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Language acquisition versus language learning

According to linguists (that is, scientists who are engaged in the scientific study of human language) there is an important distinction between the acquisition and learning of language.

As you may have noticed, children acquire their mother tongue through interaction with their parents and the environment that surrounds them. Their need to communicate paves the way for language acquisition to occur. As experts suggest, there is an innate ability in every human being to acquire language. When a child is five years old, he can express ideas clearly and almost perfectly from the point of view of language and grammar. Although parents never sit down with children to explain the workings of the language, their expressions show an excellent command of intricate rules and patterns that would drive an adult mad if he tried to memorize and use them accurately. This suggests that it is through language exposure and meaningful communication that a first language is acquired, without the need for systematic study of any kind.

When it comes to second language learning in children, you’ll notice that this happens almost identically to first language acquisition. And even the teachers focus more on the communicative aspect of the language than on the rules and patterns for the children to repeat and memorize. To acquire language, the learner needs a natural source of communication.

The emphasis is on the text of the communication and not on the form. Young learners who are in the process of acquiring a second language get a lot of practice “on the job.” They easily acquire the language to communicate with their classmates.

In summary, we see this trend where second language teachers are very aware of the importance of communication in young learners and their inability to memorize the rules consciously (although they will definitely acquire them through a practical approach just as they did). with her mother). language)

Unfortunately, when it comes to adult learners, a quick look at current methodologies and available language courses clearly shows that communication is neglected, neglected or even ignored. In almost all cases, the courses revolve around grammar, patterns, repetitions, exercises and memorization without even a human interlocutor to interact with.

The very courses that promise you linguistic independence and the ability to communicate at the end of the courses DO NOT offer you a single opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations. How many times have you bought or read about “the best language course on CD” where the learner simply has to sit in front of a computer to listen and repeat words and phrases over and over again? That is not communication. This is how you train a parrot! The animal will definitely learn and repeat some phrases and amuse you and your friends, but it will never be able to communicate effectively.

How can you be expected to communicate if you never get a chance to talk to a real person? Language without real communication is as useless as Valentine’s Day without lovers or Children’s Day without children.

In some other scenarios, where there is a teacher, the work done in class is mostly grammar-oriented: tenses, rules, multiple-choice exercises, etc. Is this similar to the way a child “acquires a language”? Definitely not. It’s no wonder why so many people fail to acquire a second language naturally. Simply because whatever they are doing is highly unnatural and meaningless to them. This is the field of language learning.

Language learning as seen today is not communicative. It is the result of direct instruction in the rules of language. And it’s certainly not an age-appropriate activity for your young students, any more than it’s for adults. In language learning, students have a conscious knowledge of the new language and can talk about that knowledge.

They can fill in the blanks on a grammar page. However, research has shown that knowing the rules of grammar does not necessarily result in speaking or writing well. A student who has memorized the rules of the language may be successful on a standardized English language test, but she may not be able to speak or write correctly.

As teachers, it is our duty to ensure that our students “acquire” rather than “learn” the language. What can we do to achieve this higher goal? In our next mini article, we will explore simple, effective and highly innovative ways to turn our learning environment into a real language acquisition environment.

Reflection (*2)

Read the article thoroughly.

What do you think is more desirable, acquiring a language or learning a language?

What differences between acquiring and learning a language could you point out?

In your personal experience, do you feel that you have been acquiring or learning a language? Or maybe both? Explain your reasons.

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