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Second and foreign language acquisition: Recent theories and teaching methodologies (A discussion)

This paper will cover two areas related foreign language learning. The first area to be explored is theories of second and foreign language acquisition. The second is foreign language teaching methodology. The two are interrelated, as theory can be applied to actual classroom practice. Another point that will be discussed is the relationship between theory and practice, i.e. whether the methodology of teaching corresponds to or differs from the recent theories in this field. In particular the paper will focus on a few key areas: the use of 1st language in 2nd language acquisition, the role of play (or multiple learning and teaching approaches) to 2nd language acquisition, and cultural-context of learners and language being learned as important to deep, active contextual learning, i.e. external as well as internal learning strategies. (Belz, 2002)
Recent theory focuses on the contexts in which students are best able to learn a second language most thoroughly, proficiently and deeply. As Kinginger and Belz (2005) write, new technologies, such as using computer interface to correspond with foreign language speakers when learning a second language, is seen as efficacious, similar in intent to the invitation of foreign language speakers as guests into classrooms.

[...] Yet, as Kim and Rissel note, most teachers surveyed have little experience thinking or teaching using these theories or the methodologies that stem from them. (Kim and Rissel: 76) As Kinginger and Belz contend, learning a language is not simply phonics or comprehension. Instead, “Language education is framed as a process of enhancing learners’ communicative resources as they are formed and reformed in the very activity in which they are used (Lantolf & Thorne, in press). Crucially, the learners in question are understood as people, whose motives have been and will continue to be shaped by their individual history of participation in related activities (Lantolf & Pavlenko 2001). [...]


[...] Among the questions they ask are whether high anxiety in the learning stage points to difficulties in individuals in being able to learn a foreign language. (Onwuegbuzie, Bailey, Daley, 87) The students identified, in general, with higher levels of anxiety in 2nd language acquisition tend to be “older, high academic achievers” who have never traveled to a foreign country before, had no previous 2nd language instruction experience, and had a low self concept with regard to ability to master the new language. [...]


[...] Lazaraton and Ishihara (2005) note that the field of teaching L2 teachers has focused on self-reflexive study: the ways in which the 2nd language teacher understands themselves, their method of teaching (in theory) and the kinds of data that they will draw on. Lazaraton and Ishihara believe that the next important step is to move towards “Close examination of classroom discourse recorded precisely as it happens not only allows detailed analyses of classroom practices, but can also validate or provide counterevidence to the self-reflection provided by the teacher.” (Lazaraton and Ishihara: 529) The idea of the teacher-researcher, fully conversant with recent theory, from social interaction to scaffolding possibilities, applying these methods and recording the outcome, seems a simple enough goal. [...]

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