Introducing Second Language Acquisition
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Introducing Second Language Acquisition

Perspectives and Practices

Kirsten M. Hummel

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eBook - ePub

Introducing Second Language Acquisition

Perspectives and Practices

Kirsten M. Hummel

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An up-to-date overview of second language acquisition, designed to engage 21 st -century learners

Introducing Second Language Acquisition: Perspectives and Practices provides a clear and comprehensive introduction to the main concepts, issues, and debates in second language acquisition studies. This introductory textbook is aimed specifically at students encountering the topic for the first time. Each chapter offers a modern layout with engaging pedagogical features such as self-assessment and discussion questions, project ideas, and further reading and viewing suggestions.

The second edition of Introducing Second Language Acquisition: Perspectives and Practices has been fully updated to reflect the most recent scholarship in the field. It introduces a new structure, featuring separate chapters on theoretical perspectives which cover past and present approaches as well as cognitive approaches. New content also includes sections on skill acquisition theory, translanguaging, second language literacy development, and multilingualism.

Written in accessible language and with a focus on practical applications, this go-to textbook is a clear and concise introduction to second language acquisition studies, offering lessons drawn from the latest leading research. It is an ideal resource for students in applied linguistics and second language education. This key text offers:

  • Comprehensive coverage of the latest research in second language acquisition studies
  • Improved organizational structure to promote greater student comprehension
  • Engaging introduction to the theoretical underpinnings of second language acquisition, with chapters on first language acquisition and bilingualism and multilingualism
  • Coverage of key topics including acquisition contexts, theoretical perspectives, language teaching methods, and individual differences
  • Pedagogical tools to aid student learning, including "language learning in practice" textboxes, bolded terms defined in the margins, and an end-of-book glossary

With a strong focus on the fundamentals, this second edition of Introducing Second Language Acquisition stands as an innovative guide. This book is ideal for today's undergraduate students, offering a practical focus and appealing format that will aid in learning and provide a solid foundation for further study.

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Welcome to this introduction to second language acquisition (SLA). What is SLA? In brief, this term refers to beginning the learning of another language after a first language (L1) has been acquired.
Note that opinions vary about what might be considered the earliest age from which second language (L2) learning would be differentiated from simultaneous language acquisition or bilingual L1 acquisition (two languages learned at the same time). In general, however, SLA describes learning another language after the early years of childhood. (Note that the importance of age in acquiring another language will be discussed in Chapter 8, and issues related to bilingual acquisition and bilingualism will be discussed in Chapter 10.)
Second language acquisition (SLA) is a phenomenon found among people from all parts of the world and all walks of life. The well‐known biblical story about the Tower of Babel is one of the earliest references to the importance and urgency of knowing another language. According to the biblical account, in order to prevent people from cooperating in their goal of building a tower in the town of Babel that would reach heaven, God commanded “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.” The tactic was successful and different language groups abandoned their project and moved to separate areas of the world.
Of course it is not necessary to believe the biblical story of Babel to understand the importance of being able to communicate with one's neighbor or with an individual on the other side of the globe. The desire to learn another language might stem from a personal choice to broaden one's horizons or from a more complex set of life circumstances, such as an urgent need to find a job in a new country. In addition, the growing ubiquity of international travel, along with electronic means of communicating across time zones, has increased opportunities to interact with speakers of other languages and, for many, may trigger the desire to undertake the learning of another language.
Cartoon 1.1 2/15/2000,
© 2015 HarperCollins Christian Publishing.
Second language acquisition is a phenomenon that millions of individuals worldwide are engaged in, and it is also a distinct field of study. The principal aim of this book is to provide an overview of the main concepts, issues, and debates in the field of SLA, referring to past and current research to illustrate these issues. There has been a huge increase in empirical research in the past few decades on a wide variety of topics related to SLA. Discussions throughout the book will refer to this research by highlighting specific studies to clarify important concepts and themes.
Research into SLA is a truly multidisciplinary endeavor. Some of the major disciplines that contribute to SLA include theoretical linguistics, education, psychology, and sociology. In the past several decades, the field of SLA has increasingly come to be recognized as a discipline of its own, supported by an abundant research literature. Universities now regularly offer courses in “second language acquisition” whereas in earlier years the subject was only briefly reviewed in the context of a basic introductory linguistics or second language pedagogy course, if at all. Today, disciplines as varied as theoretical linguistics, speech pathology, and educational psychology refer to aspects of the SLA research literature in their own fields, and in some instances data from SLA are used in testing theoretical models or describing concepts in other disciplines.
Note that an additional distinction between “second” language acquisition and “foreign” language acquisition is an important one in some contexts. In such cases, “second language acquisition” applies to circumstances in which the language learned (the target language) is generally the dominant language used in the learner's environment (such as an immigrants learning English in the United States), while “foreign language acquisition” indicates that the learner lives in the L1 environment and contact with target language speakers is not widely available (such as learning English in Beijing, China). In the context of learning English, a frequent abbreviation is “ESL” to refer to “English as a second language” and “EFL” for “English as a foreign language.” The use of the term “second language acquisition (SLA)” throughout this book generally includes foreign language acquisition, although the latter term will be used when it is important to make a distinction between the two circumstances.
The study of SLA also generally encompasses the acquisition of a third or additional languages (sometimes referred to as the study of multilingualism), although research specifically devoted to describing how third (or more) language acquisition might resemble or differ from SLA is increasing.
In addition, this book uses the terms “acquisition” and “learning” interchangeably as this usage has been generally adopted by scholars in the field (see, for example, Ortega 2009, p. 5).
Why study second language acquisition? To start, here are a number of questions that one might want some answers to:
  • Is second language acquisition like first language acquisition?
  • Does the first language help or get in the way of second language learning?
  • What are some of the circumstances in which people learn a second language?
  • Do innate capacities play an important role in second language acquisition?
  • Why do we make mistakes in a second language?
  • Do learners need their errors to be explicitly corrected?
  • Are there any universal processes affecting second language acquisition?
  • Is there a teaching method that has proved to be more successful than others?
  • Can adults learn to speak a second language as well as native speakers?
  • What about individual differences? Are there factors that enable some people to learn aspects of a second language better or faster than others?
  • Are there certain learning strategies that seem particularly useful?
  • What happens when children learn two languages at the same time? Do they end up confused and does one or both of their languages suffer?
  • Can bilinguals “turn off” or ignore one of their languages?
Our exploration throughout the field of second language acquisition will offer some responses to the preceding questions. We begin in Chapter 2 by examining L1 acquisition. A basic understanding of this universal process, noting ways in which it resembles or differs from SLA, should be useful for gaining a clearer view of SLA. In the following chapter, Chapter 3, the reader is introduced to a selection of contexts, both naturalistic and classroom‐related, associated with the learning of a second language. Chapter 4 presents an overview of some past and present theoretical views underlying the field. Chapter 5 continues this theoretical overview with attention to relatively recent views primarily based within a cognitive processing approach. Chapter 6 recognizes the importance of SLA applications to language teaching, an area of interest for a growing number of practitioners: predominant teaching approaches and methods are presented, followed by a look at some current instructional issues. Development of the learner's L2 language is the focus of Chapter 7. Chapter 8 begins an exploration into individual difference factors, by focusing on the effect of the learner's age on SLA. Additional individual difference factors, such as aptitude and motivation, are discussed in Chapter 9. Finally, in Chapter 10, the overlapping disciplines of bilingualism/multilingualism are explored, with a look at characteristics of simultaneous language acquisition along with issues related to bilingual lexical representation and access and possible cognitive effects of bilingualism.
To help illustrate concepts and issues, starting with Chapter 3 on language learning contexts, we will follow six fictional language learners who are profiled throu...

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