1. Cognitive Behaviourism
Source: The Bilingual Family: A Handbook For Parents by Edith Harding & Philip Riley, 1999, CUP.
Over half of the world’s population is bilingual. This fact is usually surprising to many Europeans, who are under the impression that living with two or more languages is exceptional. (p. 27)
What matters and what doesn’t in second language acquisition?
Singleton’s survey (1983, Age as a Factor in Second Language Acquisition. CSLC, Trinity College, Dublin) of all the reserach and evidence shows clearly that age, in itself, is not particularly relevant to success in language learning, whereas motivation and opportunity are. (p. 63)
What is the same and what is different about young and adult foreign language learners?
Children put vast amounts of TIME and EFFORT into mastering a language: where adults do likewise, they seem to learn just as well, pronunciation excepted. In fact, adults do BETTER in terms of RATE of acquisition, and not so well in terms of eventual outcome: younger people do seem to acquire native-like accents, whereas older people seldom* lose their foreign accents. (p. 63)
*Seldom* does not mean *never*! I have read about about studies of adult SL learners with native-like accents in “The Study of Second Language Acquisition” (2008, 2nd edition, OUP) by Rod Ellis.
According to the US department of Education, there were ca. 5,400,000 ESL students in the USA alone in 2006 and the number is increasing.
ESL or LEP students are US fastest-growing population and are expected to make up one out of every four students by 2025.
What’s the magic formula I wonder? You are given a mixed-ability class of ca 20 students, whose average level is pre-intermediate, and an upper-intermediate level multi-page coursebook to cover in ca. 50 90-minute lectures. How on earth is it possible to cover everything and to ensure that all the students have achieved the desired level of proficiency by the end of the course? How to focus on fluency if there is literally no time? How to work miracles if the only equipment available is a chalkboard and there is no CD-player? I should be grateful that it is possible to do some photocopying, though; nevertheless, the prospects are really bleak. To make matters worse, about half the students are technophobes or have no access to computers/the Internet or do not have good dictionaries. Whatever they say, teachers can do very little without proper teaching aids in large mixed-ability classes, ie GIGO – it is unwise to expect great results if the initial input you can provide is meagre.