Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chapter 8 Lecture

Chapter 8: Cross-Linguistic Influence and Learner Language

In this lecture, we are going to go over a few last things associated with SLA, which we have only mentioned briefly before. The first of those things is the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (pg. 207-208).

The CAH says that if you find the contrasts between two languages, you can predict the interference that will occur, the types of errors students will make, and problem areas they will face as they learn the language. This could potentially be, as we would put it, a “gold mine” for teachers. Things like accent could be predicted also, so pronunciation errors could be avoided or dealt with easier in the classroom, in that teachers would know what areas to focus on.

Within CAH was the idea that if there are more things in common between the L1 and L2, the L2 will be easier to learn. A hierarchy of difficulty could be used to predict the difficulty of an L1. The text gives one such hierarchy with 6 levels (pg. 209-210):

Transfer: something that’s brought over from the L1 to the L2.
Coalescence: learners may have to learn that multiple structures in one language may have only 1 equivalent in the target language.
Underdifferentiation: there is no match-something that’s in the L1 does not exist in the L2.
Reinterpretation: there is a comparison between something in the L1 and something in the L2, but there is a new way of using it or pronouncing it.
Overdifferentiation: something totally new.
Split: one thing in the L1 becomes more than one thing in the L2.

Remember, this is a hierarchy, so obviously level 0-transfer is not as difficult as level 5-split.

There are, of course, some complications with CAH. First, there are many little subtleties that were not taken into account. Second, it’s not “cut and dry” (clearly outlined) as to where each error fits; some can fit into multiple categories. Third, could they actually verify their hypothesis??? Last, it’s too subjective; it’s not scientifically provable.

There is a so-called “weak version” of CAH, which depends upon observation, and you deal with errors as you go along, not try to predict every error a student might make. Today, this is called CLI (cross-linguistic influence), which will be dealt with next in this lecture.

One thing we must realize is that learners of an L2 come to class with a set of linguistic experiences that must be taken into account. They are already experienced language learners with their L1. Their L1 will influence their learning of an L2. This is cross-linguistic influence.

When speaking of the difficulties that students encounter in language learning, on pg. 213-214, there are is a term you need to know: markedness. Markedness is as follows: if you have pairs or categories of linguistic items, like a and an, the textbook states, one will be marked and one unmarked. The marked one is more difficult than the unmarked one, because at least one feature of it is different and not included in the unmarked one. Unmarked items are easier to learn, because they are less complex.

Understanding universal grammar can also be helpful when trying to anticipate the student difficulties in language learning influenced by cross-linguistic influence, because the more we know about the universal linguistic rules that tie languages together, the easier it will be to plan our teaching in order to maximize success.

When it comes to learner language (pg. 215), interlanguage is the in-between; it is the middle between the L1 and the L2. Related to interlanguage is learner language, which is, as the textbook states, “the speech and writing of learners” (pg. 216). One way we can analyze learner language, is through error analysis, because,

“As Corder (1967: 167) noted: ‘A learner’s errors…are significant in [that] they provide to the researcher evidence of how language is learned or acquired, what strategies or procedures the learner is employing in the discovery of language’” (pg. 217).

Error analysis gives us an in-depth look at where learners are at on the road to fluency, and how we can help them get over the bumps they encounter on that road.

There is a difference between mistakes and errors. Mistakes are the “oops’s” of language learning. They will probably be self-corrected if you point them out to the student. Native speakers do this, too. The other day, I found myself saying is instead of are, and I realized my mistake and self-corrected it.

Errors show where the students are at in their language learning process. They show what students don’t yet know. These aren’t self-corrected.

Knowing whether or not a student has made a mistake or an error is subjective to a certain point, because you might hear a learner make one type of mistake/error and then use the correct form at another time. Have you ever encountered this?

In the classroom, there can be a tendency to focus too much on errors and not enough on praise. Make sure that you praise correctness, not just correct errors. What are some ways that you can praise correctness?
Sometimes students avoid using a certain linguistic structure. The tendency is to believe that a student has mastered that structure. Avoidance can equal understanding, but it can also equal hesitancy; they’re not quite sure about it, so they just don’t try. This is something of which we need to be aware.

When it comes to categorizing or describing errors, we could say that there are overt and covert errors. Overt errors are ungrammatical utterances. Covert errors may be grammatical utterances, but they don’t fit the context. Therefore, overt errors are not as major, because the meaning of the utterance is still understood. However, covert errors, though grammatical, may not be understood; therefore, they are more major. Please view Corder’s chart for dealing with errors, found on page 221. There are some helpful steps for dealing with errors in the classroom. After you have reviewed the chart, I would like to know: Corder doesn’t give any ideas after Out 3. Do you have any ideas that could fit there?

On page 222-223, there is a list of “categories for description of errors”. Let’s look at a few things on this list:

First, we have “errors of addition, omission, substitution, and ordering”. Addition errors would be adding something that shouldn’t be there. Omission errors would be leaving something out. Substitution would be using one term instead of another, causing misunderstanding. Ordering would be errors of incorrect word order.

Second, we have “levels of language”, like phonology, orthography, lexicon, grammar, and discourse. When it comes to error correction, you must look at which level the error occurs in order to decide when and how to correct the error. Which level do you think is the least important, and which level do you think is the most important?

Third, we have local and global errors. Local errors don’t affect the meaning of the output. The message is clear. Global errors are incomprehensible; the meaning of the output cannot be determined.

Last, we have two “dimensions” of errors-domain and extent. Domain refers to the place in which the error occurs-from the phoneme level up through the discourse/conversation level. Extent refers to what would have to be done to the error in order for it to be corrected-how complex the error may be.

There are also various sources of error. There is interlingual transfer. We’ve talked about this before. Can you give an example of this from your own learning or from your classroom experience?

There is also intralingual transfer, or overgeneralization, which was discussed in Group 1’s presentation.

The “context of learning” must also be taken into account. As the text states:

“Students often make errors because of a misleading explanation from the teacher, faulty presentation of a structure or word in a textbook, or even because of a pattern that was rotely memorized in a drill, but improperly contextualized” (pg. 226).

These types of errors can also occur incidentally from music, movies, and other forms of media. A connotation might be used in a movie that might be completely inappropriate in everyday conversation. Closely related, communication strategies may also provide sources of error (pg. 227).

Students progress through various stages of development when it comes to the errors they make. This, of course, parallels their language level. The first stage is the “random errors” stage (pg. 227). This is the “wild guess” stage. The second stage is the “emergent stage” (pg. 227-228). This is when learners are attempting to use the language and trying to fit things together, so something may sound logically correct in their minds, but may indeed be an error. The third stage is the “systematic stage” (pg. 228). This is the stage where the student is at a level where they can understand that they made an error and self-correct it with assistance. The fourth stage is the stabilization stage (pg. 228-229). This occurs when students are able to self-correct without assistance. However, fossilization may occur in this stage, so that is something to watch out for.

As we have mentioned before, there is great variability in learner language (see pg. 229-230). The text states:

“One of the most fruitful areas of learner language research has focused on the variation that arises from the disparity between classroom contexts and natural situations outside language classes. As researchers have examined instructed second language acquisition (Ellis 1990b, 1997; Doughty 1991; Buczowska & Weist 1991), it has become apparent not only that instruction makes a difference in learners’ success rates but also that the classroom context itself explains a great deal of variability in learners’ output” (pg. 230).

How does this fit within your context-a non-English speaking country? What happens to the “disparity between classroom contexts and natural situations outside language classes”?

Another consideration in error analysis is fossilization. Fossilization occurs when a learner consistently uses an incorrect form until that form becomes a more permanent part of his/her language output. Have you experienced this? Have any of your students experienced this? Part of the reason fossilization occurs is that the language learner receives positive feedback, both cognitively and affectively even after making an error, causing that error to become fossilized. Knowing that such positive feedback promotes fossilization, how can you try to prevent fossilization in your students?

When focusing on error correction, something to consider is the value of form-focused instruction. According to our textbook, form-focused instruction is: “‘any pedagogical effort which is used to draw the learners’ attention to language form either implicitly or explicitly’ (1997:73)” (pg. 233).

The best way to do FFI (form-focused instruction) is to focus on helping students learn the correct forms communicatively and to do error correction, but not overdo it. One suggestion is to avoid interrupting students to correct them, and instead correcting them after the task is finished. Another suggestion is to use explicit instruction with simple stuff and implicit instruction with more complex stuff. This makes sense, because we do not want students to become bogged down with rules. At the end of the day, it all depends on the students. FFI works with some students better than others.

Now we come to the treatment of errors (pg. 235). Here are a few suggestions as to the best way to go about dealing with errors:

Don’t do so much error correction that students just shut down. Don’t do too little, either, or fossilization may occur.

Don’t correct too many local errors. Definitely correct global errors, because those are errors that make the meaning difficult to comprehend.

With error correction, it all depends on the context-what are you focusing on in class? What type of activity is it? What are your lesson objectives and unit goals? Is it a local or a global error? Please see the “Basic Options” and “Possible Features” on page 238 as you consider how to address errors in your classroom. You know your students and what works and what doesn’t work with them. The way you handle error correction depends on the learners’ learning style, the type of error, the context in which the error was uttered, etc. In other words, error correction is not “black and white”.

Directions for Chapter 8 Lecture

Hello students! I am about to post your interactive lecture for Chapter 8. In the lecture, you will find several discussion questions. I would like you to pick 3 of those questions to answer, and post your answer at the end of the lecture. You may answer any 3 of the questions in the lecture. You may also comment on other students' posts. Please let me know if you have any questions or technical difficulties.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chapter 10 Lecture: The Beginning

In developing a theory of SLA, one must first define some key concepts. In Chapter 1 of our textbook (which I did not include in your Course Reader) the author defines the concepts of language, learning, and teaching:

“Language is systematic. Language is a set of arbitrary symbols. Those symbols are primarily vocal, but may also be visual. The symbols have conventionalized meanings to which they refer.
Language is used for communication. Language operates in a speech community or culture.
Language is essentially human, although possibly not limited to humans. Language is acquired by all people in much the same way; language and language learning both have universal characteristics” (Brown, pg. 5)

“Learning is acquisition or ‘getting’. Learning is retention of information or skill. Retention implies storage systems, memory, cognitive organization. Learning involves active, conscious focus on and acting upon events outside or inside the organism. Learning is relatively permanent but subject to forgetting. Learning involves some form of practice, perhaps reinforced practice. Learning is a change of behavior” (Brown, pg. 7)

“Teaching is guiding and facilitating learning, enabling the learner to learn, setting the conditions for learning” (Brown, pg. 7).

The author also advises on "a set of domains of consideration in a theory of SLA". These are useful, and they cover the main ideas of Chapters 1-9. It would be a good idea to review these.

In developing a theory of SLA, we start with hypotheses, claims, and generalizations. Then, we do research and study these claims to see what we find. There are two sets of claims found on pgs. 274-275 that are worth noting. The second set consists of "popular ideas" (pg. 275). What do you think of them?

The difficulty in developing a theory of SLA is that every learner is different. What works for one learner doesn't always work for another. So, how can we say 'this is the best path to SLA'? Long has suggested some criteria worth looking at as you think of developing your own theory of SLA. You can find these suggestions on pg. 277.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Online Discussion (due by Week 2)

Please post your online discussion from Chapter 2 of the reading before we meet for our first Friday class. You can post it here, as a response to this topic. Here is the question:

Which Approach makes the most sense to you as a viable Approach to First Language Acquisition: Behaviorist Approaches, Nativist Approaches, or Functional Approaches? Why?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Short Research Essay Instructions

Short Research Essay Instructions

After reading Chapter 10, choose one theory, claim, hypothesis, or model, and write about it. You must use at least one additional source of research other than the Course Reader. The goal of this essay is to find out more information about the theory, claim, hypothesis, or model you choose. Therefore, the information in your essay must go beyond the information given in the chapter.

You must write at least 2 full pages. Charts, diagrams, and quotations do not count toward your 2 full pages, double spaced. You must use 1-inch margins on all sides of your paper, and Times New Roman 12pt font. You must have only one space in-between your heading and the title, and one space between your title and the start of your first paragraph. Any other spacing will result in a lower mark. See below as an example for the beginning of your paper:

(Your header must be single-spaced. You can start double spacing after the title.)
Your name
The professor’s name
Name of the course


Start of the first paragraph.

Group Presentation Instructions

For your presentation, your group has been given a chapter from the Course Reader. You need to present the material from that chapter. Here are the instructions:

Group Presentation Instructions

Group 1:

Students: Lindita Latifi, Eljvira, Cvetanka, Ajsha, Fitore P.

Topic: Chapter 4: Human Learning

Group 2:

Students: Fitore I., Besarta, Aleksandar, Adriana, Sali

Topic: Chapter 5: Styles & Strategies

Group 3:

Students: Kujtesa, Besime, Biljana, Besa K.

Topic: Chapter 6: Personality Factors

Group 4:

Students: Lindita Limani, Safet, Milkica, Besa Q.

Topic: Chapter 7: Sociocultural Factors

Group 5:

Students: Majlinda, Natasha, Zajda, Njomza

Topic: Chapter 9: Communicative Competence

Instructions: Each presentation must be 20-30 minutes long. Each presentation must contain information from the textbook as well as research done by your group. You must cite your sources in the presentation. Failure to cite your sources will result in a grade of 0 for plagiarism. You may not simply bring a piece of paper and read from it. This needs to be an authentic presentation done for the class, so you may use notes, but you may not read your presentation. You must use some sort of visual aid. If you wish to use PowerPoint, you must tell me 2 weeks before your presentation so I can secure the projector for your use. Every group member must participate equally in the group presentation.

10% of your presentation grade will be for your work as a group.
20% of the presentation grade will be given for your work individually.


SEE University, Tetovo
Faculty of Languages, Cultures, and Communication
English Department

Course Title: Second Language Acquisition
Instructor: Sabrina Resa, MA
Office Hours: TBA
Office: Language Center, 1002.09

Course description:

Students will gain a basic understanding of theories of and research in methods in First Language Acquisition, factors related to Language Acquisition, Cross-Linguistic Influences, and Theories of Second Language Acquisition.

Attendance policy:

In accordance with the university’s attendance policy, students must attend 70% of the meetings in order to be able to pass the course. If a student misses more than 30 % of the classes, the student will automatically fail the course, regardless of performance on the assignments. The dismissal of excused absences (medical appointments, family emergencies, etc.) will be taken up on a case by case basis.


Each student must purchase a copy of:

Course Reader


Assessment in this course will be made up of attendance, participation (in-class), online discussions, readings checks, and a Final Project.
10 %
Participation (In-class & Online) This includes attitude, punctuality, and activity.
20 %
Short Research Essay
Final Exam
100 %

Grading Rubric:

Grade Scale
Grade Description
95% - 100%
86% - 94%
Very good
77% - 85%
68% - 76%
60% - 67%
59% - below

Incomplete (IN)

Incomplete (IN): An incomplete grade may be assigned if a student has not finished all course requirements by the end of the semester, but has completed a substantial amount of the work. It is the student’s responsibility to bring pertinent information to the teacher and to reach an agreement on how the remaining course requirements will be satisfied. If requirements are not completed within one year, a failing grade is automatically assigned.

Late Work: The professor will deduct 10% per day including weekends and holidays for late work. If a student will be absent, it is the student’s responsibility to speak with the professor to get the absence excused. Please see the attendance policy for further information about getting absences excused.

Miscellaneous Information:

1) You may bring beverages to class, but not food.

2) All grades are final-no exceptions!

3) Plagiarism and cheating will result in a zero for the assignment-no exceptions! Plagiarism and cheating are defined as follows:

Plagiarism & Cheating:

Plagiarism is defined as presenting someone else's work, including the work of other students, as one's own. Any ideas or materials taken from another source for either written or oral use must be fully acknowledged, unless the information is common knowledge. What is considered "common knowledge" may differ from course to course.
a. A student must not adopt or reproduce ideas, opinions, theories, formulas, graphics, or pictures of another person without acknowledgment.
b. A student must give credit to the originality of others and acknowledge an indebtedness whenever:
1. Directly quoting another person's actual words, whether oral or written;
2. Using another person's ideas, opinions, or theories;
3. Paraphrasing the words, ideas, opinions, or theories of others, whether oral or written;
4. Borrowing facts, statistics, or illustrative material; or
5. Offering materials assembled or collected by others in the form of projects or collections without acknowledgment.
(from: Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct, Part II, Student Responsibilities, Academic Misconduct, By action of the University Faculty Council (April 12, 2005) and the Trustees of Indiana University (June 24, 2005).)
Cheating is defined as obtaining or attempting to obtain, or aiding another to obtain credit for work, or any improvement of evaluation of performance, by any dishonest or deceptive means. Cheating includes, but is not limited to: lying; copying from another’s test, unless such discussion is specifically authorized by the instructor; taking or receiving copies of an exam without the permission of the instructor, using or displaying notes, "cheat sheets," or other information devices inappropriate to the prescribed test conditions; and allowing someone other than the officially enrolled student to represent same.
Course Outline
Week 1: April 24th
Topic: The syllabus will be available online.

1) Reading: Chapter 2-First Language Acquisition
2) Online Discussion: Go to our new blogsite: Answer the question: Which Approach makes the most sense to you as a viable Approach to First Language Acquisition: Behaviorist Approaches, Nativist Approaches, or Functional Approaches? Why?

Week 2: May 8th
Topic: First Language Acquisition

Homework: Reading: Chapter 3-Age & Acquisition

Week 3: May 22nd
Topic: Age & Acquisition

1) Reading: Chapter 10-Theories of Second Language Acquisition

Week 4: June 5th
1) Presentations: Groups 1-3
2) Theories of Second Language Acquisition

Week 5: June 19th
1) Presentations: Groups 4-5
2) Theories of Second Language Acquisition

1) Reading: Chapter 8-Cross-Linguistic Influence and Learner Language
2) Short Research Essay

Week 6: July 3rd (Online)
Topic: Cross-Linguistic Influence and Learner Language

Week 7: July 17th (Online)
Topic: Online Final Exam due on Sunday, July 19th before 5pm. No late exams will be accepted.