Reading Report: Second Language Acquisition
1. The development of linguistics at the present stage is characterized by the diversity of scientific schools, trends and directions of research. Gibbons’ paper is devoted to perception of the second language acquisition as the process that is closely interconnected with the sociological and psychological factors. The scholar explores the object in its cooperation and links with the environment to find out the most effective methodological roots in a number of linguistic works including the ones by M. Halliday and others (Gibbons 2, par. 1). It is an appeal to the human factor in the language learning that has allowed the author to analyze and evaluate the language as an object of the study. This has led to the changes in the very model of language with regard to the context of its presentation to students.
2. Gibbons has referred to different kinds of communicative activities based on cognitive processes, psychological mechanisms, strategies and effectiveness of communicative interaction. In particular, he discusses the cultural aspect that is highly important to understand the system of the foreign language as well as the emotional and psychological reactions of the learners. Thus, the author presents an analysis of speech activity taking into account the pre-verbal operations of thinking, memory, experience, and knowledge of man (Gibbons 14-16).
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In addition, Gibbons has stated that functional approach can lead to the better level of cognitive linguistics speech activity. In such a way, the understanding of language context importance overlaps with socio-cultural view that emphasizes the dependence of the human behavior on the “sociocultural matrix” (Miller 368, par. 1). The acquisition of knowledge of the language is not enough to communicate with people, as the learned words and grammar rules are chaotic in mind, are not tied to a specific situation, whether it is a conversation at the airport or in a cafe. Accordingly, each time one has to painfully choose words that is accompanied by an awkward pause. Under the influence of behaviorism, Gibbons examines the communicative situation as one of the many manifestations of the internal stimulus of human nature – the language in the totality of its content, interactive and textual functions (Gibbons 2, par. 2). Thus, language becomes a tool of communication in the society, and one has to adapt the linguistic units with respect to the environment and linguistic identity. Such an opinion is supported by Piaget’s views on communication as he emphasizes the internal activities in mind during the thoughts and language formation and development (Vygotsky 90, par. 1). In the same way, the importance of sociocultural context becomes of particular importance due to understanding of the complex correlation between the inner individual work and physical world interpretation (Vygotsky 90-91).
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3. The author’s attention is directed not to the linguistic units (sounds, words, sentences, texts) themselves, but to their psychological reality for the speaker/listener who uses them in acts of creation and understanding of statements as well as in mastering the language. Hence, the basic characteristics of the teaching model analyzed by Gibbons are integration of the language and content (Gibbons 5, par. 5). Since the linguistic consciousness cannot be the object of the research at the time of the processes, it can be examined only as a product of former activities or, in other words, may be subject to analysis only in their transformations alienated from the subject of consciousness forms. Such issues should also lead the teachers to the idea that the effective teaching model has to comprise all four skills of the students that include listening, speaking, writing and reading (Gibbons 12, par. 2).
4. For example, the author emphasizes the communicative function of language focusing attention on the rational organization of the linguistic content of speech and taking into account possible interaction between units and the dynamics of language units in speech. The researchers turned to the analysis of the linguistic reality in its simple form according to human needs, social factors, and extra-linguistic environment. The good illustration is presented on page 9, where social view on language earning was represented through the dialogue of Nigel and mother. The scaffolding provided by the parents with the questions represents the connection of the social context to learning. In classroom, the role of the parents could be performed by the teacher or distributed among the classmates to make all children participate in the process.
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Another example of how Gibbons views language learning is found on page 16 that illustrates the IRE pattern. The usage of such a model makes the knowledge be associated with a positive evaluation from the exterior environment. In such a way, a student is encouraged to search for the right response and activate thinking due to positive motivation. In class, this pattern is mostly reflected by the evaluation with the help of marks as well as oral praise of the students.
5. The main strengths of the approach include reference to all skills of a student and provision of the vital skills to communicate with people in different contexts. While the second language always demands the contexts for the proper usage, its development also needs some definite appropriate reactions from the teachers or classmates. For this reason, active talks, discussion of different topics and coping with the language barriers are effective approaches to make a person get used to the peculiarities of the foreign language system as well as get to know how to familiarize oneself in case the language skills need to be used with a stranger. Such learning context is the skills training, which are used more easily after the higher experience of communication.
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6. The approach may have some difficulties that can be predetermined by a number of factors. Its goal can be defined as the establishment of the most important principles of second language functioning. However, language acquisition is also dependent on personal motivation and interest. Moreover, communication with others can be complicated by the peculiarities of relations within a group. Consequently, it is important for a teacher to understand the personal characteristics of students in order to realize that the talks can also reveal the negative emotions and fear related to some mistakes and reactions of the public. In addition, the necessity of the proper planning and appropriate mind areas activation can become another complication.
7. Summarizing the role of Gibbons’ ideas, it is necessary to note that this approach allows one to explore the interconnection between the language, social context and human inner world in the course of their life. Language is a system that is inherently functional, and therefore, cannot be described solely on the basis of its structure. The study of the functioning of the language makes it possible to know its internal structure as a system and the exterior influences on its formation. In this case, the function acts as a backbone factor. Accordingly, the operation can be understood as a manifestation of the spirit, a way of existence of language. Moreover, this approach examines the function of a certain linguistic unit in relation to the function of language in general. As a complex system, it has to be mastered with regard to the context of the language usage. Moreover, classroom talks and active communication are effective to teach students to make conversation corresponding to the changing social context.