Using more native-like language acquisition processes in the foreign language classroom
This work presents the case for using native-like language and learning networks in the classroom-based teaching of foreign languages and suggests how this might be done for EFL lessons. Networks in both syntax and syntax learning are discussed. Language and learning networks are then identified using principles from Evolutionary Linguistics and Cognitive Linguistics. The work culminates in an examination of how the identified networks in language and language learning can be better employed by
... better employed by teachers in the classroom to improve retention and use. Three general lesson plan types are suggested, which correspond with the three language network types that have been identified, which go further to attach meaning to the structures learnt in class. My research activities take place at the intersection of human evolution, cognition and memory, and language learning and seek to bridge the gap in proficiencies in learning one's native language and foreign languages, focusing on compulsory foreign language lessons in secondary and tertiary education. ), often because teachers do not understand what they ought to do, because linguistic objectives are hard to incorporate, or simply because lower proficiency levels do not have the language skills to participate. Grammar is essential to language use: a gifted person could memorise the dictionary of a certain language, but would not be able to communicate using that language without knowledge of grammar. This paper is the result of research aiming to identify how native-like syntax-learning processes can be better replicated and incorporated into lessons. Initially these lessons are designed for university students on compulsory courses, with lower levels of proficiency, who have already been the recipients of many years of formal, classroom-based, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) tuition, but who have never developed any communicative competence although the method could equally well be used with children starting their foreign language education. The need for the work has arisen because it is clear that under current teaching practises some aspects of a foreign language are very hard to retain and use for students, such as past participles in English, but they are integral to using that specific language. One good candidate reason for the general underperformance of classroom-based foreign language acquisition is not utilising the network structure of language as an integral part of the learning process when building form-meaning units. Native-speaking foreign language teachers, i.e. those teaching abroad, are all familiar with students who are able to complete paper-based exercises, e.g. gap-fill exercises, perfectly, but who have no skill at all in using the structures in the exercise to communicate. The work presented here suggests ways to incorporate network-based methods to better build form-meaning pairings in the classroom, and is useful for foreign language teachers as it suggests lessons plans for the purpose. I would like to thank one anonymous referee for the very helpful review.