second language acquisition theory

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					Second Language Acquisition Theory
   When a student is acquiring a second language (L2) he is both benefited and hindered by his
native language (L1). In his native language there are certain norms in pronunciation and syntax
that may differ from those of the second language and interfere with his or her use of the new
language. On the other hand, native language literacy and cognitive development in the native
language will help a student to learn a new language by a transferring of concepts from one
language and applying them to the new one.
   In addition to being affected by L1 factors, second language acquisition (L2) is also affected
by the amount of exposure to and availability of language models. The affective filter (emotional
conditions that affect learning - i.e. fear, anxiety, poor self image, lack of motivation) of the
learner is especially important, particularly as this affects the child's tolerance for his/her own
errors, and the degree to which the child develops self-confidence to engage in L2.

   These issues need to be considered within the context of various language situations,
particularly when drawing conclusions regarding the the child's language proficiency in either
language. Specifically, there are five stages of second language acquisition, ranging between
basic interpersonal communicative skills and cognitive academic language proficiency. The
dynamics of each situation also differ significantly, as described below:

Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS):

    This refers to daily conversational face to face interactions where meaning is supported by
contextual cues - or meaningful social context. Paralinguistic cues (i.e. physical gestures, facial
expressions and intonation etc.) are also used in conversational situations. Within this setting,
language is context embedded. The student develops a basic vocabulary of tangible objects used
in every day life. He or she can speak English on a conversational level, but has not yet
developed the cognitive skills necessary to succeed in the classroom and finds it difficult to
understand academic terms. It takes between six months and two years to aquaria this level of
language proficiency.

Stage I, Pre-Production (Silent/Receptive Stage)
The student is developing survival vocabulary, following demonstrated directions, playing
simple games, and becoming comfortable with classroom activities, the teacher and his or her
classmates. He or she begins to understand what is being spoken to them, acquire a passive
vocabulary (words that students recognizes, but cannot use yet), and respond to things non
verbally. When communicating with a student at this stage a person could use gestures and body
language, visuals, pictures or other realia. Do not expect or force a student to speak until he or
she is ready, but focus on listening skills and try to interact with them in a way to illicit non-
verbal responses.

Stage II, Early Production
The student understands the main idea of what is communicated, but may not understand every
word. He or she will begin to respond in small word groupings and answer yes / no and
cognitively undemanding questions that require the repetition of no more than one word (i.e.
would you like the red crayon or the blue crayon? "blue"). Mispronounced words are to be
expected and there is no need for correction provided the listener can understand what is being
said. New vocabulary needs to be introduced at this time while continuing to practice previously
learned vocabulary. The student must hear the word in context before he or she will feel
comfortable using it themselves.

Stage III - Speech Emergence
 During this stage there is a shift of emphasis from reception to production. The student begins
using simple sentences, improving pronunciation and intonation, and demonstrating and
expanding vocabulary. He or she engages in relatively familiar language and tasks (developing
initial reading skills, decoding and literal comprehension, writing for personal purposes - reading
and writing for operational purposes - writing answers to lower level questions). Those around
the learner should encourage any attempt to speak in the second language (L2), and be careful
not to discourage or make fun of attempts made. Again, if the speaker is understandable there is
no need to correct them on pronunciation.

Communicative language functions generally include: 1. greetings/leave-takings, 2. requesting
information/assistance, 3. giving information/assistance, 4. describing, and 5. expressing

Cognitive-Academic Language Proficiency Skills (CALPS):

Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALPS) is the language of academic subjects that
involves more abstract (as opposed to concrete) vocabulary and concepts. It takes five to seven
years to acquire. At this level of language proficiency the student demonstrates the ability to
draw complex meanings in oral and/or written language, without paralinguistic cues, and the
information is context reduced.

Stage IV - Intermediate Fluency
 At this level the student is developing academic vocabulary, and little information other than
teacher and textbook is provided. He or she is beginning to think in the new language instead of
translating from the native language. They begin to use longer sentences and more elaborate
speech patterns though they may continue to make errors in the use of new vocabulary and
complex grammatical structures. At this stage the student understands academic presentations
accompanied by visuals and demonstrations, participates in hands-on science activities, makes
models, maps charts, graphs, solves computational and word math problems assisted by
manipulatives and illustrations, participates in academic discussions, can make brief oral
presentations, can use higher order comprehension skills, understands written texts through
discussions, illustrations and visuals, writes simple science reports and answers higher level

Stage V - Advanced Fluency
At this stage the student understands most (but not all) academic presentations without visuals or
demonstrations, makes formal oral presentations, uses higher level reading comprehension skills
including inferential and critical reading, reads for information, writes compositions, essays and
research projects, solves math word problems without illustrations, and writes answers to higher
level questions - can take standardized achievement tests successfully. This is the time to
provide some grammar instruction and to present new information and language, including
extensive vocabulary development.

Academic language functions are 1. seeking information/informing, 2. Comparing, 3. ordering,
4. classifying, 5. analyzing, 6. inferring, 7. justifying and persuading, 8. solving problems,
9. synthesizing and 10. evaluating.

Transfer of Skills
As was already mentioned first language literacy and learning can be a benefit to L2 acquisition.
In theory, language devices and concepts learned in a first language makes learning the second
language easier because students do not have to re-learn in the new language what they already
know in their native language. Similarities in language structure and grammar can be applied
across different languages. Furthermore, understanding a concept in the first language requires
only a re-labeling of terms in the second language and not a re-learning of the concept. Concepts
and skills are usually developed in the first language before they are transferred to the second.
This is why it is important for students to continue to get experience and input in their first
language at home. Below is a diagram explaining this Linguistic Interdependence Theory
developed by Jim Cummings - It is also called the "Iceberg Theory".

                       Jim Cummins - Linguistic Interdependence Model