Second Language Acquisition: Theory and Pedagogy

Second Language Acquisition: Theory and Pedagogy

Second Language Acquisition: Theory and Pedagogy

Second Language Acquisition: Theory and Pedagogy

Synopsis

A volume on second-language acquisition theory and pedagogy is, at the same time, a mark of progress and a bit of an anomaly. The progress is shown by the fact that the two disciplines have established themselves as areas of study not only distinct from each other, but also different from linguistic theory. This was not always the case, at least not in the United States. The anomaly results from the fact that this book deals with the relationship between L2 theory and pedagogy despite the conclusion that there is currently no widely-accepted theory of SLA.

Grouped into five sections, the papers in this volume:

• consider questions about L2 theory and pedagogy at the macro-level, from the standpoint of the L2 setting;

• consider input in terms of factors which are internal to the learner;

• examine the question of external factors affecting the input, such as the issue of whether points of grammar can be explicitly taught;

• deal with questions of certain complex, linguistic behaviors and the various external and social variables that influence learners; and

• discuss issues surrounding the teaching of pronunciation factors that affect a non-native accent.

Excerpt

A volume such as this one on second language acquisition (SLA) theory and pedagogy is, at the same time, a mark of progress and a bit of an anomaly. The progress is shown by the fact that the two disciplines have established themselves as areas of study distinct not only from each other but also from linguistic theory. This was not always the case, at least not in the United States. The anomaly results from the fact that this book deals with the relationship between L2 theory and pedagogy, despite the conclusion that there is currently no widely accepted theory of SLA (Long, 1993).

A few decades ago, the distinctness of SLA theory, L2 pedagogy, and linguistics was not clearly recognized. In the 1940s and 1950s, the school of American Structural Linguistics subsumed linguistic theory, language acquisition (including SLA), and language pedagogy under the same set of principles. The goal of American structuralism was to devise a set of procedures, such as segmentation, comparison-contrast, and classification, that, when applied to a corpus of data, would yield a description of the patterns exhibited by those data (Gleason, 1955; Hockett, 1958). These procedures were also assumed to be the principles used by a child or adult learner in acquiring the grammar of a language. From this position, it was a small step to the audio-lingual method (ALM), which held that a language could best be taught by presenting the learner with corpora (i.e., dialogues) and sets of pattern-practice drills that would assist the learner in segmenting, comparing, and classifying the various elements contained in the corpus. This, it was claimed, is how the learner would acquire the target language.

Although current research in SLA draws heavily on linguistics and uses many principles and concepts of linguistic theory to explain facts about SLA, the two disciplines are not considered to be one and the same. Constructs such as NL

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