Friday, September 14, 2012

VanPatten Chapter 1

From Input to Output: A Teacher's Guide to Second Language Acquisition
by Bill VanPatten

Chapter 1 summary and response:

The first chapter of VanPatten is about the "givens" of second language acquisition. VanPatten emphasizes that in order to learn a new language one must acquire an implicit linguistic system. An implicit linguistic system is a set of rules about the language that you possess unconsciously. It helps the speaker of that language differentiate between what can and can't be said in a language. On the flip side, second language learners also learn explicit knowledge or explicit rules. This is how I was taught my second language, Spanish. The teacher taught us explicit knowledge about how to conjugate verbs, use the subjunctive tense, and decide which past tense to use.

VanPatten's five main points of second language acquisition (SLA) are: "1. It involves the creation of an implicit (unconscious) linguistic system) 2. SLA is complex and consists of different processes 3. SLA is dynamic but slow 4. Most L2 learners fall short of native-like competence 5. skill acquisition is different from the creation of an implicit system" (VP 10). The idea that SLA is complex seems like a no-brainer. But there are many components to it that I had never thought about. The learner has to develop the lexicon, phonology, morphology, syntax, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, discourse competence and many other aspects of language simultaneously.

One of the main things that I gathered from this chapter is the importance of the learner acquiring an implicit system. The learner becomes skilled when he or she can use the system productively for rapid speech. I was surprised to learn in this chapter that language learning takes place the same way no matter what the context. I have always heard that a second language context is preferable to a foreign language context.  

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