The Critical Period Hypothesis|
Linguistic ConsiderationsIn the Classroom: The Audiolingual Method|
The increased pace of research on first language acquisition in the 60s and 70s attracted the attention not only of linguists of all kinds but also of educators in various language-related fields. Today the applications of research findings in first language acquisition are widespread. In language arts education, for example, it is not uncommon to find teacher trainess studying first language acquisition, particularly acquisition after age 5, in order to improve their understanding of the task of teaching language speaker to native speakers. In foreign language education most standard text and curricula now include some introductory material in first language acquisition. The reason for this are clear: We have all observed children acquiring their first language easily and well, yet the learning of second language, particularly in an education setting, often meets with great difficulty and sometimes failure. We should therefore able to learn something from a systematic study of that first language learning experience. The purpose of this chapter is to set forth explicity some of the paramters for comparing and contrasting the two types of language acquisition. The first step in that interpretation process might be to dispel some myths about the relationship between first and second language acquisition. H.H. Stern(1970:57-58) summarized some common arguments that cropped up from time to time to recommend a second language teaching method or procedure on the basis of first language acquisition: 1. In language teaching, we must practice and practice, again and again. Just watch a small child learning his mother tongue. He repeats things over and over again. During the language-learning stage he practices all the time. This is what we must also do when we learn a foreign language. 2. Language learning is mainly a matter of imitation. You must be a mimic. Just like a small child. He imitates everything. 3. First, we practice the seperate sounds, then words, the sentences. That is the natural order and is therefore right for learning a foreign language. 4. Watch a small child's speech development. First he listens, then he speaks. Understanding always precedes speaking. Therefore, this must be the right order of presenting the skills in a foreign language. 5. A small child listens and speaks and no one would dream of making him read or write.Reading and writing are advanced stages of language development. The natural orderfor first and second language learning is listening, speaking, reading, writing. 6. You did not have to translate when you were small. If you were able to learn your own language without translation, you should be able to learn a foreign language in the same way. 7. A small child simply uses language. He does not learn a formal grammar. You don't tell him about verbs and nouns. Yet he learns language prefectly. It is equally unnecessary to use grammatical conceptualization in teaching a foreign language.The statements tend to represent the views of those who were dominated by a behavioristic theory of language in which the first language acquisition process is viewed as consisting of rote practice, habit formation, shaping, overlearning, reinforcement, conditioning, association, stimulus and response, and who therefore assumed that the second language learning process involves the same constructs. There are flaws in each view. Sometimes the flaw is in the assumption behind the statement about first language learning and sometimes it is in the analogy or implication that is drawn; sometimes it is in both. Types of Comparison and ContrastAt the very least, one needs to approach...