Background issues in language learning.
All children acquire a language as they develop. They acquire it subconsciously as a result of the massive exposure to it which they get from the adults and other children about them. Their instinct acts upon the language they hear and transform it into knowledge of the language and an ability to speak it. It’s that simple. People don’t speak to two and three years old the way they speak to adults. Instead, they (parents especially) use exaggerated intonation with higher pitch than is customary. They choose special vocabulary which the children can understand, rather than more sophisticated lexical items which they would not. They tend to include the children in the conversation. In a sense, children are being taught rules of discourse even though neither they nor their parents are conscious of this. The more language they can understand, the better they can function.
Language acquisition is “…guaranteed for children up to the age of six, is steadily compromised from then until shortly after puberty, and is rare thereafter” (Pinker), It is because at the time of puberty, children start to develop an ability for abstraction which makes them better learners.
Acquisition and learning
Some people ‘pick up’ second languages without going to lessons. Other go to language classes and study the language they want to learn. Of the two situations, picking up a language is the closest to first language acquisition than studying a language in a classroom is.
The distinction between subconscious acquisition and conscious learning is still of concern. Krashen put forward what he called the input hypothesis. He claimed that language we acquire subconsciously is language we can easily use in spontaneous conversation because it is instantly available when we need it. It may be that the only use for learnt language is to help us to monitor our spontaneous communication. Krashen saw the successful acquisition by students of a second...
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