Sunday, March 22, 2015

Do we acquire languge by "using" it?

An article about second language acquisition, an interview with María Jesús Frigols, just appeared at:

She mentions my work, and gets it nearly right – we acquire language naturally, when we use it.
--¿Se puede aprender una lengua igual cuando somos niños que a una edad avanzada?
--Dice Stephen Krashen que hay cosas que todos hacemos igual, la digestión es un ejemplo, el aprender lenguas es otro. De lo que se trata es de utilizar una metodología que recree lo más cercanamente posible la forma natural de aprender las lenguas, es decir, usándolas para aprender y aprenderlas mientras se usan.
-¿Cuál es la mejor manera de trabajar el bilingüismo en el aula?
--Utilizando la metodología adecuada, que consiste en potenciar el uso de la lengua para hacer otras cosas, en apoyar el aprendizaje con estrategias que faciliten el proceso a los alumnos, utilizando técnicas de andamiaje y fomentando el uso del pensamiento crítico y destrezas cognitivas de orden superior.

Here is my comment, with the heading "nearly correct." it is not "use" but one aspecct of use, comprehension, that counts. I submitted the comments in Spanish (THANKS TO JESSICA NAVA MARTINEZ, who prepared the Spanish version.)

Nearly correct:

My conclusion is that we acquire language when we understand what people say to us, and whan we understand what we read.  Saying that we acquire language when we "use" it is correct, but it is speficially understanding that leads to acquisition. Actual speaking is the result of language acquisition. 

The best classes are those that supply lots of "comprehensible input," messages that students understand, and that are interesting, so that students will pay attention to them.

Probably the most powerful means of improving in both the first and second language is reading, especially self-selected reading for pleasure.

Casi correcto.

Mi conclusión es que adquirimos el lenguaje cuando entendemos lo que la gente nos dice y cuando comprendemos lo que leemos. El decir que adquirimos el lenguaje cuando lo "usamos" es correcto, pero es específicamente el acto de comprenderlo lo que nos lleva a la adquisición de este. El hablarlo es el resultado de la adquisición del lenguaje.

Las mejores clases son aquellas que proveen bastante " input  comprensible" , mensajes que los alumnos entiendan, y que sean interesantes para ellos motivandolos a poner atención a lo que se dice o se lee.                     
Probablemente  la manera más poderosa de mejorar tanto una primera lengua como una segunda es la lectura, especialmente la seleccionada por placer.  


  1. As an ESL teacher, I have been grappling with this concept in my classrooms for many years.

    It is easy to understand that direct translation is not a desirable teaching method as it pulls language into the conscious. But also learning words from context can be an equally conscious act, especially when students are eager to understand. Similarly, watching a teacher mime words such as making a happy face for the word happy, also can draw the learning process into the conscious by enabling the student to simply translate into L1 in his or her head.

    To my mind, we may as well put all the miming and learning from context skills aside and just translate into L1, when the need arises, as it has the same effect.

    Wouldn’t it follow that the act of a student consciously asking him or herself what the meaning of a word could be, entails that that word is above level and not yet learnable by the LAD?

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