In second language acquisition, the teaching methods are primarily meant to contribute to learner’s acquisition of the language, not learning of the targeted foreign language. This implies focusing on communication (enhancing the vocabulary) and on process rather than on grammar and on product (learning the language). In this context, for stimulating the communication, teachers need to create relaxed environments for the learners to feel comfortable in communicating and interacting among themselves, sharing their experience with others and in the same time learning from various strategies or language acquisition methods. Such language acquisition methods are presented in the current writing and the usefulness of their interactive approach is assessed by focusing on the aspects of each described method that triggers interactive language acquisition. The language acquisition methods described in this paper are the task-based method, the audio-lingual method, the community language learning method, suggestopedia and natural approach method.
Key words: second language acquisition, teaching methods, foreign language, task-based, audio-lingual, community language, suggestopedia, natural approach.
Historical Methods in Second Language Learning
In learning a second language, task-based method is considered to be a communicative method, being the practical study expression of the broad philosophical approach that is communicative language teaching (Nunan, 2005). Task-based learning methods focus on meaning, which implies that students following a syllabus based on this language learning method will acquire most or all needed linguistic elements (Swan, 2010). A significant characterization and strength of this method for second language acquisition is that it is based on experiential learning, which implies using the learner’s personal experience as the starting point for the learning process and this requires learner’s active engagement, reflection on the tasks and his/her full involvement in the language learning process (Nunan, 2005).
One significant aspect of task-based language teaching is therefore the experiential learning, which includes a “learning by doing process”, wherein students use their immediate experience for moving further and accumulating new knowledge and skills, by applying reflection and transformation processes (Nunan, 2005, p. 12). Experiential learning involves: the transmission of knowledge within the learner, through applying the process of transforming one’s experience to achieve further knowledge; learners’ active participation in collaborative groups for enhancing their knowledge, therefore interaction; a holistic attitude, being focused on subject matter; focusing on the process rather than on the product (where the product refers to acquiring knowledge of the foreign language and the process is the means through achieving this goal (Swan, 2010)); emphasizing the self-directed learning process rather than teacher-directed approach; intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation (Nunan, 2005).
Hence, the aspect regarding the learners’ collaboration within study groups allow for their interaction, making the task-based method a valuable interactive approach to second learning acquisition. Likewise the self-directed aspect of this method as opposed to teacher-directed approach implies student to student interaction, which denotes the fact that they will be learning from each other, from each one’s personal experience, enriching their own language acquisition. These aspects could be very useful in my teaching experience, making use of eclectic methodologies, by simulating a talk-show environment, wherein the teacher’s role would be to moderate and the interaction would be made among students, who would advance in their language skills by making use of their experience.
This oral based method of learning second language, which is primarily based on communication and inductive learning, the audio-lingual method implies that a new language’s mechanisms such as pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary are learned primarily orally and with limited utilization of the native language (Hamerly, 1971). In relation to the oral-based approach of the audio-lingual method, Larsen-Freeman (2000) notes that it emphasizes learners’ use of audio-lingual teaching method in grammatical sentence patterns.
As such, one of the aspects of audio-lingual method, valuable in classroom setting use, is the repetition of a dialogue after attentively listening to it on tape or listening the teacher uttering the dialogue, solely in the targeted language, without using any word in the learners’ native language (Larsen-Freeman, 2000). This aspect of the audio-lingual method is considered to deliver a “habitual” behavior to learners, by generating “patterns” that learners should use as the basis for analogy in creating meaning as related to the second language acquisition knowledge (Paulston, 1971, p. 198).
As such, the repetition aspect of the audio-lingual method improves learners’ oral skills, vocabulary and grammatical foundations, as they memorize the dialogues that they heard from their teacher or from tape and mentally construct linguistic schemes that they can apply in circumstances where they can interact among themselves, based on the audio-linguistic models that they were exposed to and on the repeated utterance of those models that created a pattern for them.
Another aspect of the audio-language method used as a valuable language learning tool in a classroom setting is the cue drill, which represents a technique used by the teachers for requiring the students to replace one of worlds originally used in a sentence comprised the dialogue used for listening and for repetition, with one word, provided by the teacher, which is also called cue (Larsen-Freeman, 2000).
The practical application of this technique allows learners to enrich their vocabulary as they familiarize with and through repetition learn new words. As such, if an original dialogue states “Arnold loves playing golf”, the teacher can use various cues for replacing “golf” with other sports like, for instance “football”, “hockey”, “baseball”, etc. and at a more advanced level a group of words can be replaced by an action defining a sport activity. Therefore, instead of “playing golf”, the cue for replacing this group of words could be swimming, which transforms the initial phrase into “Arnold loves swimming”. Teachers can use the audio-lingual method, and specifically the cue drills as an eclectic method, by enhancing the interaction among students by requiring learners to think of similar exercises and to challenge their colleague students finding similar expressions and asking their colleagues to replace words of groups of words with given cues. This would both enhance the interaction among students and allow them to evaluate their own level of second language acquisition.
Community Language Learning
The community language learning method requires teachers to take into consideration the learners as whole-persons, considering in addition to their intellect the nature of the relationship among “students’ feelings, physical reactions, instinctive protective reactions, and desire to learn” (Larsen-Freeman, 2000, p. 89). Practically, the community language learning method implies a classroom environment wherein the students gather in a circle around a tape recorder for listening to a text that they discuss in their native language, than, with the teachers’ intervention, their discussions in the native language are being translated into the targeted foreign language, which is next registered on the tape recorder and typed in the same time, using as the students’ learning material (Larsen-Freeman, 1987).
This method allows for enhanced classroom interactivity, and implicitly for interactive language acquisition, as one aspect of this method requires the teacher to utilize chunks, which represent the translation of the students’ words, uttered in their native language, into the second language targeted for acquisition (Larsen-Freeman, 2000). The recording of the chunks is made sequentially and at the end, when playing the chunks together, they form a fluid conversation, which, as stated above, will be transcribed and used as the support materials for the following courses (Larsen-Freeman, 2000).
This method facilitates classroom interaction and students’ involvement, because they are required to initiate the conversation, by using their native language to make meaning in relation to the studied texts and because the chunk technique requires the learners to ask questions to each other and to respond to the questions addressed by their colleagues acting as a community, using their native language seconded by a translation of their words in the foreign language, guided by the teacher who assists the students (Baker & Prys Jones, 1998).
This method allows the students to acquire the second language by recording their own words in the second language that they target. This is their first interaction with their own ideas and thoughts uttered in the second language. Although initially this method might seem as copying structures mechanically, the fact that at the end of the exercise the learners put together a cursive conversation makes more sense, and brings them closer to understanding the meaning of the words that they uttered in the foreign language. In addition, this method contributes to the language acquisition by applying an interactive eclectic methodology, as it includes the common contribution of a group of colleagues to releasing a conversation in the foreign language.
Developed in 1970 by the psychiatrist Georgi Lozanov, suggestopedia is a second language acquisition method that derives from the science called suggestology, which focuses on the systematic study of how the non-rational and non-conscious are impacting the humans’ conscious responding (Baker & Prys Jones, 1998). The teacher’s role in applying this foreign language acquisitiion method is to make the students feel as comfortable as possible, by creating a relaxed environment, which to allow learners to acquire as much as possible new words, as the vocabulary is an essential component of this method (Larsen-Freman, 1987).
The usefulness of this method for classroom situations is that during the activation phase it engages the students to interact through asking questions to each other and responding to the questions of their colleagues, but it also involves a more creative approach, which nevertheless implies learners’ interaction, through setting up various games, songs or even dramatizations of the dialogues that they have listened to in the receptive phase of the learning session (Larsen-Freeman, 1987). Another aspect that promotes the interactive language acquisition is the fact that the teachers’ objective is to get the learners to communicate, not focusing on correcting their errors, which might hinder them from engaging in an effective communication that would allow them to creatively explore this language learning method.
The natural approach method on second language acquisition holds that in the process of learning a foreign language learners should develop their communicative competences, while the linguistic competence does not represent a focus of this method, which implies that the correct use of the grammatical structures are not to be emphasized through this method (Berry, 1951), which, in fact does not represent the essence of language learning (Harmer, 1982).
Paraphrasing Krashen and Terrel (1983), Baker and Prys Jones (1998) note that considering the fact that the goal of language teaching must be to help the learners to acquire language easily, teachers should create strategies for their students to feel comfortable with learning a new language, creating an environment that would facilitate the second language acquisition, based on the structure used for learning the native language, by employing simplified language and also non-verbal, yet comprehensible language.
Therefore, the aim of this method is to allow the learners to express themselves freely in order to enhance their communication, feeling confident about themselves and encouraged by the teacher to solely focus on communication, even non-verbal communication when applying this language acquisition method and not to consider the grammatical errors in the initial phases.
The aspect regarding the use of non-verbal communication in the classroom environment while applying the natural approach method implies students’ interaction. This method can be used effectively in the classroom environment for determining students to develop their empathic communication through interacting among themselves in a non-conventional manner. Explicitly, teachers can use the natural approach by simulating the native language acquisition, when parents are transmitting notions like love, care, concern to their children, initially non verbally and in later stages of the child’s development through simplified vocabulary structures, without making much case of the grammatical structures. Such a situation can be set into a playwright simulation, wherein students can be asked to play games, showing various facial expressions or actions (applying non-verbal communication) of their faces and one student at a time should be designated for translating his/her colleagues’ facial expressions or actions, by using simple actions to describe them.
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