• Children and Language

Almost all children acquire a language without effort. They seem to pick up the same language with incredible ease. Language acquisition is guaranteed for children up to about the age of six. They learn and forget the language easily. The acquisition becomes gradually less noticeable as children grow up.

What is acquisition?  It describes the way in which people ‘get’ language with no real conscious effort, no need to think about grammar, vocabulary, etc. In order for acquisition to take place, what children need is hearing a lot of language. They need such exposure and the nature of the language. For example, parents use language which fits the situation when they talk to their children, like exaggerated intonation. The exposure leads the children to a typical social and emotional interaction. Then, they try out the language, repeat the language, and talk to themselves. They also have desire to communicate needs, wants, and feelings.

In short, three features of how children acquire a language: exposure to it, motivation to communicate with it, and opportunities to use it.

  • Acquisition and Learning

There is distinction between acquisition and learning according to Stephen Krashen in 1980s. He argued that the teacher should concentrate on acquisition rather than learning. Teacher should provide the right kind of language exposure, namely comprehensible input and creating an anxiety-free atmosphere. The principle function is to monitor what is coming from our acquired store to check that it is ok. In short, the teacher should create an atmosphere to make the students learn unconsciously.

The problems of this approach: the ability to acquire language easily tends to deteriorate with age, adults and teens tend to learn consciously. The amount of exposure of the adults and teens are different from children.

Adults and teens should have their attention drawn to aspects of language, so they can notice the aspects. A class would not only expose students to language, but also give them opportunity to activate their language as well as study the language to know how it works. Therefore, acquiring and learning have their part to play in language getting for students after childhood.

  • Different times, Different Methods

According to Harold Palmer, there is similar distinction between spontaneous and studial capacities. It pins down what makes a good language lesson or an effective method. Teaching practice, both abstract theory and practical technique have gone in and out of fashion, for example, lexical approach, Silent Way, and Community Language Learning.

  1. 1.      Grammar Translation

It introduces students about short grammar rules, word lists, and translation exercises. The weakness is it stops students from getting the kind of natural language input that help them acquire language, so they can communicate effectively.

  1. 2.      Audio-Lingualism

It originated in army education in the 1940s. It uses structural situation teaching, presented in simple situation which exemplified their usage. Audio-Lingualism is influenced by behaviorist theory of learning focusing on respond, stimulation, and reward given. The procedure is referred to as conditioning, for example, student produced the same grammatical pattern, but they were prompted to use different words within the pattern. The problem of this method is that the students were not exposed to real language or unlikely to produce natural sounding language themselves.

  1. 3.      PPP

In PPP (Presentation, Practice, and Production) method, teacher presents the context. For example, the ‘going to’ future, teacher explains and asks the students to practice making the sentences with ‘going to’. It’s called controlled practice. The can also talk freely about themselves using ‘going to’. PPP also teaches pronunciation and may involve drilling.

  1. 4.      Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

 

There are principles:  First, CLT focus on language functions rather than patterns of grammar with vocabulary items slotted in. CLT is about how language is used, e.g agreeing, inviting, disagreeing, and suggesting (using language exponent). Second, if they get enough exposure, and opportunities to use, and they are motivated, then language learning will take care of its self.

  1. 5.      Task-Based Learning (TBL) 

In TBL, the emphasis is on the task rather than the language. A typical TBL sequence starts with a pre-task (topic introduction, what the task will be), then a task cycle (students plan task, gathering information, produce piece of writing or oral), language focus (analyzing language, making improvements, practicing language that needs repair). TBL takes third element (production) as the starting point, not the end of the procedure.

 

Elements for Successful Language Learning (ESA)

Teachers need a principled eclecticism, which is choosing the best elements of a number of different ideas and methods accompanied with the use of an underlying philosophy and structure, to avoid a disorganized ragbag of different activities. These elements are engage, study, and activate.

  1. 1.      Engage (E)

Things are learnt much better if both our mind and our hearts are brought into service. This type of engagement is one of the vital ingredients for successful learning. Activities and materials provided include games, music, discussion, stimulating pictures, etc. Teachers can also ensure the students engage with topic or exercise by asking them to make prediction. When students properly engaged, the benefit from this will be considerably greater.

  1. 2.      Study (S)

Study focuses on the construction of the language itself, the ways in which it is used or how it sounds and looks. Here the students are also provided discovery activities. Teachers ask them to do all intellectual activities rather than leaving it to the teacher. The construction includes, for example, study and practice of the vowel sound, lexical phrases for inviting, etc.

  1. 3.      Activate (A) 

It describes exercises and activities which are designed to get students using language as freely and communicatively as they can. For example, the students do a study activity, where they are expected to focus on the accuracy of specific bits of language. The objective is to use all and any language which may be appropriate for a given situation or topic. They try out the language without restriction or freely, such as using ‘role play’

ESA Lesson Sequence

Students will become board if we always do things in the same order, so teachers need different teaching sequences as follow:

1. Straight arrow. It works for lower level

2. Boomerang (test teach test). It works for intermediate-advance

3. Patchwok. It works for intermediate-advanced