This presentation is to introduce you to second language acquisition and two of its primary researchers Steven Krashen and Jim Cummins.
Second Language Acquisition is the process by which an individual learns a second language. Researchers have come to find that the order which second language learners develop certain features remains consistent despite the learner’s native language and whether or not they had formal language instruction.
Language acquisition is broken into two primary categories, first language acquisition and second language acquisition. First language acquisition is universal in which babies hear sounds, imitate them and eventually those sounds become words.
Second language acquisition is based off of the assumption that a student has a first language and begins to teach vocabulary, grammar, and writing based off of the student’s first language.
There are 6 stages of language acquisition here is a brief overview of those stages according to Color in Colorado and Concordia University (5 Stages of Language Acquistion, 2018) (Language acquisition , 2009).
Pre-production For about a month and a half you can expect new students to remain very silent as they are taking in the new language.
Early productionThis is the stage when students begins to try to use a new language, often littered with errors students will being using words and short sentences.
Speech EmergentYou can expect increased vocabulary and less errors in speech but students still need context clues for longer sentences and often stick to familiar subject matter.
Beginning FluencyAs the name suggests speech becomes more fluent socially, students now struggle with gaps on vocabulary and begin to try to use academic language.
Intermediate FluencyAt this stage students are relatively fluent. They are very comfortable speaking socially and even academically but there are still gaps in vocabulary and vernacular expressions.
Advanced FluencyThe final is advanced fluency; the student may still have an accent and use some expressions improperly but is essentially fluent in the second language.
For more in-depth definitions of each stage and instructional strategies visit http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/language-acquisition-overview _____________________________________________
Stephen Krashen is a leading researcher in Secondary Language Acquisition. Krashen’s model for second language acquisition consists of 5 parts that we will delve into bit further in a moment Learning vs Acquisition, Natural Order Hypothesis, Monitor Device, Comprehensible Input, and Affective Filter.
Krashen’s model consists of five parts in how learners acquire a second language.
Learning vs acquisition
Krashen makes the distinction that there is a difference between learning a language and acquiring a language. Learning a language is when somebody is specifically taking steps to learn a new language, like memorizing vocabulary and grammar. Krashen contends that when one acquires a language it is subconscious and you begin to pick up the language unintentionally.
The Natural Order Hypothesis is the concept that when one acquires a second language, there is a natural order to how one learns a language. Even if one learns more advanced vocabulary or grammar rules if they are not internalized in the specific order of acquisition, then they won’t be available to recite in real world scenarios.
The Monitor Device is a self-editing device that language learners use to correct themselves based on the rules they have learned about their second language. But, In order for the monitor device to be effective students must know the rule, understand the rule and have the time to utilize it appropriately in conversation.
Krashen suggests that the concept of Comprehensible Input, which he denotes with the term i + 1, is that a student doesn’t truly understand a language until they comprehend comprehensible input. That is, that learners understand what is being said to them not just in singular words or short phrasing. One can receive comprehensible input without understanding any of the vocabulary being used by different methods of comprehension in a conversation. The i+1 indication has to do with the learner’s independent level of understanding (i) plus just a little bit more, this +1 is what helps learners continue to grow in their language acquisition.
Affective Filter is essentially the mental state of the learner. Depending on anxiety and comfort levels an affective filter can rise which will prevent a learner from communicating or go down which is a healthy environment to learn and grow.
As a teacher it is important to understand Krashen’s model so that proper
Jim Cummins separates language acquisition into two categories, BICS and Calp.
BICS stands for Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills; these are the conversational skills that a language learner would pick up more quickly from social situations.
CALP is short for Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. As it says in the name, this is more about academic acquisition and takes significantly longer for students to become fluent academically.
Cummins suggests that language learners can become ‘fluent’ in BICS in 1-2 years CALP takes 5-9 years for a language learner to become fluent.
Cummins breaks down language acquisition even further into four categories displayed here as cognitively demanding, cognitively reduced, context embedded, and context reduced.
Cognitively Undemanding would be social interactions like face to face conversation or talking on the telephone.
Cognitively demanding would be language use inside of a classroom, it takes more cognitively use to comprehend the language needed.
Context Reduced means all that the learner has in the language itself with no outside clues or influences to help decode the information being presented.
Context Embedded refers to having other outside stimuli of some sort that helps a learner decode the language.
It’s important to keep this chart in mind when setting expectations and projects for a class. In the beginning of the year realize when a task may be too demanding cognitively and set up supports to help the learner succeed. As the school year goes on begin to remove some of the scaffolding slowly and steadily to help students genitive understanding rise with the reduced context.
The final point I’m going to talk about concerning Cummins research in language acquisition is CUP and SUP.
The diagram of the iceberg on the left represents SUP or Separate underlying proficiency. Above the waterline is the observable language, language that we see. In the SUP model the two peaks underneath the water line represent the student’s native language and the second learned language. The idea is that the information in these two peaks are not connected and suggests that there are no ties between a student’s native language and their second learned language. This theory has been proven false, but it remains a popular misconception in language development, thinking that the first language somehow interferes with learning a second.
The iceberg on the right represents CUP or Common underlying proficiency. In Cummins research he has found that a students first language and their second language acquisition are in fact connected under the surface. As educators this is key to understand because it means that teachers have access to information learned by a student in their native language even if their current language tendencies in their second language are not showing those proficiencies yet.
As teachers it is important to support and encourage our students to continue to read and learn in the native language. As their comprehension of more complex subjects matures in their native language then their comprehension of those terms and ideas in a second language will mature.
5 Stages of Language Acquistion. (2018). Retrieved from Room 241 : https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/five-stages-of-second-language-acquisition/
Language acquisition . (2009). Retrieved from Color In Colorado: http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/language-acquisition-overview