In Other Words: The Science and Psychology of Second-Language Acquisition

In Other Words: The Science and Psychology of Second-Language Acquisition

In Other Words: The Science and Psychology of Second-Language Acquisition

In Other Words: The Science and Psychology of Second-Language Acquisition

Synopsis

Ellen Bialystok and Kenji Hakuta view second-language acquisition as one way of coming to grips with the fundamental nature of language, mind, and brain. Although they have conducted some of the key research in the area of second-language acquisition, they also work more broadly in the fields of cognitive and language development as well as in education policy, and thus they are ideally suited to address this issue. Using an array of vivid illustrations, lively anecdotes, and fascinating research examples, they show how five elements - brain, language, mind, self, and culture - make up the complex ecology of language learning. The book considers vital questions: Is the brain "hard-wired" for language learning? Why are the mental operations that allow us to learn language different from those we use to solve math problems or play a musical instrument? How do differences between languages affect language learning? What are various cultures doing to encourage bilingualism?

Excerpt

This book is about learning a second language. It would be a rare person who is unfamiliar with this experience, whether successful at it or not. People encounter this experience in numerous ways: as a student, as a tourist, as an immigrant. What are the essential characteristics of learning a second language? Why is it easier for some people than for others? Are there times or situations in which the process becomes easier? These are the kinds of questions language learners inevitably ask and the kinds of issues that commonsense, or folk theories of language learning, attempt to address.

This book is also about our efforts to understand second-language learning and the methods we use to come to that knowledge. Scholars have long puzzled over the mysteries of language learning, and researchers have explored numerous aspects of its development. These academic approaches to language learning have originated in a variety of disciplines--linguistics, biology, psychology, anthropology, and sociology; each of these lays some claim to understanding the process. But what are the differences in the approaches taken by these disciplines? How do their insights fit together to reveal something more general or more essential about the process of second- language learning?

We expect that most readers will be interested in knowing more about second-language learning from the point of view of both per-

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