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Classroom Tip

Basic Principles of Foreign Language Learning

By Dr. Rosamina Lowi, UCLA Department of Applied Linguistics  

There is no one best theory to explain second language acquisition. Teaching methodologies driven by varying theoretical approaches can be effective in the classroom, depending on the material being presented, the goals of the lesson, and the target students.

What is known about second language acquisition is that language is learned communicatively, through the process of building meaning in a collaborative context. To make use of this understanding about language learning, keep the following points in mind:

  • Second language learners utilize their knowledge of their first language in learning their second.
  • Language learning is supported through meaningful interaction, which should therefore focus on the communicative functions of language.
  • Language learners require comprehensible 'input' that serves as a model of what they are to learn.
  • During teaching, this comprehensible input should be 'scaffolded' (i.e., used iteratively to support the interaction, and gradually withdrawn as students become adept), in order to provide an effective communicative environment that is salient to the learner.
  • Any focus on grammatical form should serve communicative needs.

For further information on language learning theory and its connection to teaching methodologies see:

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