
• The findings will aid in planning the language-teaching
• The main aim of behavioristic teaching is to (i) form new correct
linguistic habits through intensive practice, & (ii) eliminate errors
in the process of SLA
1. The learning process is more complex than imitation & habitformation.
2. Transfer alone doesn’t fulfill the function of explaining the
learner’s behavior in the L2.
3. L2 learners know that certain features of their L1 are less
likely to be transferable than others (idiomatic expressions).
• Cognitive factors involve the mechanics of how an individual
acquires something.
• SLA = the acquisition of a complex cognitive skill (sub-skills)
• A complex cognitive skill /
Performance A (pattern) + Performance B (tense) = Fluent Performance
• E.g. learning to express a communicative function (may I …) 
• To take part in a conversation  a whole skill
• There is an interaction between the element the learner is
learning & the knowledge he has already acquired
• This may restructure the system (language) the learner has or
• An L2 learner’s performance improves & develops through
constant reorganizing & restructuring of information contained
in this system.
• An L2 learner will simplify & unify linguistic information, & gain
increasing control of language performance.
• Chomsky & SLA
• What is the creative construction hypothesis ?
• The learner constructs a series of internal representations of the
L2 system which result from natural processing strategies:
(generalization, transfer, exposure to the L2 in communication
1. The analysis of learners’ errors at various points in their SLA
2. The order in which certain structures are acquired
(not the learner’s attempts to produce the language)
SLA takes place internally via HEARING & READING not
L2 exposure
representations of
Learner’s actual
The acquisition-learning hypothesis
The monitor hypothesis
The natural order hypothesis
The input hypothesis
The effective filter hypothesis
• The processing of language
input provided by
• The processing of language
input provided by explicit
teaching of grammatical
• It is knowing the rules;
having a conscious
knowledge about grammar
• Monitor is a device that learners use to edit their own language
performance by modifying utterances which are generated
from the acquired knowledge (competence)
• It occurs just before or after an utterance
• BUT, there are 3 conditions
1. Some knowledge of the acquired rule
2. Sufficient time
3. The learner’s attention  location + nature of the
grammatical form
• Language learners acquire properties of an L2 in a predictable
order through a series of common transitional stages in moving
towards target/ 2nd language forms
• Exception: morphemes & conjunctions
• Input is the most important factor in SLA; it affects the progress
of the learner in learning the L2.
• The characteristics of comprehensible input:
1. Comprehensive
2. Adequate to the level of learners
3. Clear (pronunciation + grammar)
• Non-linguistic factors affecting SLA
• The focus in the late 1970s & early 1980s  the social context
of the adult SLA
• Acculturation  the process of becoming adapted to the culture
of the new or 2nd language
• understanding of the system of thoughts, beliefs, emotions, &
system of communication of the new culture
• Degree of adaptation to L2 = extent of competence acquired
in L2
• Learners of L2  Social distance  native speakers of
• Development towards L2 is dependent on the level of social
distance between the learner & native speakers of L2
• Social distance & the acquisition of Grammar
• Learners of L2  psychological distance  native
speakers of L2
• Psycho. Distance results from various affective factors
concerning the learner as an individual
• Resolution of language shock, culture shock, stress, integrated vs.
instrumental motivation
• This model explains why L2 learners often fail to develop/
achieve native-like competence due to social and/ or
psychological factors

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