second language acquisition theories
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Second language acquisition (SLA) is a relatively new field of enquiry. Before the late 1960s, educators did write about L2 learning, but very much as an adjunct of language teaching pedagogy, underpinned by behaviourism, the then-dominant learning theory in psychology. In this view, the task facing learners of foreign languages was to rote-learn and practise the grammatical patterns and vocabulary of the language to be learnt, in order to form new ‘habits’, that is to create new stimulus–response pairings which would become stronger with reinforcement. In order for the ‘old habits’ of the L1 not to interfere with this process by being ‘copied’, or transferred, into the L2, researchers embarked on thorough descriptions of pairs of languages to be learnt, in order to identify areas that are different and would thus be difficult.
MICHAEL H. LONG, Assessment Strategies for Second Language Acquisition Theories, Applied Linguistics, Volume 14, Issue 3, September 1993, Pages 225–249, https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/14.3.225
There are numerous theories of second language acquisition (SLA), many of them oppositional. Whether or not this is inevitable now, culling will eventually be necessary if researchers are to meet their social responsibilities or if SLA is to be explained and a stage of normal science achieved. For the culling to be principled, a rational approach to theory assessment is needed, and the difficulty of identifying universally valid evaluation criteria makes this problematic. Assessment strategies used in other fields can be useful in SLA, but choice among them will depend on the researcher’s (implicit or explicit) philosophy of science.
A learner studying in an English-speaking country may have more success due to the language they acquire in their part-time job than with the language they learn in their class.
Second language acquisition, or SLA, has two meanings. In a general sense it is a term to describe learning a second language. More specifically, it is the name of the theory of the process by which we acquire – or pick up – a second language. This is mainly a subconscious process which happens while we focus on communication. It can be compared with second language learning, which describes how formal language education helps us learn language through more conscious processes.