Saturday, May 8, 2010


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Compiled by K.N.Sukhadan
1. A human child is genetically endowed with a language system and what we mean by language acquisition is the unfolding of this innate system.Earlier it was believed that the human child is born with an empty mind. But recent researches in human physiology and psychology have proved that there is “language organ’ which attains a biological maturity as the infant grows. The belief that language is learnt imitating grown up people was questioned. It’s observed that the child coins expressions he had never heard before. And above eighty percent of the language heard by the child is in the form of questions. But the child’s first utterance is always a statement. It is a strong evidence for the fact that language is not acquired by imitation. Nobody teaches a bee to build its hive. No tuition helps a child to walk on his own feet. He walks when he attains a biological maturity.

2. Language acquisition is a non conscious process, which is to be seen as distinct from conscious process of learning facts. Language is acquired not through imitation, but through insightful theory construction.Most of the language expressions we use in our daily life are acquired non- consciously. At school, we have learnt a number of words and usages in mother tongue. But nobody uses them in spontaneous day to day affairs. We non consciously use a language that has become a part of our life. A lay man who has not visited the school also can identify the ungrammatical expressions( but he may not tell the terms} . He also has a feel of language. Who did teach him grammar? The child constructs his own rules about the language.

3.Repetition may be helpful for learning language facts in isolation, but recurrence is relevant for acquisition . Reception helps acquisition.
Nothing is repeated in life, but things may re occur. Repetition helps learning. We repeat many words, structures etc. and we learn them. It does not mean that we have acquired them and we can use it spontaneously. For example, many of us have learnt the usage ‘not only but also’ by repeated exercises. Seldom we use that structure in our spontaneous speech. More over, practicing isolated language elements will not contribute to acquisition. If we want to repeat something, we have to be very conscious. Acquisition is a non conscious process. Acquisition stops when we become conscious.

4.Language is not the totality of the four skills but the inner competence required for the performance of the four skills.Behaviorist approach to learning a language led to the practicing of the four skills. Separate lessons were given for separate skills. But constructivists brought forth the fact that no skills are practiced to acquire language when mother tongue is concerned. No mother gave a lesson on a skill to her baby nor did she send him/her to tuition to acquire competency in mother tongue. What the child acquires in mother tongue, he acquires through intuitive theory construction. When behaviorists focused on practicing skills, the real competency in language was sidelined.
For example, a deaf and dump person cannot perform the first two skills, which are considered as the primary and the major skills. But can anyone say that the person (deaf dump) has not a language for communication?
5. Language acquisition is not a process of linear growth but is that of spiral growth.How do you begin teaching a new language? An ordinary teacher may say that she will begin from alphabet, proceeding to words, phrases, sentences and so on.. She does it in the notion that learning should begin from the simple and progress to the complex. But the fact is that isolated letter or word is more complex to the child than a discourse. The child is unable to make any sense from a letter. It seems meaningless to the child and doesn’t communicate anything to him. Anything that doesn’t communicate is complex.
The child is exposed to the whole language. Simplicity or complexity is decided by the child.
6. Acquisition progresses from Whole to Part. At every stage of learning facts of language that constitute parts are conceived in relation to the language system as a whole.There is a story of a man who went to see the forest. He walked along the woods and exclaimed. “Where is the forest? I can see only trees here” It is the limitation of human mind that it misses the whole when it concentrates on the parts. Earlier practices of teaching language elements separately were questioned by constructivists. They argued an altogether ‘gestalt’ is formed in mind when some one is exposed to a language. We can remember the events or incidents happened, we will have an altogether idea of the speech heard, but may not remember each and every word in it. In language classes of new era, the teacher provides enough chances for the child to form emotional gestalts. Emotions are the only gateways to thinking. We can enter into the thought process only through emotions.
7. Static texts have no role in acquisition. What the child requires is a large variety of dynamic texts in the form of discourses.
Anything out of mind is static. Mental activity converts a static into dynamic.
A song, a dance a story printed on a sheet of paper etc can be viewed as static texts. When the listener, viewer or reader creates mental texts based on this static text it becomes a dynamic text.
To make this point clear we can site an instance. Suppose there is a milestone on the road side. Every day you walk across it. You may not notice it. It is not relevant to you. It is static. One day unfortunately you step over it and lose your teeth, and then the static milestone becomes dynamic. The milestone is relevant to you at this moment!
8. Acquisition becomes smooth when linguistic experience is real, holistic, relevant, need-based and meaningful to the child.When the mother starts talking to her baby, she fabricates her talk around the needs of the child using motherese, a language that is full of love and affection. The mother is deliberately slow. The biological and emotional needs are attended. The language used is relevant to the child.
This is the case of the child in the classroom also. He must be given linguistic experiences, which are real and relevant. It must cater the needs of the child.
9. Overt corrections or expansions cannot facilitate acquisition. What is required is a rich linguistic atmosphere that will provide enough evidence for the child to acquire language
At the stages of acquisition of the mother tongue the human child coins a number of mistakes. He may use defective structures and words. No mother forcefully corrects these errors. Errors are treated as an evidence of acquisition process.
Native children of English use eated instead of ate. This indicates that the child has created his own knowledge of past tense. He knows that modification must be there on the verb eat. From his experience he has formulated a rule that additional ‘ed’ changes the tense of the verb. These errors will disappear in a course of time, provided enough evidence is given to the child.
We make use of the ‘feel of the language’ to refine structural errors. This ‘feel’ develops as a result of various processes we administer in the class to facilitate acquisition.
Let’s examine some cases.
Child: Want other one spoon daddy.
Father: You want the other spoon?
Child: Yes, I want other one spoon, please daddy.
Father: Can you say “the other spoon”?
Father: Say “other”
Child : Other
Father: Spoon
Father: other spoon
Child: other…spoon. Now give me other one spoon.
Case 2
Child: My teacher holded the baby rabbits and we patted them.
Mother: did you say your teacher held the baby rabbits
Child: yes
Mother: What did you say she did?
Child: She holded the baby rabbits and we patted them.
Mother: Did you say she held them tightly?
Child: No, She holded them loosely.
Case 1 is an example for overt or direct correction and case 2 is for expansion.
This proves that overt corrections or expansions will not facilitate acquisition.

10. It is not the quantum of exposure that matters but its quality. Acquisition will take place only if the learner gets comprehensible input through discourses generated in the classroom.Listening to ‘speeches’ in English will not help acquisition. It is not the quantum of language heard decides acquisition but the quality. A teacher who is fluent in English can speak to the children endlessly. But it doesn’t ensure comprehension. Only comprehensible input helps acquisition. Comprehension is not merely knowing the meaning of words. It is making sense out of the language heard. It is a derivative process happening in the mind.


  1. Best wishes for our English Corridor.

  2. I need some more clarifications regards to morphological editing of students products.

  3. By the term morphological editing, we mean refining the errors confined to a word or morpheme.Eg The child may coin 'Eated' in spite of ate or 'The dogs is barking' instead of 'the dog is barking/The dogs are barking'. Here we can give options. In syntactic editing we do not give any options rather we wait.

  4. i want to know more about feed-back pls post some details for me.

  5. what are main defferents between big book and port folio?