Languages Are Learned Mainly Through Imitation

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CHAPTER 7
POPULAR IDEAS ABOUT LANGUAGE LEARNING: FACTS AND OPINIONS

1. Language are learned mainly through imitation.
     Leaners produce many novel sentences that they could not have heard before. Children do not imitate everything they hear, but often selectively imitate certain words or structures that they are in the process of learning. Second language learners produce many sentences that they could not have heard. They are like children learning their first language.       

2. Parents usually correct young children when they make grammatical errors.      There is considerable variation in extent to which parents correct their children’s speech. When children are very young preschoolers, parents rarely comment on grammatical errors, but they correct in politeness. As children reach school age, parents often correct the kinds of non-standard speech that they hope their children will outgrow. Parents tend to focus on meaning rather than form when they correct children’s speech. They do not to react errors which do not interfere with successful communication. Without corrective feedback and guidance, second language learners may persist in using certain grammatical forms for years.

3. People with high IQs are good language learners.
There is a link between intelligence and second language learning. IQ tests score are a  good means of predicting learning success. People with high intelligence can be successful language learners (in grammar rules, vocabulary items). People with wide variety of intellectual abilities can be successful language learners (in oral communication skills).

4. The most important factor in second language acquisition success is motivation.      Learners who want to learn tend to do better than those who don’t.Learner who begin learning a second language as adult rarely achieve the fluency and accuracy that children do in first language learning.

5. The earlier a second language is introduced in school programs, the greater the likelihood of success in learning. When the objective is native-like performance in the second language, it may be desirable to begin exposure to the language as early as possible. When the goal of the educational program is basic communication skill for all students, and where there is strong commitment to maintaining and developing the child’s first language, it can be more efficient to begin second language teaching later.     

6. Most of the mistakes which second language learners make are due to inference from their first language. The transfer of patterns from the native language is undoubtedly one of the major sources of errors in learner language. Research has shown that second language learners from different first-language backgrounds often make the same kind s of errors. These are evidence of the learners’ effort to discover the structure of the target language itself rather than attempts to transfer patterns from their first language.

7. Teachers should present grammatical rules one at a time, and learners should practice examples of each one before going on to another. Language learning is not simply linear its development. For example, when learners who have learned the past tense form ‘went’ as a memorized ‘chunk’ learn to use the regular –ed inflection for past tense marking. They stop using ‘went’ and produce ‘goed’. This is evidence that language development is not just adding rule after rule, but integrating new rules into existing system of rules;

8. Teachers should teach simple language structures before complex ones. Research has shown that no matter how language is presented to learners, certain structures are acquired before others. Second language learners benefit from the efforts of native speakers and fluent bilinguals to modify their speech to help second language learners understand. Teachers must be aware that some linguistic forms are so rare in their everyday speech that learners have very little opportunity to hear, use,...
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