How Languages Are Learnt

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Lecture 1
How languages are learned?

1. Popular views about language learning. 2. How children learn their first language: a) the behaviorist position; b) the annalist position; c) the “critical” period hypothesis; d) the interactionist position.

Every few years new foreign language teaching methods arrive on the scene. New textbooks appear far more frequently. New methods and textbooks may reflect current developments in linguistic/applied linguistic theory or recent pedagogical trends. Sometimes they are said to be based on recent developments in language learning theory and research. For example, one approach to teaching may emphasize the value of having students to imitate and practice a set of correct sentences
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According to this view, the quality and quantity of the language which the child hears should have an affect on the child’s success in language learning. The behaviorists consider imitation and practice as primary processes in language development. To clarify what is meant by these two terms, consider the following determinations and examples. Imitation: Word for word reception of all or part of someone else’s utterance. For example: Mother: Would you like some bread and peanut butter? Child: Some bread and peanut butter.

Practice: Repetitive manipulation of form. Child: I can handle it, Hannah can handle it, we can handle it.

Children imitate, but it must be stressed that very few children imitate much, the rate of imitation of some children may be less than ten per cent. Unlike a parrot that imitates the familiar and continues to repeat the same things again and again, children’s imitation is selective and based on what they are currently learning. But imitation and practice do not account for how children learn all aspects of their native language. The behaviourist explanations for language acquisition offer a reasonable way of understanding how children learn some of the regular and routine aspects of language. However, their acquisition of the more complex grammatical structures of the language requires a different sort of explanation and we shall consider some of the
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