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Second Language Acquisition

There are many different methods that have been used for FL acquisition throughout history. Each method of FLT has its supporters and its critics, mainly because each method is derived from different perspectives of FLL. However, some methods have received wide recognition due to the historical roles they have played in the views emcompassed in this subject.


The Literary Method

During most of Western history FLs have been taught in accordance with classical literature. This stems from the emphasis that has been put on literacy and the aristocracy. The Renaissance was involved in the return to the classics, particularly in Latin, but importance was placed on written mastery as opposed to speech. Therefore, learners were essentially taught to imitate the classics instead of putting L2s to use in everyday situations.


The Grammar Translation Method

This method was sought to reform the older literary method, and became popular in the 1800s. It was mostly comprised of translating sentences back and forth between the L1 and the prospective L2. Grammar translation required learners to master the grammar and to memorize extensive vocabulary lists, and had little to do with the principles of speaking or listening.


The Direct Method

The direct method is based on the idea that people can learn a L2 easier if it were taught without any use of the L1. This way is supposed to simulate the way in which a child learns a L1 because, when a child acquires a L1, he or she has no prior language to refer back to. In this method, the learner was to communicate in th FL in realistic conditions. One criticism of this method is that it is not easy to achieve in the classroom, which is obviously not a realistic situation. However, it does continue continue to draw a lot of support.


The Audio-Lingual Method

The audio-lingual method was developed in the 1950s, based on behaviorist psychology with the idea that language is habit forming process. The focus is mainly on oral discussion and very little on grammar rules. The idea was that phrases would be repeated orally until a kind of pattern is established, and then systematic changes would be implemented to broaden the learners' skills. This method provides very little room for creativity in comparison to what most language learners would hope to get out of FLL.


The Communicative Approach

This method is based on the idea that the goal of learning a L2 is to gain communicative competency. It is thought that learners need to have knowledge of the rules of use in order to generate language appropriately for certain situations, and to have strategies to communicate effectively. The communicative approach focuses on the use of language in everyday situations, or the functional aspects of language, and less on the formal structures. However, critics believe that there needs to be some sort of "bridge" between the two in order for effective language learning.


Language Immersion

The goal of language immersion is to provide learners with an environment in which they have to learn the L2 in order to do well. An example of this kind of instruction was introduced in Quebec in the 1960s. The parents in the English-speaking minority wanted their children to speak French competently. The first stage of this instruction, "primary" immersion, begins in kindergarten and the students are taught entirely in French, and then gradually add in English until the children are taught in a balance of 60% English and 40% French. "Secondary" immersion begins in secondary school. The first year of this second stage is taught all in French, and is then followed with the same 60-40 balance that was achieved in "primary" immersion. The children seem to acquire a relatively high level of competence; however, it is unknown how effectively the children use French outside of the classroom.

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This site is maintained by Christina Conrad
Email: cconrad78@netscape.net

Last updated: 28 May 01