Essay about How Do People Learn (Language)?

814 Words Sep 22nd, 2010 4 Pages
How do people learn (language)?

How we teach language should be based on how people learn language. Do we learn language the way we learn everything? Or is there some special way our brains learn language? Today we will talk about some of the hypotheses which have been suggested for how people learn (in general) and learn language (in particular). This child has learned sign-language from his parents – but how?
NATURE
vs.
NURTURE

People who argue for language learning by NATURE believe that humans are born with a built-in ability to learn language – that it is part of the structure of our brains. People who support NURTURE side of the argument believe that we learn language the same way we learn everything else, e.g.
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In the early 1960’s this theory of language learning became popular among people interested in language teaching. The result was the Audio-Lingual Method (ALM) which stressed repetition and pattern practice: • He has a dog. • cat • He has a cat. • She • She has a cat. • pencil • She has a pencil.
TYPICAL CLASSROOM FEEDBACK
Today most educators reject this strict form of Behaviorist learning theory (and ALM is rarely used). Nevertheless, we can see examples of this way of thinking in almost every language classroom around the world. Let’s look at a typical bit of “teacher-learner” interaction: • 01 T: What time is it? • 02 S: Half past ten. • 03→ T: Very good, Yumi-chan! ((“yoku dekimashita” “sonotori”))
In the real world this bit of talk would probably go more like this: • 01 T: What time is it? • 02 S: Half past ten. • 03→ T: Oh, my God! I’m late for class! (or just “Thanks.”)
Providing more natural feedback
Learners, like everyone else, like to feel that people are listening to what they say – not how they say it. This is the purpose of feedback. But some kinds of feedback are better than others. Compare the following two conversational fragments:
T: What did you do yesterday?
S:

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