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Theory Of Second Language Acquisition English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 2451 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Second Language Acquisition (SLA) is a critical issue to both teachers and learners of a second language equally. Thus, teaching and learning a second language has always been of a highly important matter for linguistics who always seek language learning solutions to facilitate instructors’ job and answer educational enquires .Fillmore and Snow, 2002 and Hamayan, 1990 stated that teachers can play a positive role in improving second language acquisition if they understood how to improve the learners’ ability of majority. This paper will be devoted to Stephen Krashen’s second language learning acquisition theory. It will go through the stages of the theory and some applicable strategies for L2 teachers and learns.

Key words: mother tongue, second language acquisition, learning, L2, theory


Linguist Stephen Krashen (1981,1982) , University of Southern California, USA has developed the most famous second language acquisition theory (SLA) which is also known as the Krashen’s Monitor Model. Krahsen has developed his theory of second language acquirers who are assumed to have two autonomous systems for improving their ability in acquiring a second language and aware of the language learning. So, these systems are interconnected in an explicit way where unconscious acquisition seems to be more vital as it takes place naturally. The theory rotates around hypotheses that young learners subconsciously pick up the target language similarly to acquiring their mother tongue in informal situations. In fact, this is totally different from formal learning where it is thought to be dominated by error alteration and the appearance of the grammatical rules (Krashen and Seliger,1975). In this paper, light will be shed on SLA theory, it’s components and how important for the L2 teachers to be familiarizes with it.

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Acquisition and learning

Both the mother tongue and the second language acquisition share different aspects. They both require a meaningful interaction, authentic communication in which speakers are paying the most attention for conveying and understand the message rather than the form of their utterances. Error alteration is more likely not so important and teaching grammar is not applicable to acquiring a second language. Teaching should give acquisition an adequate chance to flourish and make the second language learner gains a self-confidence which will help him later on to realize his mistakes and overcome them as this technique will help the acquisition process. (Brown and Hanlon, 1970; Brown, Cazden, and Bellugi, 1973).

On the other hand, formal language learning is thought to be overwhelmed by a great deal of error correction and the existence of explicit grammatical rules (Krashen and Seliger, 1975). Although error alteration is sustained, it helps the acquirer comes to the right psychological image of the linguistic simplification. It is said that, error correction hinders the language development with a feeling of continues anxiety governed by error phobia . Whether such feedback has this effect on the acquirer to a significant degree or not remains an open question (Fanselow, 1977; Long, 1977).

2. The natural order hypothesis

This hypothesis in second language acquisition assumes that mastering second language grammatical rules occurred in a predictable order. Regardless of the mother tongue of the learners, acquiring the target language rules varies in terms of their sequential which means that some rules are acquired earlier than others. Yet, second language grammar should not be taught as it is supposed to be acquired in this natural order.

3. The monitor hypothesis

This hypothesis states that acquiring an L2 will be developed automatically allowing the acquirer to monitor his new language grammatical rules and edit the mistakes unconsciously at some stage, which we will see later as “the Monitor”.

These monitor uses vary from a learner to another, with different degree of accomplishment. Stephen Krashen (1981) classify the monitors into two types, Over-users who habitually try to use their Monitor, in fact, this application leads to a result of a correct language lacks a lot of natural fluency that should help the learners in their real live. Monitor Under-users either have not intentionally learned or decide to not use their aware information of the language. Even though the modification of errors by others has little effect on the learners, they can frequently correct themselves, later on, based on a good judgment for correctness.

4. The input hypothesis

Krashen’s theory of SLA is also called the “input hypothesis”, which answers the question of how a target language acquirer develops competency over time. It states that a language learner who is at “i level” must receive sufficient and logical input that is at his level “i” and a new “+1”.The new “+1” varies from a learner to a another where an “x” can pick something different form a “z ” depending on his background, interest, priority, attention and the way it is presented.

5. The affective filter hypothesis

Filtering the learner’s input varies from a stage to another, so a learner of a second language might not need to filter every single input at the early stage. The role of filtering the new input increases as the learner have sufficient comprehensive input. At later stage, when the second language learner masters a lot of L2 rules and have reached the advanced language proficiency, filtering becomes subconscious process. This process will shape the new language and internalize its rules forming a native like competency.

The preceding five hypotheses of acquiring L2 can be summed as follow:

1. Acquiring a language is far more significant than learning. 2. For acquiring a new language, two conditions are essential,”i+1″ input, which should be formed slightly above the learner’s present stage, and the second, a low sense of filtering to allow the input takes place.

Development of second language acquisition

Stephen Krashen’s concept of second language acquisition “intake’ means presenting a language context a “little beyond” the learner’s current competence in the L2 ( Krashen, 1981,p.103). He sometimes refers to it as we saw an i+1, meaning that the learning situations should challenge the L2 acquirer by presenting a new input and above the learner’s level so that he will acquire something new and construct on what he already has . The concept of the continuum of learning, is said to be a shared phenomenon by most current language theorists, where predictable and sequential stages of second language development occurs. A child can acquire a second language using almost the same techniques he applies in acquiring his mother tongue. In fact, it requires authentic situational interaction in the second language and meaningful communication in which the two parties are caring not with the structure of their vocabulary but with the communication they are passing on and understanding. Error alteration and pure rules teaching is not relevant to language achievement as Brown and Hanlon, 1970; Brown, Cazden, and Bellugi, 1973 said. The second language learner progresses from no knowledge of the new L2 to a level of competency closely like a native speaker. These theories however, have identified different stages for the development of second language acquisition where they are identified in five phases:

Stage 1, the receptive or preproduction stage

This stage is also called the silent stage where the learners develop survival vocabulary, following different teaching and learning situations including playing, miming, simple games and listening to stories. This phase could last from hours to six months. As the learner feels comfortable, he/she starts understanding and interacting with the teacher, his classmates and the surrounding environment using a variety of techniques like pointing to surrounding things, standing up, closing the door, nodding or might responding using simple words like “yes” or “no”. Teachers are recommended not to force learners to speak at this stage.

Stage 2,the early production stage

After acquiring about 5000 words in the first stage, the learner adds 1000 active words, in another six months, enabling his/ her to speak one or two words phrase, and demonstrates understanding by responding to yes/no, some WH questions or to either or. New vocabularies are required to be presented side by side with revising the old ones. Mistakes are to be tolerated in speaking provided the message is understandable.

Stage 3, the speech emerging stage

The most prominent phenomenal of this stage is the production of L2 phrases and simple sentences. During the second year, the learners will start interacting using the second language in reading and writing for operational purposes. The surrounding should play a positive role in encouraging the L2 learner and ignoring mistakes as long as the message is understandable and clear.

Stage 4,the intermediate fluency

At this stage the L2 learner is more aware of the usages of academic words in different situations comprehending about 6000 active words. He/she can interacts outside the teaching and learning contexts without using L1 for interpretation thus, he still makes errors in complex grammar and the usages of new vocabulary. The learner can interacts in academic presentations using visual and hands-on science activities, solve math problems, making models, maps, participate in academic discussion, make brief oral presentations and answer higher level order thinking questions.

Stage 5, the advanced language proficiency speakers

This level can be mastered after from five to seven years. The learner can comprehended academic presentations without using visual illustrations. He can use higher reading comprehension skill, writing comprehension, reports and research papers. The learner can use L2 grammar and vocabulary comparable to his age native learners.

Understanding the learner’s stage helps the instructor to tailor the material accordingly and build on the existing strengths and remedial the weaknesses.

Mother Tongue and Second Language Acquisition

Mother tongue interference has been of a high priority in the history of second language acquisition researches and practices. For a long time , it had been reputed that the main source of syntactic errors in adults’ L2 performance was their mother tongue (Lado, 1957), in addition to a huge deal of resources preparation was done with this assumption in mind (Banathy, Trager, and Waddle, 1966). Consequently, experimental studies of errors made by second language learners guided to the detection, however, that many errors are not specific to the rules of the mother tongue, but are familiar to second language users of different linguistic backgrounds (e.g. Richards, 1971; Buteau, 1970). These results have guided several researchers to examine the importance of contrastive study and to argue as an alternative for error examination. As clearly stated earlier, the mother tongue is one of a number of causes of error but other factors need to be measured.

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A research conducted by Selinker, Swain, and Dumas, 1975; Plann and Ramirez, 1976 found that , mother tongue influence appears to be higher in complex word order and in word for- word translations of phrases. Mother tongue influence tends to be weaker in bound morphology. Mother tongue influence also appears to be strongest in “acquisition poor” surroundings. And finally mother tongue influence errors here are also in the area of word order.

Pedagogies Providing Krashen’s Theory

The question which we all need to ask ourselves is, ” How can a second language learner benefits from a formal learning situations?”

Formal learning or face-to-face learning can be of a great benefit for an L2 learner if it provides a comprehensive input. If the learner current ability helps him to add something more to his “i” or as Vygotsky called ZOPD.

It is also said that classroom or formal learning cannot provide the acquirer with the wide range of daily issues and social langue needed. So the classroom’s role is to prepare the learners for dealing with real life situations by presenting a sufficient daily actual language contexts.

The theory also suggested that learners who are not able to speak “output” for physical problems can still master the full ability to comprehended language by presenting comprehensible input dependence on each learner. Teachers need to be slower and carefully articulate using common vocabulary and avoid dilates , slang language and shorter sentences.

Teachers should facilitate presenting the best possible monitor users as to promote communication and avoid hindering acquisition with grammatical rules domination.

In addition to getting the appropriate input, acquirers need to have their emotional filter kept minimum which will help them get the maximum input from the surrounding and allow them to master the techniques of dialogue and ideas exchange.


Acquiring and learning a second language is very important in a bilingual and multi lingual society. It is also a necessity in today’s global world where technology is mostly restricted to specific countries speaking a small number of languages. In fact, a lot of students, teachers, specialist and politics find themselves in a bad need for learning these languages.

As presented earlier, Krashen’s theory of second language acquisition, suggested some useful techniques for teaching and acquiring a second language. Teachers are urged to use such theories for facilitating their job and helping their students acquire and learn better.

Although this theory was a result of studies conducted in America on bilingual and multilingual speakers, our students in the Arab world in general and in the UAE in particular could gain the most of it with the help of their teachers. The focus should be on how to gradually help the learners pick the foreign language in a way that focus on fluency rather than accuracy.


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