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Archive for October, 2009

Stephen Krashen’s Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Stephen Krashen is a linguist, educational researcher, and activist who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California. In the 1990s, as the state of California became increasingly hostile to bilingual education, Krashen was instrumental in advocating the merits of learning a second language. His Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis is the centerpiece of his academic work.

Krashen’s Acquisition-Learning hypothesis revolves around the concept of “comprehensible input,” a term which essentially means “messages that can be understood.” Comprehensible input is best received when the learner is hearing something that he or she wants or needs to know. Krashen differentiates language learning from language acquisition, emphasizing that while learning is a formalized process, such as that which occurs in a classroom, acquisition happens informally, when a person is relaxed. He identifies a “silent period” during language acquisition, a time during which the student listens but is not comfortable speaking.

The Acquisition-Learning hypothesis acknowledges that students learn faster as they are given more comprehensible input. Inversely, a lack of comprehensible input delays language acquisition. Total Immersion Language Teaching, for example, succeeds so well is because it provides lots of comprehensible input. When people are immersed in a culture in which they do not know the language, they have an intense need and desire to speak that language. Such students are not interested in grammar lessons from a book but, instead, want to hear “comprehensible input” about that culture that teaches them what they need to know to survive.

Krashen’s acquisition-learning theory has much in common with both the communicative approach to language study and Noam Chomsky’s theory of generative grammar. The idea of “comprehensible input” is simply another way of saying that students learn languages best when they are learning about things that interest them. This idea is the essence of the communicative approach. Krashen’s Natural Order Hypothesis says that we acquire the rules of grammar in a logical order. This is similar to generative grammar’s hypothesis that the basic foundations of human grammar are deeply embedded in the human brain.

Stephen Krashen has been criticized for not having sufficient empirical evidence to back up his theories. Gregg accused Krashen of using “ill-defined terms.” McLaughlin critiques Krashen’s theories as being weak and imprecise. However, Krashen has conducted extensive research to determine the validity of his theories, and his dedication to promoting bilingual education has had undeniable worth. His frequent media appearances have pushed bilingualism to the forefront of public awareness.

Krashen is regarded true linguistic theorist, with over 30 years of research and hundreds of published articles and multiple books. Stephen Krashen’s passionate work has left an indelible mark on the future of bilingual education in America.

Some of Dr. Stephen Krashen’s research is available for free at www.sdkrashen.com, benikomason.net, http://web.ntpu.edu.tw/~lwen/publications.html, www.IJFLT.com.

Language Learning - Noam Chomsky

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Noam Chomsky was born in Philadelphia on December 7, 1928 and has been a professor of language for many years. He was able to secure a doctorate degree in 1955 from the University of Pennsylvania. It was at that University that he majored in linguistics.

Chomsky was first introduced to the field of language by his Hebrew father who, too, was a scholar of linguistics.

He is also considered to be a political activists, cognitive scientist, philosopher and reputable author of many books. It was around the 1960’s that people began to describe him as a liberal socialist in the political arena.

He has been credited, however, for having a great impact on the linguistic world and the role that he played in putting emphasis on how people learn a new language.

His theory, which is well known as Chomsky’s Hierarchy, divides prescribed grammar into different classes with more power as they increase. His idea of generative grammar and universal grammar was also part of the divisiveness between Chomsky and other linguist.

His work has also influenced other areas of expertise such as immunology, evolutionary psychology, and research of artificial intelligence as well as language translation that is computerized.

Chomsky approached the study of language in a different light than his other counterparts. His universal grammar theory emphasized the primary principle that there is an inner set of linguistic rules that all humans share. This he called the beginning stages of learning a language.

It was Naom Chomsky that identified the fact that generative grammar of any language, when given certain specific rules, will appropriately calculate the words that will combine to form a sentence grammatically. Those same rules when approached correctly will emphasize the morphology of the sentence.

The earlier version of this theory of Chomsky’s generative grammar was transformational grammar. Of course, the generative grammar receives some criticisms from proponents of cognitive grammar and functional theories.

Conclusion

Chomsky felt that the mind had more to do with linguistics than others give it credit. He prefaces this by giving the example of a child when placed in a linguistic environment is able to have an instinctive capability to adapt to the words that are spoken.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Sources:

http://earthrenewal.org/secondlang.htm

http://purwarno-linguistics.blogspot.com/2006/01/grammar-translation-method_13.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammar_translation

http://articles.famouswhy.com/language_teaching___the_grammar_translation_method

Linguistics - Phonology

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Phonology has to do with organized sounds used in natural languages. It is a variety of sounds and the features of those sounds. Phonology constitutes specific rules of the interaction of sounds with each other.

Phonology relates to other aspects of language such as morphology and phonetics. It determines the kind of phonetic sound and their significance as well as the explanation and interpretation of sounds by the native linguist. It is similar to the way in which language constitutes syntax and vocabulary.

Phonology is a descriptive preface to the way that sounds function in any language. Sounds are combined in their specific unit of a language. An example of this in the English language is the sound that “p,” makes in the word, “pet,” includes the aspirated feature.

However, in the word, “group,” the “p,” becomes the final ending of the word and does not have an aspirated feature. In other words, even though, it is the same letter, “p,” the sounds when incorporated in each word is different.

It is easy to observe that different languages have different combination of sounds for any given word. Certain sounds are found in specific languages while absent in the next. In a specific language, sounds are different because of vowel interchanging that form those words.

The goal of phonology attempts to be accountable for the similar ways in which sound affects different languages. It also seeks to describe the rules of sound and its structure within a specific language.

Although, different languages have different combined sounds and a variety of ways to arrange and pattern these sounds, it goes without saying that there a few similar ways in which they span the human language on a whole.
Some of these similar ways that are universal to all languages are:
1.    Every consonant has a voiceless stop
2.    Every language has syllables
3.    Every inventory can be divided into vowels and consonants.

Conclusion

Correction pronunciation is important in any language and phonology makes sure that this becomes a rule. There are some linguists who incorporate phonetics within the scope of phonology to make it easier for the person learning a second language.

Linguistics - Universal Grammar

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

All humans are born with the ability and drive to learn language. Before we can even walk we start talking. From birth we are listening with intent, ready to learn our native tongue. Evolution has seen to it that we have an aptitude for language learning, but just how much of our abilities are we born with and how much to we acquire as we go along?

When we learn languages, we use the knowledge and skills acquired from the language we already know to understand this new language. That is, we take the rules of language, such as the use of verbs and adjective, sentence structure and syntax, and apply them to the new language. While these rules will always change and vary between languages there are some structures between languages that remain the same. This is known as universal grammar. Items than can be considered a part of universal grammar include tense, aspect and mood.

There are some rules that when applied to one language can be applied to practically any language. For instance, if a language has a name for the color red, it will have a word for the color purple. These rules do not always apply to every single language, which makes the theory of universal grammar difficult for linguists to prove. Universal Grammar forms part of the nature vs. nurture that has had scientists guessing for generations. Are we born destined to grow into a certain person with certain abilities, or do we acquire these characteristics along the way?

Within the field of linguistics there are two theories as to how we learn language as children. The theory of universal grammar was proposed by linguist Noam Chomsky. He believed that a set part of our brain was dedicated to language, and that this part of the brain had a set group of rules which we applied to language. It cannot be changed or altered, we do not learn it we are born with it. These structures appear in every language around the world. The alternative theory is that we are born with no pre-existing knowledge of language, rather it is something that we acquire.