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Assumptions about Language Learning

I stumbled upon a New York times article today about several language learning software programs. It was an old article (from  2005). So what was so interesting about a NY Times article from 2005? The article discussed the different programs’ underlying assumptions about language learning. The Rosette Stone, for example, is based on the assumption that people learn their second language in the same way they learn their first. Basically, they believe second language acquisition is the same as first language acquisition. Personally, the idea that adults learn language in the same manner as children seems slightly absurd.

As teachers, we have all sorts of beliefs about how people learn language.  But I don’t think we give the idea much focused attention. While we might have a teaching philosophy that clearly states how we can help students learn, I think we all need to have a clear idea about how people learn language. A colleague of mine thinks that extensive reading is essential to language learning. I don’t know if that is at the center of her teaching philosophy but it certainly affects what she does in the classroom to some extent.

So like all of the software programs from the NY Times article, our ESL classes are each based on our assumptions about language learning.  If you aren’t sure how people learn language, it might be time for you to start researching second language acquisition. And make more informed decisions in the classroom.

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