Thursday, December 30, 2010

An article by Kramsch

Kramsch, C. (2000). Second language acquisition, applied linguistics, and the teaching of foreign languages. Modern Language Journal, 84(3), 311-326.

Abstract: Given the current popularity of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) as a research base for the teaching and learning of foreign languages in educational settings, it is appropriate to examine the relationship of SLA to other relevant areas of inquiry, such as Foreign Language Education, Foreign Language Methodology, and Applied Linguistics. This article makes the argument that Applied Linguistics, as the interdisciplinary field that mediates between the theory and practice of language acquisition and use, is the overarching field that includes SLA and SLA-related domains of research. Applied Linguistics brings to all levels of foreign language study not only the research done in SLA proper, but also the research in Stylistics, Language Socialization, and Critical Applied Linguistics that illuminates the teaching of a foreign language as sociocultural practice, as historical practice, and as a social semiotic practice.

[she quotes vanPatten] As a theory-building enterprise… SLA research is largely concerned with the psycholinguistic, cognitive, and sociolinguistic aspects of acquisition that shape a learner’s developing linguistic system (p. 313)

 I find this distinction between fields that seek theory and those that do not very interesting. To me, it seems like search for a theory is one of the distinguishing features of second language acquisition studies. I wonder if there is another field that distinguishes itself based on this argument. I remember considering to have "Second language acquisition studies: a field in search of a theory" as the title of my master's thesis. But again I also considered to use theory wars in my title. Wouldn't it be cool to have a title similar to Star Wars? Then I settled on the rather boring title "the cognitive-social tension in second language acquisition studies". I sometimes think even scholars and graduate students should be allowed to have fun with their work ^_^

In this definition, the goal of SLA research is not primarily to improve teaching practice but to build a theory of how second linguistic systems develop within individual learners (p. 314)

[after surveying many definitions of SLA as a field, she concludes that] After these definitions, the link between SLA research and language teaching remains unclear (p. 314).

Here is another distinguishing feature of second language acquisition studies, teaching is not the primary objective. It is interesting that in the beginning of second language acquisition studies this was not the case. 

Rather than attempt to stretch the concept of SLA to cover all the strands of research discussed previously, it seems more appropriate to view the general field of Applied Linguistics as the overarching construct that is most relevant to FL departments. (p. 316)

Makes sense I guess.

What binds these rather disparate areas of research under the rubric Applied Linguistics is the focus on the relationship between psycho- and sociolinguistic theory on the one hand and social practice on the other, as they relate to the acquisition and use of language in various contexts. (p. 316)

 I like definitions, so here is a definition of applied linguistics for me. The definition might come handy in the future.

The field of AL speaks with multiple voices, depending on whether one’s original training was in linguistics, anthropology, psychology, sociology, education, or literature. (p. 317)
I wonder if this situation will change in the future when more people get their education in applied linguistics programs.

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