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Posts Tagged ‘second language learning’

Grammar Translation Method

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

The Grammar Translation Method was a traditional method used to teach Greek and Latin. It is also known as the classical method because it was developed centuries ago specifically to teach classical language.

This technique called for students to provide translation of an entire text on a word for word basis. They had to memorize a lot of grammatical rules and grammatical exceptions as well as a long list of vocabulary.

The main focus of using this method is:

• Interpretation of words and phrases
• Learning the structure of the second language by comparing it with the native language
• Taking into account grammatical rules
• Be able to read, write and translate a foreign language

The native language is used to conduct the class where a large vocabulary list was used that covered both languages; the second language as well as the first. Grammar points would be derived from the text and contextually presented in the textbook as it is explained by the teacher.

The Learning Process

Those grammar points were instrumental in giving the student a provisional rule of how to assemble words into appropriate sentences. The grammar drills and translations were incorporated into the learning process through practice and exercises. This helped to increase the knowledge of the student without them having to put too much emphasis on the content.

The student would break up different sentences as they were needed and translate them. By the time the student got through that process, they would have translated the entire text from the second language to the native language. In some cases, they would be asked to do the reverse (translate native language into second language) to make sure that they grasped the process.

There was hardly any emphasis placed on how words were pronounced or any type of verbal or nonverbal communication aspects of the language. Reading written text was essential to the learning process, but only to get the translation correct.


Conversational fluency is not important when it comes to grammar translation. You have to depend on your memory to be able to recall all the rules associated with the grammar of the second language you are trying to learn.
The student who is learning using this technique will be able to read and write in the target language, but the spoken language is not a priority as well as emphasis on listening skills.


Language Learning - Stages of Language Development (PEPSI)

Monday, July 20th, 2009

There are four levels and stages of language development that helps anyone to learn a second language.

In level one, this is the silent stage where there is not much comprehending and production at this stage is nonverbal. The student is listening to the language to try and make sense of it.

This is the first level stage where there is a lot more imitation than anything else. There is a pretense in how much the student comprehends. A lot of gestures and body language take precedence.

Level two is the early stage of production with limited comprehending in which responses are only through one or two words. This is the survival stage where the student feels that they need to learn enough for basic functioning. There is a lot of uncertainty at this time in this stage.

The last two stages

Level three gives the student an opportunity to emerge from nonverbal to verbal interaction. Comprehending the language becomes much easier by using simple sentences. You will find that in this stage there are more mistakes committed in verbal communication.

Plural and past tense are not important at this stage. The student may understand the concepts of the language, but is trying to become comfortable with the new language. Grammatical errors don’t’ concern the student at this point. Words are used, but not necessarily appropriately.

Level four is the final stage that consists of excellent comprehension of language. The student is able to use more complicated sentences and language fluency is more noticed. A lot more generalization is used in this stage of the game.

In this stage, it is helpful if students ask the teacher to define words and concepts in the language by indicating if they do or do not understand. An experiment with words and phrase among peers is usually the result of this stage.

These stages are noticed specifically in young children two years old who are just beginning to form their new language. They usually start off by using a vocabulary of fifty words that are recognizable.

Their sentences consist of two or more words. They respond quickly to one word or short phrase instructions such as “get me the toy,” or “come.” The toddler will often do some self talk and takes time to name things and repeat what these things do. These are similar to the stages of language development.


In the first stage, the teacher should never force the student to speak unless they are ready. It is quite feasible to learn silently. The second stage is the production of words and phrases that highlight the answers to what, where and who questions.

The third stage enhances the student’s dialogue and they are able to ask simple questions, but with grammatical mistakes, which is quite normal. The fourth stage is the actual intermediate stage of learning where the vocabulary has grown so that the student can share their thoughts more clearly.

There is a fifth and final stage, but this is more advanced and may take up to seven years to acquire language proficiency.

Language Learning - CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) Learning Approach

Friday, June 26th, 2009

CALP -Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency hereinafter referred to as CALP

With the CALP approach, students have to be able to master the language.

This type of language acquisition and learning is more formal learning than the basic and informal BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills hereinafter referred to as BICS). Teachers will describe students in terms of CALP and BICS  depending on their language adeptness.

Students that develop more in BICS, which is more conversational fluency, may not be strong in CALP because it is more academic in nature and requires more cognitive skills.

For a child to master CALP, they have to be able to learn how to listen, speak, read and write their second language.

CALP is an essential part of academic learning and students need this to be successful in school. It requires learning over time to gain proficiency in specific academic studies that are prerequisites of passing a grade.

The learning curve

It takes between five to seven years to learn CALP and can take up to even ten years if the child does not have teacher and parent support or previous schooling in the development of the language they are trying to learn in. Catching up with their peers in a classroom setting might be more difficult than socializing using BICS.

CALP is more than just being familiar with the content of the vocabulary. It does need certain skills that include classification, comparison, evaluation and making inference.
The difference between BICS and CALP is that BICS is contextualized in specific social situations while CALP is more context reduction. A textbook is used to teach the student and this kind of academic language is necessary for CALP. As the student increases in age the tasks for academic context becomes more reduced.

The more context reduced the academic language becomes, the more demand there will be for cognitive learning. This is why college work is much harder than middle school or high school because new concepts, language and ideas are presented to student simultaneously.

Jim Cummins, who created the Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills approach to language, thinks that in the event of comparing two languages, there is a familiar basic proficiency known as CUP. This means that the same skills and concepts that children learn in their native language will be carried over to the second language.


Teachers that use CALP know that it is far more advanced than BICS. They also know that BICS is easily adaptable and students that have knowledge of Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills are not necessarily good at Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency.

Language Learning - CALLA - Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA)

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

CALLA - Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA)

Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) was created specifically for students that spoke and wrote limited English. Anna Uhl Chamot and J. Michael O’Malley should be credited for the program. CALLA enables students to become more proficient so that they are able to take part in content directed instructions.

The cognitive model of learning is used to help students to comprehend and retain language skills and concepts of the content being taught.

There are three modules of CALLA, which include learning strategies, development of academic language and a related curriculum. Many public schools incorporate this into their ESL programs.

It specifically assists students that are forced to learn English as a second language in order to survive in the American public school systems.

The method involves an instructional model that helps teachers know how to implement learning strategies so that students can grasp the concepts much easier and faster.

The goal and focus of CALLA is to afford students the opportunity to learn a new language independently and to become self-regulated as learners by consistently dominating the various strategies of learning in a classroom setting.

The Main Goal

The main objective and goal of the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) for the student is to be more effective in the learning process is:

• To place value on what the student previously knew as well as the experiences of their culture, and using this knowledge in their academic learning of a new language.
• To develop an awareness for the language that they are learning
• To learn the content and skills necessary to be successful in their future academic pursuits
• Choosing an appropriate strategy of learning that also can enhance both their study skills and academic knowledge
• To develop the ability to work in a group setting successfully.
• Using specific tasks that require hands-on instructions to learn
• To develop motivation for academic studies and the confidence to complete a successful academic program.
• Doing a self evaluation of their learning progress and making plans on how they can become more efficient.
• Be capable of independent learning

It needs to be noted that CALLA is used in about 30 district schools in the United States and also in other countries.

Teachers using CALLA must first prepare the students for learning using this strategy and to do so they must find out more about their background and take a look at how students previously approached an academic task.

The teachers will then incorporate the right learning strategies for a specific task. Students will then practice the strategies on those tasks. The teachers will then evaluate how well they worked, encourage more practice and add the use of other strategies to nonverbal tasks.

BICS - Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

BICS - Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills hereinafter referred to as BICS

BICS is conversational ease attained by language learners who are just beginning to learn a new language and this is less challenging than Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. It is actually what some would refer to as “surviving the language.”

This basic form of language calls for communicating with others on a face to face level using gestures and it relies on the particular situation. It is easy and quick to learn this kind of language, but not adequate enough to be used in a classroom for academic studies because it does not require cognitive skills

This type of language skill is best used in social settings where there is a lot more interaction with people. This is similar to the kind of language communication that preschoolers and toddlers first learn.

Taking it for granted

Jim Cummins is to be credited for the research of BICS as it relates to language acquisition. It can take up to three years for students to adjust to BICS in a second language.

Therefore, Cummins suggested that students who master the aspect of BICS should not be put in a classroom setting that demands more cognitive skills and assume that they will do just as well.

Conversational fluency in a second language does not necessarily mean that students will perform well academically in the same language. This is why CALP is combined with BICS that completes the full learning phase to operate confidently in a second language.

With BICS, there are parts of the communication process that include routine gestures and exchanges even while eating, playing and dressing. These are automatic modes of communication that represents the familiar aspects of social conversation.

Children that can master the art of BICS will be able to identify word and phrase combinations that are new to them and still be able to use them to produce short sentences or single words.

Second language learners use BICS skills to interact with their peers on the playground, on the school bus, in class, at home, on the telephone, at parties and while playing sports.

Children that immigrate to the United States, for example, can learn English through the BICS process a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years. The younger they are when they arrive in the United States, the quicker they will be to adapt to their new language and social surroundings.


The mistake that teachers and administrators make is to think that once the child masters BICS and socially interacts with other students, they will be just as strong academically.

Language Learning - Total Physical Response Learning

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

To assist with learning a second language, Dr. James Asher invented the Total Physical Response method. The concept assumes that learning a second language is an internal process which requires a long listening and comprehension period.

Looking at the example of how children learn their first language by naturally communicating with their parents, it is safe to say that they respond physically to the parent while they internalize and absorb the language until they are fully able to speak.

When the child gets through this process of internalizing and breaking the language barrier code, then language becomes unprompted and natural. This method of learning is what the Total Physical Response (TPR) method incorporates when it comes to teaching adults a second language. The method institutes different classroom tactics that add to the rate at which students adapt to this second language faster.
In the classroom, the teacher becomes the parent and the student becomes the child in the example of how children learn their first language from their biological parents.

The student is required to respond physically to the words of the teacher. The student’s participation is paramount in the success of learning a second language. The teacher may use simple teaching methods such as “Simon Says,” or story telling where the student acts out the story.

The advantages

Learning a second language can be a boring process depending on the method used. With TPR, participants have to move around and interact with teacher and classmates and it makes it less boring and learning becomes more enjoyable.

The use of imperative moods, which is a mood that communicates a direct command or demand, is expressly used in TPR as a means to get students to come out of their comfort zone. An example of this would be to have the student respond to commands such as “Sit Down, and “Get Up.”

Students will use this as a stepping stone to adapting to their new language in a more active way and the commanded actions help them to retain the knowledge of these phrases and words if asked to do it again.


It is evident that TPR is not the traditionally way to learn any language, but this unique method makes learning a second language simpler, fun and adaptive because of its intense participation. It is already been proven to work for babies that learn their first language.

Linguistics - Generative Grammar

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Generative grammar is the method of how to effectively study syntax. In any language, this sets the rules of how grammatical sentences are formed using predictable combined words.

The mind has a controlling Language Acquisition device that knows how to engage the rules of generative grammar unconsciously.

Noam Chomsky, in the late 1950s initiated this method of learning any language. According to Chomsky, his theory, Minimalist Program, an offset to other previous versions, suggest that there is an instinctive universal grammar in all of us.

In addition, generative grammar may be more than just a communication aspect of language acquisition, but more of learning from the environment around us. This is what sets it apart from cognitive grammar.

The previous versions of generative grammar, which includes transformational grammar, distinguishes sentences as either being grammatically correct or not. The rules of engagement for a generative sentence concludes that it is either right or it’s not. It does not give place to much error.

The hierarchy of words

Chomsky constructs a hierarchy that explains the difference between what we consider regular grammar and formal grammar. According to him, regular grammar is not a model to the representation of human language because all language should allow for the embedding of a string of words within a string.

An example of this would be the phrase, “The man ate.” We do not know what the man ate, so this is a regular form of grammar. To expand the string from a regular grammar to formal grammar, you would complete the sentence to make it more descriptive by adding, “The man ate his dinner.”

For someone who intuitively knows their own language, generative grammar enables them to understand the scope of the sentence knowing that the man ate something and expressly knowing that it is some type of “food” would be the word or phrase that comes after the sentence, “The man ate.”

At the conception of generative grammar, it created a set of rules that helps an individual who know their natural language to express grammatical words correctly. Chomsky seemed to reject that claim by saying that language acquisition is not a suggestion of the process involved to making it real, but rather an intuitive mindset.


The rules of generative grammar continue to change as different types of methods emerge, but one thing remains the same, which is the mind’s ability to generate its own rules of learning a language.

Second Language Learning Methods - Communicative Approach

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

The communicative approach to learning a new language makes the teacher the facilitator. The interaction between student and teacher is paramount as well as collaborative learning.

This type of learning uses techniques that help to convey the ideas, thoughts, feelings and information to reach others.

Using content based approach (CBI), it takes the focus off of the language and its structure, but rather on the acquisition of skills or a specific knowledge. An example of this would be teaching someone to repair a computer using French as the language of choice. The student will learn to communicate in French as well as the learn how to repair the computer.

This approach has both the teacher and the student engaging in the process of selecting and organizing the content of the curriculum.

The most critical aspect of this approach is the negotiation for meaning. The Task-based approach is carrying out certain task using the target language. An example would be to have students shop for a specific item. The teacher would first instruct them in the target language how to do this and then have them essentially do it.

Notions and Functions

The idea of communicative learning is broken up in notions and functions called Notional Functional Syllabus. A notion is a specific framework of communication and function is a particular purpose for a speaker in a precise context.

As an example, the notion of shopping would require a variety of language functions that relate to asking the price or an item, being able to bargain for the product and identifying the features of the product.

Students use the target language in different context and the main focus is to help the student find meaning rather than the development of grammatically structures or the acquisition of proper pronunciation.

To be competent and proficient as a communicative speaker of a foreign language, it requires the learner to apply the knowledge of formal and sociolinguistic features of the language.

By linking the classroom learning to outside of the classroom using student’s personal experiences helps the student to take a broader approach to learning. This is why the classroom is used as a means of more interaction through working in groups and pairs as opposed to individual participation.


The communicative approach is only deemed successful if the teacher understands the student. The goal is to have students speak the language fluently enough for native speakers to understand what they are saying.

Second Language Learning Methods - Direct Method (Berlitz)

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The Direct Method of learning a language involves a non-communicative way that uses target/L2 language, which is a step by step and limited process that considers the correct translation to be of the most importance.

The method was developed by Maximilian Berlitz, who migrated from Germany to the United States in 1872. His initial intention was to teach different languages using the traditional grammar approach. However, hiring a French assistant changed his perspective entirely.

The Berlitz Story

Berlitz hired an instructor to teach to his students, but when he hired the assistant, he found out that the Frenchman did not speak any English. However, when Beriltz had to go on sick leave, he left the Frenchman, Nicholas Joly, in charge of his classroom and asked him to do his best teaching language to the students.

Surprisingly, Berlitz came back to the classroom expecting a disaster and found out that his students were actively interacting with Joly and had progressed even further than they would have done learning the material using a nontraditional method.

The teacher communicated with the student through miming and gesturing. Grammar is not the essential goal because students were later able to discover grammatical rules on their own.

It was at this point that Berlitz realized that the innovative technique used by Joly was more successful and stimulating. The process used the target language of native speakers.

There are different levels of learning Berlitz’s direct method, which includes certain initial assessments to see where the student fits in:

  1. The Functional level: limits communication in its simplest form both orally and by listening.
  2. Intermediate level: conversing in English and understanding familiar topics of discussion.
  3. Advanced Intermediate level: competent communication and comfort with speaking the English Language in a professional and personal setting.
  4. Advanced level: speak English proficiently
  5. Native Speaker: Speak English naturally or at a professional level

The underlying principle of using the target language will enable the student to use inductive or deductive reasoning for identifying grammatical rules without having to provide an explanation of the rules that are used. The Berlitz method combines both the direct and the audio-lingual approach combining listening and speaking and later reading and writing.


The academic and intellectual world may see this method as being quite unusual and nontraditional. However, the direct method is considered by many to be more adaptive and popular with students who wanted to learn a foreign language without having to be too concerned about grammatical translation.

Language Learning Methods - Audio-Lingual Method (Skinner and others)

Monday, June 15th, 2009

The Audio-Lingual method of learning a second language is considered a non-communicative approach involving mimicking, imitating, and drilling.

Repetition and habit formulation are central to the elements of the instructions. It would create patterns in the target that would be recognizable to the student by the constant repeating process of both hearing and speaking the language continually.

The emphasis is on speech instead of writing. This approach unfairly associates with B.F. Skinner’s theory that includes a communicative approach to second language acquisition instructions.

The Army Method

Known as the Army method, ALM forcefully became necessary due to World War II. During World War II and afterwards, the ability to listen and speak a foreign language became a necessity. The challenge became apparent when the United States was unable to communicate with the rest of the world.

The audio-lingual method incorporated the direct method into its scope of learning a new language. Memorizing dialogues, playing games with grammar from the target language as well as practical drills helped to induce learning more efficiently.

The backward build up exercise is used to break down a new word into syllables. The student starts with the final word in any sentence and verbally repeats every word in the sentence by working backwards. Conversely, it can be done with each syllable of the word using the same backward technique to get the right pronunciation of each word.

The organization of grammatical structure is presented in the form of short dialogues. Listening to recorded conversations in the target language repeatedly and mimicking these dialogues help with quickly adapting to the language.

This particular method uses reinforcement tactics to teach a second language, which involves positive feedback if the grammar is correct and negative feedback if it is not.

Students are taught the foreign language directly instead of using their native language to explain new words and phrases in the second language.

Charles Fries, who was a director of the English Language department at the University of Michigan, thought that this method would work best by incorporating grammar and learning structures as the starting point. This meant that the students were given the drilling instructions, but it was their responsibility to recite the grammatical structures and pattern of each sentence orally.


The goal of using audio-lingual method successfully is to practice grammatical structures enough times to allow the student to use it instinctively. The teacher is in control of the drills because of the expectation of a particular response from the student. In the event that the student does not give the correct response, a negative feedback is received.