Second Language Acquisition

ESLS 5301


Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Ever had one of those days? Nothing goes right; everything you touch breaks; everything you say is wrong; all your hopes are shattered; all your friends are mad at you. It's just a terrible, rotten, lousy, no-good day. Hebrews 12:2 gives us a key to overcoming on these days—“looking unto Jesus.” Although this statement may seem simplistic or trite, the Bible gives a KEY to a better day.

1. Get alone (even for 5 minutes).
2. Take a deep breath; relax; refocus.
3. Cry out to God for peace and restoration.
4. Meditate on Jesus--who was, is, and is to come.
5. Recite or sing this song:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of God's glory and grace.
(Words & Music by Helen H. Lemmel, 1922)

God is the author of your life and of your faith; He is also the finisher. He, who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it (Philippians. 1:6). Jesus endured the cross by looking past the pain to the finished product. We can also look past our current pain and frustration by turning our eyes to greater, eternal purposes. Allow God to restore your joy today by refocusing on the one who made your joy complete--Jesus Christ.

Dear God, Thank you for your son. Thank you for your truth. As I turn my eyes to the truth, allow the truth to set me free so I can find peace in the midst of turmoil.

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Principles of Language Learning and Teaching

Oral/Aural Communicative Competence

In this session, we're going to be thinking of communicative competence in three different categories--aural/oral; writing; and reading. In many ways they are tied together, but many times we're asked to concentrate exclusively on one aspect of communication and not the other. In addition, each has its own particular challenges that need to be addressed in teaching/learning.

Let's begin by looking at a definition of communicative competence. In Brown's introductory remarks regarding communication on page 218, he reminds us that, currently, there is less emphasis on "correctness" and more on the ability to communicate. Whether we're talking about speaking, writing, or reading, the emphasis is on the ability to express oneself and the ability to understand the written or spoken word. Dell Hymes, a noted linguist who thought that Chomsky's idea of competence was too restrictive, defined communicative competence in this way, "...that aspect of our competence that enables us to convey and interpret messages and to negotiate meanings interpersonally within specific contexts" (Brown, p. 219). The following power point presentation explainsHymes’ ideas about communication. Please read it before continuing on to the rest of the lecture material.

Communicative Competence for Session 5.pptx

Cummins (1980, 1979) makes a distinction regarding communication. He says there are two categories of communication--BICS and CALP. BICS refers to the first stage of communication (basic interpersonal communication skills) used when one is first acquiring a new language. A person who has BICS is able to ask for and respond to basic interpersonal communicative language. Often a person who is very skillful in BICS is thought to have more ability in the language they are learning than they really have because often they sound so fluent in what they know. They have learned how to function well in their environment as long as they are communicating about the few areas they are comfortable with. However, they are not able to go beyond asking for and responding to language about familiar topics. CALP (cognitive academic language proficiency) is the language that enables the person to converse about more than playground, supermarket, or casual communication. CALP is another dimension in communication where the learner is able to respond to higher level thinking questions. He/she is able to defend his position and participate in a conversation using academic vocabulary. Learning academic vocabulary is an ongoing process that often takes five to seven years to master. In addition to mastering the understanding and use of academic language, spoken communication is helped by context or hindered by context reduced situations. The following chart by Cummins illustrates how context affects communication.

According to Baker (1996), both dimensions of Cummins' chart concern communicative competence. However, the first quadrant is one where there is more support for understanding. The subject is cognitively undemanding and takes place in context. In the second quadrant, the context is reduced but the content is still cognitively undemanding. This might refer to a situation where a conversation is beginning and the second language learner has not been prepared for the change in subject. Basically, it refers to a lack of clues regarding meaning. In the third and fourth quadrants, the subject is cognitively demanding. More than likely, specific vocabulary will need to be learned in order to understand and communicate on this level. In the third quadrant, the ELL has some support from the context, such as, pictures, props, gestures, facial expressions, etc., but in the fourth quadrant, support is removed and the second language learner needs to be able to understand the content of the message without props. In the discussion today, comment on Cummins' chart. How helpful would that be for you as a language teacher or learner? Would it affect the lessons you prepare? How? Would it help you understand your students or your own progress in learning a language? How?

Another way of looking at communicative competence is the model that Canale and Swain have developed. Bachman went a little bit farther with their work and broke it down into two main categories--Organizational Competence and Pragmatic Competence. (Brown, p. 221)

After Brown explains Bachman's work on communication, he talks about Halliday's Seven Functions of Language. Look at the two explanations of communication side by side.

Compare Bachman's work--Figure 8.1, Figure 8.2--with Halliday's seven functions of language. Are they saying the same thing? How are they the same and how are they different? Which description of communication do you find more helpful as a language teacher or learner? Which one makes the most sense to you?

Conversation Analysis (page 228)

This section in our chapter is very interesting. Rarely do ESL textbooks or other language textbooks deal with conversation analysis. I found this section interesting because I have observed ELLs struggling to initiate and maintain conversations. I'd like for us to look at the aspects of conversation analysis and reflect on ELLs we have observed. For example, unless one is analyzing adialogue in a language textbook, few textbooks specifically teach attention getting. Yet, attention getting is important. We smile (or are annoyed) at young children who use inappropriate ways to get someone's attention. It is a learned behavior in first and second language acquisition. I wonder how many of us have specifically taught attention getting?

Secondly, he discusses topic nomination. Once someone has our attention, how do they bring up the subject they wish to discuss?

Thirdly, do they know how to develop the topic? Can they continue to discuss it? Often they don't have the vocabulary or knowledge of sentence structure to continue to talk about the topic. If the topic is being discussed by several people, it is sometimes easier for an ELL to form a sentence about the topic, then let others continue the conversation, and, finally, the first student is ready to add another sentence.

Fourthly, topic termination is an aspect of conversation that needs to be taught. In the U.S. we use both verbal and nonverbal cues to show we are about to end the conversation.

Let's move on to Communicative Competence in the Classroom.

Most language textbooks of the last 20 years or so will declare themselves "Communicative." They all say that the main objective of their textbook will be communicating in the language they are teaching. Yet, the way they go about teaching communication is very different. Let's look at what the author of our textbook considers characteristics of CLT (Communicative Language Teaching).

  1. Goal--focus on all aspects of communicative competence, not just grammar and/or linguistics.
  2. Techniques--designed to engage learners in the use of language in a meaningful way.
  3. Fluency and accuracy are underlying goals that tend to fluctuate depending on the emphasis.
  4. Participation--students use language in nonrehearsed ways.

His statement on page 242 sums up his ideas on CLT, "...much more spontaneity is present in communicative classrooms: students are encouraged to deal with unrehearsed situations under the guidance, but not control, of the teacher."

Task-based instruction, discussed on pages 242 and 243, describes a way of teaching a language while teaching a task at the same time. This is very similar to Chamot and O'Malley's idea of Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA). Other terms for very similar approaches are Content-based English Language Learning and SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol). Proponents of these ideas believe that a student learns a language best when he/she's learning how to do another task. The English language objectives are stated along with the academic objectives. They are then specifically taught and reinforced as the students learn another task.

This chapter on communication deals mostly with expressing oneself. There is very little in this chapter on listening and listening comprehension. I'd like to make a few comments here from a paper, entitled "Listening Comprehension: Approach, Design, Procedure," by Jack C. Richards in the book, entitled Methodology in TESOL, 1987. This section might help us to understand the nature of listening comprehension a little better so that we can understand our students and design curriculum that will meet their needs.

Richards begins the article by telling us his assumptions about how listeners get meaning from utterances. There are basically three factors in getting meaning from the spoken message--syntactical knowledge that helps the listener chunk the words into meaningful phrases, knowledge of the world, and memory. This is basically how we understand what is being spoken to us. When we are first learning a language, we are unfamiliar with much of the syntax, it is difficult to chunk the sounds or words into meaningful units. It is often possible to understand a word or two, but if one can't understand more than isolated words, it is likely that the message will be misinterpreted.

After the words are understood and remembered, there are other factors that affect the understanding of a message. They are the nature of the discourse (planned or unplanned), the attitude of the listener toward the speaker (cooperative, hostile, neutral), and the context in which the listener finds himself (classroom, playground, street, church, etc.).

Lastly, Richards explains how to design effective ways to teach listening in the classroom. I will summarize them here: assess your students' needs; isolate the listening skill you wish to teach; formulate your objectives; and design your activities.

The last part of your lecture material addresses how to write good assessment questions. The following power point shows how to analyze test items and to re-write them to be more effective in a communicative language class. Please read the following power point and follow the directions at the end for your assignment due Monday night, September 28th. As you will see in the power point, you will make 4 new power point slides and send them in with your assignment on the power point slides. The first slide will have the schema on it with the test questions (they are included in the following slides) plotted on the schema. Then, you will re-write the test questions on another slide. On the third slide you will make schema with the new test questions correctly plotted. On the fourth slide you will tell how you changed the test items to reflect authentic discourse and divergent thinking.

Effective Assessments.pptx

Read the scenario on p. 205 and then complete the following QSSSA.

QSSSA (p. 205)

  • Question: Why do you suppose Kathy became so communicatively competent in Thai, but not to the same degree in the other two languages?
  • Stem: I believe that the reason Kathy became so communicatively competent in Thai and not the other languages is...
  • Signal: Stand up when you have an answer.
  • Share: Share with a partner.
  • Assess: Exit Ticket/Lettuce Wrap

After reading p. 206-207, what are some ways you might teach your students to engage in classroom discourse, especially in small group work?

In your experiences learning languages in classrooms, did the methodology fit the description of CLT on p. 236? What are some specific examples of activities that were CLT-based?

What was the greatest AHA from reading this chapter?

Next Week's Class: February 23rd

  • Brown, Chapter 8 and Brown, Chapter 9
  • Group presentation of Sociocultural Factors
  • Group presentation of Cross-Linguistic Influence and Learner Language
  • Continue to prepare English Only debate
  • Language Acquisition Interview due.

Group Presentation- 100 points

  • Each group of students will be assigned one of the following three topics—Styles and Strategies and Personality Factors in Language Learning; Sociocultural Factors; and Cross-Linguistic Influence and Learner Language. The group will teach their topic to the class on the assigned night.
  • Each group will meet to divide and organize their topic so that individual students will work on their selected parts. Each student will be responsible for aspects of the topic that the group decides need to be taught.
  • Individually, students will do the research and write their own 3-5 page paper to be turned in. Each student will submit a copy of his/her paper to Blackboard for grading before class on their designated night. 90% of the grade will be individual and 10% will be for the group effort.

  • The group will work together to teach the topic to the class. Power points, handouts, and/or activities to teach the topic to the rest of the class are acceptable and encouraged.