Tuesday, January 26, 2016

ദൂരങ്ങളില്‍

ദൂരങ്ങളില്‍,
കവിത വിരിയുമൊരു ഹൃദയം
സമയം തുഴഞ്ഞിങ്ങുയാത്രചെയ്യുന്നു.

ചക്രവാളച്ചുവപ്പിനുമപ്പുറം
തണുത്ത മേഘക്കപ്പുകളിലവള്‍
വിരഹം മൊത്തുന്നുണ്ടാവുമിപ്പോള്‍.

പുസ്തകമണങ്ങളില്‍പ്പെട്ടു
ദൂരമറിയാതെ ഞാനോ,
ഇത്തിരിവട്ടത്തില്‍
കാത്തിരിപ്പിന്‍റെ കൈയിലാകാശം നോക്കുന്നു.

പ്രണയം വാർന്നു വീഴുന്ന ദേഹവും നോക്കി
രണ്ടുപേരിങ്ങനെ...
ദൂരങ്ങളില്‍...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Interaction Analysis

Interaction approach looks at input, production of language or output and feedback of interaction as a means of explaining learning. According to Gass and Selinker (2008, 317) interaction research’s starting point is the assumption that language learning is stimulated by communicative pressure and it examines the relationship between communication and acquisition and the mechanisms that mediate between them. In short interaction studies look at communication and acquisition using interactions between speakers of a language.

Components of interaction include negotiation, recasts and feedback. Negotiation of meaning is dealt with in this essay.

When the flow of conversation is disturbed, participants question particular utterances and request help with the conversation. This is a kind of negotiation of meaning in order to get equal participation in the conversation, to be part of the conversation from which the speaker slipped due to lack of understanding (or proficiency factors). Negotiation of meaning happens when parties in a conversation interrupt its flow to understand what the conversation is about. This happens frequently with non-native speakers according to Gass and Selinker (318). In my experience, this happens also with native speakers when internal or external factors affect the speaker or the listener. For example, in a mentally preoccupied situation, the listener may not interpret the speaker in the right manner. This necessitates clarification from the speaker for the smooth conduct of the conversation. Sometimes, especially with NNS, this happens too often that most of the conversation time is occupied by interruption as in 10.10.

Such lack of understanding is a block to exchange of ideas and opinions. So from the passage, we understand that not only NSs, but also NNSs change their conversation structure to negotiate meaning. Long notices NNS conversations to have forms that are not seen in NS conversations. Examples are confirmation checks like ‘am I right?’, comprehension checks like ‘did you understand?’ and clarification requests like ‘eh?, huh?, what, etc.’.

Different kinds of questions are asked by NSs and NSSs of English. If a NS and a NNS are in conversation, then it is usually the NNS who expresses non-understanding. The NS then clarifies using different techniques to reduce complexity of the utterance so that the NNS can understand. These tactics convey much information to the NNS. Some of these tactics are, repeating the question after giving a pointer to the answer, giving choices for the listener to choose from, giving alternatives, rephrasing, etc.

But there are subtler differences observed in conversation. In case of NNS, there is a willingness to change topics abruptly when understanding is not reached. This can also happen as a result of unfruitful and long attempts to negotiate meaning. I have similar experiences with a Thai student of mine. We have often abandoned topic because neither of us could make sense of each other.
Here, modifications are for understanding of the NNS. Thus NNS is assisted in understanding what is spoken and to produce speech, so that there is less pressure on her. Another perspective on this is that this exercise could be for showing solidarity. There could be no aspect of ‘helping in understanding’ at all.

But here we need to make a distinction between comprehension and acquisition. Both are not equal. Comprehension is a single event, while acquisition is a permanent state in terms of learning.
The comparison of Conversational Analysis of two theorists Mori and Kasper with an Interactionist analysis of a conversation shows clear differences in approach. Input analysis is surface focused and is not looking for motivation of NS speech. That is, interactionist perspective is not concerned about the detailed aspects of a conversation that they don’t count as learning. For them, activities are not central to their approach. Therefore, increased accomplishment within an activity is not counted as or relevant as learning.


Reference
Gass, Susan M. andn Selinker, Larry. Second Language Acquisition. Routledge. London. 2008.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ശരീരമില്ലായ്മയുടെ പ്രണയം

അതല്ലേ പ്രണയം?
സ്പര്‍ശവും ചര്‍മ്മഗന്ധവും ഉന്മാദവും
നിഴലല്ലേ, നിറമല്ലേ, മാഞ്ഞുപോകും.
നിന്‍റെ പ്രണയം നിന്നോളം മാത്രം.

പുകമഞ്ഞിനപ്പുറമവളുണ്ടെന്നതും
പുസ്തകമണത്തിലോര്‍മ്മ പൂക്കുന്നതും
ഒരുമാത്ര മിന്നല്‍പ്പിണരിലവളുണരുന്നതും
മാത്രമല്ലേ പ്രണയം?

ദൂരകാലങ്ങളില്ലാതെ,
കരിയിലയനക്കങ്ങളില്‍
പരസ്പരം കാണ്മതല്ലേ പ്രണയം?
ശരീരമില്ലായ്മയിലല്ലേ പ്രണയം?


Input in Language Acquisition

Language learning is not as simple as filling some content into existing structures so that all on a sudden you begin speaking- like installing an operating system onto a new computer. You are not ready to go in 30 minutes. To see how complex a process is language acquisition, there are many frameworks we can adapt. Here, we will begin by looking at language input and its importance in acquisition of a language.

Language Input
Former conceptualizations of second language learning was based on behaviourist models where input in terms of exposure and imitation was the most important aspect in learning a language. Research based on input faded away as behaviourism was kept aside by theoreticians, and it became old fashioned. New interest was in the way of internal mechanisms of the learner. What the learner brings to learning situation began to be seen as very important. the focus is here on innateness and innate system within the learner. The view here is that the learner is the creator of language. Input is not important.

In 1967, Corder made an important distinction between input and intake. Input is what is available to the learner in terms of input, and intake is what is actually internalized, or acquired. Input is that language to which the learner is exposed. Any babble can be input. But that does no good to the learner. Intake is available for the learner to use at all times, and is part of the system of the learner.

Now, what is the nature of input to a language learner? Ferguson says that similar to the language mothers/elders use for their kids (motherese), there is something called 'foreigner talk'. Foreigner talk is simplified talk that Native Speaker (NS) use for the consumption of Non Native Speaker (NNS) or language deficient individuals. Ferguson set out to understand the similarity of motherese and foreigner talk.

There are various ways of making foreigner talk. It could be slow speech rate, loud speech, long pause, simple vocabulary, repetition, elaboration, restraining from use of slang, etc. Speech is adjusted by NS as a function of the learner proficiency. NSs make modifications in speech when they perceive that NNSs don't comprehend.

The techniques used are not only phonological and syntactical, but also like restatement, repetition, elaboration, giving more information, fuller use of noun or object or other classes or phrases, implicit grammatical information being made explicit, etc.

NSs assess and reassess NNS's linguistic ability during conversational interaction. So, during conversation, NS's speech pattern changes. This adjustment facilitates comprehension.

What are the functions of foreigner talk in terms of language learning? One, NNS's understanding is facilitated. Foreigner wants to be understood. Comprehensibility is the important criterion in a conversation. Foreigner talk is produced because comprehensible input is to be produced if comprehension has to occur (Like motherese creates comprehensible input for the baby, foreigner talk produces comprehensible input for the L2 learner). But not all foreigner talk is created equal. Parker and Chaudron says that discourse elaboration or modification of conversational structure aids comprehension better than simplification at linguistic level i.e., foreigner talk.

Input Hypothesis-Krashen
Krashen's Monitor model, where what you learn acts as your monitor to check your language use, and input hypothesis should be discussed in this context. Input hypothesis came as an explanation to Natural Order hypothesis. He argued that there is a natural order in which languages are learned. If there is an order, how does learner move from one point to another? The answer is Input hypothesis. Second languages are acquired by receiving comprehensible input.

For comprehensible input to work, the input should be one bit ahead of the current state of the learner's grammatical knowledge. If the learner's current state is 'i', comprehensible input should be 'i+1'. Input should not be very high or very low compared to the current state. It won't serve the purpose then. This condition has to be satisfied for acquisition to happen. Krashen assumed the availability of the Language Acquisition Device for first and second language acquisition. Comprehensible input activates this structure.

Input hypothesis applies to all acquisition, in class room also according to Krashen. He notes that speaking is the result of acquisition, not the cause of it. Speech emerges as a result of comprehensible input. What you acquire becomes part of your language, which is used in speech. If input is understood, necessary grammatical structures are automatically provided. A teacher need not deliberately teach grammar, the next step in the natural order. It happens automatically if comprehensible input is there. That is, no explicit language teaching is required. (This view led to the development of Communicative Language Teaching of CLT). The teacher's role is limited to ensuring the availability of comprehensible input.

The difficulties of this theory are the following. Krashen did not talk about level of the learner (i, i+1, etc.). He did not specify what is 'specific quantity' of appropriate input. He also did not consider how extra-linguistic information helps in actual acquisition or internalization of a language if understanding is defined at the level of meaning. We may understand what is spoken, but does that necessarily mean the grasp of grammatical rules that underlie the speech? How does exposure to language translate into internalization of language rules? These questions are not answered by Krashen's account.

Now, what is the relevance of Krashen's Monitor model and Input hypothesis to foreigner talk as language input in second language learning? Krashen's theory speaks about comprehensible input. The emphasis is on 'comprehension'. If input is not comprehensible, it is not relevant. That is why he speaks of i, i+1, etc. Likewise foreigner talk is a tactic by which comprehensible input is generated for the listener who is linguistically not at the level of the speaker. By keeping comprehensibility as the criterion, NS adjusts her speech in order to create comprehensibility. This is the relevance of input hypothesis in relation to foreigner talk.

Notes prepared from: Gass, Susan M. and Selinker, Larry. Second Language Acquisition. Routledge. London. 2008.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

ഇരുട്ടിന്‍റെ ബലിച്ചോറ്

മകരമഞ്ഞു മായുമ്പോഴെങ്കിലും 
നീ അരികിലുണ്ടാവുമെന്ന്‍...

ഇന്നലെ,
നിലാവിന്‍റെ ചൂടില്‍ ഓര്‍മ്മകള്‍ കത്തിയമര്‍ന്നപ്പോള്‍
ഇനിയെന്നുകാണുമെന്ന്...

കനലടര്‍ന്ന കൊള്ളിയില്‍ പുകയായി ഞാന്‍മാത്രം ബാക്കിയായി.

ദൂരെ കരിപുരണ്ട വിരഹം ആര്‍ത്തിയോടെ കാത്തിരിക്കുന്നു.
ഇരുട്ടിന്‍റെ ബലിച്ചോറിന്നായി...

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Snow roads

Keeper of my frangipanis,
Though far,
The dark sheen of your cheeks
Melts my melancholy away.

When your flowing hair sweeps over the flowers
Sprouted and bloomed in bereavement,
The snow-laden roads here gather some warmth.
For me, to smile.

Friday, January 15, 2016

മഞ്ഞുവഴികള്‍

എന്‍റെ ചെമ്പകങ്ങളുടെ തോട്ടക്കാരീ,
ദൂരെയാണെങ്കിലും
നിന്‍റെ കവിളുകളുടെ ഇരുണ്ട നിറമുള്ള തിളക്കം
എന്‍റെ വിഷാദമുരുക്കി മാറ്റുന്നു.
വിരഹം കിളിര്‍ത്തുപൂത്ത ചെമ്പകങ്ങളില്‍
നിന്‍റെ മുടിയിഴയോര്‍മ്മകള്‍ ചാഞ്ഞുവീണുപടരുമ്പോള്‍
അറിയാതെയെങ്കിലും പുഞ്ചിരിക്കാന്‍
ഇവിടങ്ങളില്‍
മഞ്ഞുവീണവഴികള്‍ ചൂടൊരുക്കാറുണ്ട്.

.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bilingualism and Multilingualism: Some Central Concepts

Bilingualism and multiligualism exist and influence a host of social, cultural, political and psychological issues surrounding us. It is a widespread phenomena. When driven by necessity it usually doesn't go beyond a basic level of proficiency necessary for functional purposes. 

In order to be called multilingual or bilingual, one needs to know 

Competence in more than one language can be approached from social as well as individual perspectives. A nation may be full of multilingual people, but may not officially recognize all of them. A country may be officially bilingual or multilingual and yet most of its citizens may fall into the monolingual basket. While both individual and social aspects are important, both are treated and studied differently. Individual bilingualism should be studied linguistically and psycholinguistically while the social version is more historical, political, educational, etc. in dimension. 

Social bilingualism is certainly of the longstanding type. Individual type is less permanent (Immigrants to USA: first generation monolinguals-second generation bilinguals-third generation monolinguals). When different languages are used in different functions and domains, the situation is referred to as diglossia (English and French in England after Norman conquest). There are various individual and social factors at play in the background when nation is being declared monolingual or bilingual. 

People move across the world on various pretexts. Languages get mixed in the process. Trade, military action, political intervention/union, war, etc. are a few instances. For example, when colonial powers entered colonies, they somehow made their language a necessity in the colonies, and to date most colonies continue using the foreign language. Multilingualism is observed in border areas also. Cultural and educational motivation also can be the reason. 

Classification
Every language situation is unique. But some of the elements that influence the formation of bilingual or multilingual situations are recurring. Thus there could be a framework to study this phenomenon. 

John Edwards has created a typological framework of language–contact settings, with particular reference to minority linguistic groups. The framework begins with the adaptation of a geographical scheme. It has three basic distinctions. 

1. Minority Languages

  • those which are unique to one state- unique (e.g., Breton in France), 
  • those which are non-unique but which are still subordinate in all contexts in which they occur- non-unique (e.g., Basque in Spain and France), and 
  • those which are minorities in one setting but majority varieties elsewhere- local-only (French in Canada and French in France)
2. the type of connection among speakers of the same language in different states; are they adjoining (again, Basque in Spain and France) or non-adjoining (French in Canada and French in France)? 
3.  what degree of spatial cohesion exists among speakers within a given state? Cohesive (Cree in Canada) and non-cohesive (Spanish in the United States) 


The Reality of Multilingualism
‘Link languages’ fall into three categories: 

  1. socalled ‘languages of wider communication,’ varieties that have achieved regional or global power- Languages become those of wider communication not because of their intrinsic qualities, but because of the power and prestige of their speakers. Example: Greek, Latin.
  2. pidgins (a simplified language or simplified mixture of languages used by non-native speakers), creoles (a stable natural language that has developed from a pidgin becoming nativized by children as their first language, with the accompanying effect of a fully developed vocabulary and system of grammar), and other restricted linguistic forms whose diminished scope is at once easy to master and sufficient for communicative purposes which are, themselves, quite circumscribed; and 
  3. constructed or ‘artificial’ languages (example:  Ludwig Zamenhof’s Esperanto). 

The other great bridging method is translation. The problem with translation is the elements involved in making the translation. Perfect translation happens only in imagination! 


Personal Fluencies
Some views acknowledged bilingualism only where two well-developed and roughly equal fluencies were found. Others have suggested that linguistic repertoire expansion begins with the ability to produce complete and meaningful  utterances in a second language. Any attempt to come to grips with bilingual competences must obviously start from definable levels or degrees. There are many elements of a language that can be measured. Proficiency in one doesn't guarantee the same in another. 

Many tests have been used to measure bilingualism, including rating scales and tests of fluency, flexibility, and dominance. Factors such as attitude, age, gender, intelligence, memory, inter-linguistic distance, and context of testing are all potentially confounding. Even if you can measure accurately, there would remain problems of adequate labeling (balanced bilinguals, ambilinguals, and equilinguals?). 

Receptive (or passive) and Productive (or active) Bilingualism: the difference here is between those who understand a language – either spoken or written – but cannot produce it themselves, and those who can do both. 
Additive or subtractive tendencies: does learning a new language represent a repertoire expansion or a replacement of the earlier variety? Outcomes here tend to reflect different social pressures and needs. Additive bilingualism generally occurs where both languages continue to be useful and valued; the subtractive variety typically reflects a setting in which one language is more dominant, where one is on the ascendant and the other is waning.
Primary and secondary bilingualism, between a dual competence acquired naturally through contextual demands, and one where systematic and formal instruction has occurred.
‘élite’ and ‘folk’ bilingualism: The former has typically involved two (or more) prestigious languages, and often had as much to do with social-status marking as it did with a thirst for knowledge and cultural boundary crossing. 

The Bilingual or Multilingual Individual
Individuals who are bilingual or multilingual are from all sorts of backgrounds. With sufficient opportunity and motivation, anyone who is sufficiently intelligent can become bilingual. 

Can bilingualism increase the scope of intelligence? Today's scholars say otherwise. Florence Goodenough –an important educational psychologist who worked with Lewis Terman, the developer of the Stanford–Binet intelligence test – actually wrote that ‘the use of a foreign language in the home is one of the chief factors in producing mental retardation’!

There are some important difficulties involved in attempting to show a relationship – positive or negative – between bilingualism and cognitive development, mental flexibility, and intelligence. 
The most obvious bilingual benefit is of course language choice, but it is also common to find linguistic alteration occurring within one segment of speech. Transfer and code-switching are available. Lexcal transfer, transfer involving translation, morphological transfer, syntactic transfer, and phonological tranfer are varieties. Some of these might represent aspects of borrowing.

Theory and Practice
There are advantages of an early-acquired bilingual competence; these tend to reflect, above all, the relative ease of early learning and the higher levels of fluency and vocabulary that often result. This argument about plasticity of brain led to overemphasis on early acquisition. If there is sufficient motivation, older learners also can be good learners.  If we could combine the maturity and articulated necessity of the older with the impressionability, imitativeness, spontaneity, and unselfconsciousness of the younger, we would surely have a recipe for rapid and proficient bilingual acquisition.

The attention on memory based language learning has shifted to conversation/practice based learning. Immersion classrooms provide the most recent and most important embodiment of this principle. In this context many useful theories have emerged.

Most such approached depart from behaviourism and rely upon cognitive conception and go for rule formulation and testing. Learning happens through stages of InterLanguages. Social psychology based theories have looked at motivational features. When the social aspects of language are considered, the force of the situation, and the attitudes it provokes in potential learners, are central. Gardner has consistently attempted to link the social context, and the cultural beliefs within it, to individual learner capacities – including, of course, motivational levels – and the formal/informal settings in which the language is to be learned. Throughout, he stresses the influence of integrative motivation upon positive outcomes. 

Clément’s model sees individual motivations more influential in the social setting. He assigns particular relevance for those language learners who are also minority-group members, and whose first language is threatened by the forces of those speaking the second. 

Giles considers language learning as an intergroup process, with more attention given to assimilative tendencies and apprehensions, to the preservation of ethnic group boundaries and identities. 

Spolsky’s ‘general theory’ (1989) attempts  to bring together all aspects of language learning, and assumes learning to be an interactive and socially contextualized process. 

As theories advanced, we can see a clear emphasis on social and motivational aspects of learning. Most theories discard the assumption that some 'peoples' have no head for languages. They stress the importance of the setting, desires, needs, attitudes and motivation of ordinary people. The fact that millions of people become bilinguals just because of necessity puts all other factors on the backseat. 

Language and Identity
Language is a vehicle of tradition and culture, is a  medium of group narrative, and defines one's identity. When more than one language is involved, its implications should be considered carefully. The important factor here is the degree of bilingualism. Studies on personality and identity is difficult because of the lack of sufficient data being collected. 

Some have the opinion that bilinguals have 'two' identities/personalities. Language choice has bearings on personality.

Each of us may carry the tribal markings of many groups, that our ‘group identity’ is itself a mosaic rather than a monolith. Still, it is clear that, where language issues are central, the pivotal group is the ethnocultural community: overlaps of importance may occur because of simultaneous membership in gender, socioeconomic, educational, occupational, and many other categories, but the base here is an ethnic one.

How does a bilingual feel about her identity then? Does it lead to the borders of psychological duality? The deeper the linguistic and cultural burrowing into another community the greater the impact upon identity. In case of some bilinguals there is a primary allegiance to one identity. But for some who became bilinguals at a very early age, it is difficult to find such allegiance to one identity. 

The influence of language on identity can be clearly seen in the association of language with nationality. Languages in contact can also build walls to protect language identity. An interesting form of this defensive strategy is linguistic prescriptivism or purism which, given free rein, would often lead to proscription. Concern about the ‘contamination’ of one language by another, about infiltration and borrowing and about the bullying of small languages by larger ones is an historically longstanding worry; the desire to keep one’s language ‘pure’ has been strong, at least since the time of the decline of Latin in Europe, the rise of standardized vernaculars, the development of printing, and the growth of literacy. 

The importance of being multilingual is, above all, social and psychological rather than linguistic. Beyond types, categories, methods, and processes is the essential animating tension of identity.


Summary of Chapter 1 of-
Tej K. Bhatia and William C. Ritchie. Edited. (2013) The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, Second Edition. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Clause as a linguistic category

Clause is the linguistics equivalent of the term sentence.

How do we identify a clause and differentiate it from a word? There is a longer and decisive pause after a clause.

3 kinds of clauses- functional division based on Mood
There are only 3 moods. Therefore there are only 3 kinds of clauses. They are:
  1. Imperative clauses- expect someone to act on the information in the clause
  2. Interrogative clauses- seek information
  3. Declarative clauses- give information
Generally language speakers confuse mood and modality. (Modality: The expression of the speaker's opinions about present likelihood or about obligation: (a) (narrowly) by means of a modal auxiliary verb; (b) (more widely) using any of the linguistic means available.)

In linguistics, there are only 3 moods, they are attributes of clauses. Modality is an attribute of verbs.

Clauses can be studied syntactically and pragmatically.
Syntactically, we look at types of clauses.
  • Relative clause
  • main clause
  • subordinate clause
  • complement clause
  • etc.
  1. In a complex clause structure, the main clause is simple and is the central element. We can add or embed other clauses to/within this main clause. Main clause is simple and finite (Finite clauses must contain a verb which shows tense). 
  2. Relative clause is related to the argument of the predicate. 
  3. Subordinate clause is called so because the information given there is dependent on the argument of the main clause. 
  4. Complement clause gives extra information about the main clause. 
Inside a Clause
Clauses have a predicate-argument structure. Predicate is the necessary part of a clause. Predicate is the main verb and its auxiliaries put together. An argument is an expression that helps complete the meaning of a predicate. Arguments are different from adjuncts. Adjuncts are optional while arguments are necessary components of a clause. 

The field of study of predicates, arguments and adjuncts is called valency theory. Predicates have a valence. They determine the number and type of arguments that can or must appear in their environment.

Valency
A Predicate can take one or more arguments depending on its valency. 

Valency refers to the number of arguments controlled by a verbal predicate. Verb valency includes all arguments including the Subject (unlike verb transitivity which counts only Object arguments). The meaning of valency is derived from Chemistry (as used by  Lucien Tesnière)

Types of Valency
  1. Avalency - Impersonal verb
    An impersonal verb has no valency/ no determinable subject: It rains. 'It' is a dummy subject- a syntactic placeholder with no concrete referent. 
  2. Monovalency - Intransitive verb
    An intransitive verb takes one argument. She sleeps.
  3. Divalency - Transitive verb
    A transitive verb takes two arguments. He kicked the ball.
  4. Trivalency -ditransitive verb
    A ditransitive verb takes three arguments. He gave her a flower.
  5. Quadrivalent - tritransitive verb
    Some tritransitive verbs take four arguments. I bet you two dollars it will rain.
Valency is a semantic property while Transitivity is a syntactic property. 
Valency reduction (to eat is divalent as in He eats an apple. But it can become monovalent as in he eats.) and expansion (to sleep is monovalent. But it can be expanded as in He sleeps the sleep of death.) can happen. 
An important aspect of Tesnière's understanding of valency was that the subject is an argument of the verb in the same manner that the object is.

Passivization is to decrease the valence of a verb. Causativization increases valence as in ditransitivity: I made you run.

A one argument predicate is called an intransitive clause (related to the verb). Argument of an intransitive verb is called Subject (S). Argument of a transitive verb is called Agent (A) and/or Direct Object (O). O is anything that gets affected by A. 
When predicate doesn't have a normal verb- like 'is' in the clause Ram is a good boy, the verb 'is' acts as a copula relating the S and the predicate. Some verbs need a copula verb. They do a relational activity, relating subject and predicate. 
Normally verb is the head of a predicate. 

Peripheral argument: I hit you on Monday. S, O and A are core arguments. Peripheral argument is an adjunct.

* Class notes

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Applications of psycholinguistics in language instruction

Two major applications of psycholinguistics are Task-based Instruction and Language Testing.

Task-based Instruction
Unlike foreign language instruction, task based instruction gives learners some tasks to perform, leading to communication which is the goal of language. Communication and meaning making processes operate directly.

But the limitation of this kind of instruction is the possible lack of focus on form. Bringing focus on form is the challenge of task based instruction, without compromising on the natural-ness of communication.

Therefore, selection of tasks has to strike a balance between form and content. Evaluation using the criteria of fluency, accuracy and complexity is important for the organization of the order of tasks. These three aspects are independent of each other.

Language Testing
If language performance and learning in psycholinguistics are dual code based (rule based code for performance and memory based code for faster access), and if they have to coexist, the mode of testing also has to change. One has to reflect on how processing factors affect performance. The three aspects of fluency, accuracy and complexity are important aspects.  One needs to draw from cognitive psychology to shape how we make test based generalization about real world performance.

Speaking at normal rates: How is this explained?

Native speakers draw upon lexical modes of communication. Chunks of speech are stitched together to save processing time and processing resources. This saved resources can be used to plan future utterances. Therefore, speech goes on smoothly at a normal pace.

This implies a dual coding approach to language performance and learning. Dual coding requires one to account for the use of a rule based system in economical and parsimonious performance and a memory based system for fast access. Also, we need to account for the coexistence of these to systems. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

Why does politics always use Language as a unifying factor?

"The phenomenon of linguistic imperialism and its attendant forms of socio-political exclusion is not about oppressive relations based on race or skin colour that prevailed earlier. It is about unequal power relations whereby dominated groups regardless of skin colour or nationality are coerced into complying with forces of domination and mental control. In other words, the ultimate goal of linguistic imperialism is to ensure that the dominated identify with the cultural norms of the dominator, and accept the hegemonic language." (Ndhlovu, 181)

This quote about Zimbabwe reveals a lot about the politics of language. At a more parochial level, all of us experience some sort of politics of language in our day to day language. If you are from a monolinguistic state it would identify itself on the basis of language. If it is a multilingual state, it would have its preferences towards certain languages. It will surely employ various techniques to address plurality of languages. 

Politics uses language because language synchronizes the experiences of speakers. Our experience of the world is mapped on to something. This something is called language. If world view is taken as a criterion, then no two language provides same worldview. That is why every language group has a particular world view. At a personal level, language defines your identity. Also at a social level, language defines your identity. This identity is what politics wants to appropriate. 

Ndhlovu, Finex. The Politics of Language and Nation Building in Zimbabwe

Language and Identity

Language is linked to one's identity. There are two perspectives to it- shallow and deep. The shallow perspective is at the level of identifying people according to the language one speaks. One can be placed within or without a certain language speaking group. One can choose to belong to or identify as part of a language group. At a deeper level, one's identity changes when one speaks a different language. Language is not able to say what you want to say, usually in your L2. L1 being your primary language is always available for meaningful and effective communication. It is found that Russian speakers find it easy to identify shades of blue, because Russian has different names for different shades of blue. The earlier you familiarize yourself with a language, the more comfortable you would be in that language. When we use L2, we become conscious and formal. This can be explained on the basis of ethnocultural elements. People usually associate languages with contexts-social and cultural. For example, Hindi for home communication and English for office communication. English has formality attached to it thus. Therefore, if you are forced to use English at home or Hindi at the office, you would feel uncomfortable. Also, status, degree, etc. are associated to certain languages. When English is given to non-English children at home, they get confused. Children know that English is not their first language. This affects the identity of the child.

Bilingualism

Bilingualism is defined as having the ability to use two or more languages.  
Bilingualism can be individual and collective. When an individual in a society learns a second language he/she becomes a bilingual. There are possibilities and instances where an entire society turns bilingual by learning a second language. By learning another language the status of the learner changes. 

Individual bilingualism: There are cognitive advantages. Bilingual people can do certain tasks better than others. 

Collective Bilingualism: Emigrants change the linguistic composition of a place. For example, in 7th, 8th and 9th centuries, Persian came to India. Through interaction with Hindi, a new language was born- Urdu. When people from another linguistic background reach another place (colonists, religious, etc.) they bring their culture and language along with them. When British came to India, they took over the political system and then taught us English for the sake of administration. In Belgium, Flemish and French are spoken. Flemish, spoken in Flanders resembles Dutch because of the geographical proximity to Netherlands.

Varieties of Bilingualism: 

  1. Minority Languages- spoken in restricted areas (Breton in Brittany, France)
  2. Non-Unique language- Basque in Spain.
  3. Minority in one setting, majority in another: French in Canada, French in France
3 important variables in Bilingualism
  1. Speaker
  2. Language
  3. Setting 
How does Bilingualism begin?
  • To bridge language gap
    If people of two different languages come together, there has to be a link language or a lingua-franca. It becomes a pidgin as it begins to take shape. Later when it becomes the first language of second generation learners, it becomes a creole. There could be artificial languages like Esperanto.
How do we judge someone to be bilingual?
Someone should be able to speak 2 fully developed languages (not dialects of the same language). The person should be able to comprehend and produce both languages with proficiency. There should be comparable proficiency in both languages. Someone who knows only how to greet in a second language is not a bilingual. There are rating scales, questionnaires, fluency tests, etc. to determine these factors. 

Age, gender, intelligence, memory, context of testing, inter-linguistic distance, etc. are important factors that affect bilingualism. 

Terminology used in the study of Bilingualism
  • balanced bilinguals
  • unbalanced bilinguals
  • equilinguals
  • ambilinguals
  • receptive and productive bilinguals
  • additive and subtractive bilinguals
  • primary and secondary bilinguals

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Error Analysis (EA)

Error Analysis (EA) is a type of linguistic analysis that focuses on the errors learners make. Unlike Contrastive Analysis, L1 is not used to compare. Comparison is made between learners' errors in TL and the TL form itself. It is similar to the weak version of contrastive analysis in that both start from learner production data; however, in contrastive analysis the comparison is made with the native language, whereas in error analysis it is made with the TL.

Corder (The significance of learners’ errors, 1967) observed that learners' errors may be significant in themselves, and they should not be discarded as such. This led to shift emphasis from pedagogical issues to others. Errors can be indicators of learner's knowledge of L2. It has been found that errors are not a reflection of faulty imitation. But errors are indicators of learners' attempts to bring a system into the new language being learned. Probably, focus on errors led to the beginnings of the field of SLA. It is important because of its implications on psychology and linguistics also.

Corder identifies the difference between errors and mistakes. Mistakes are like the slips of the tongue- one time only events. Speaker corrects it after identifying it. An error is systematic. It occurs repeatedly, ad is incorporated in the language system of the learner. Therefore, these are errors according only to the teacher, not according to the learner. For the learner, it is all part of the IL. For example, utterances like 'no speak', 'no understand', etc. are consistent and systematic errors of the learner, and are mistakes according to the teacher! Such interpretations could hold learning/teaching process back.

Error analysis was done inside classrooms with pedagogical remediation as goal, using the following steps:
  1. Collect data: written and oral
  2. Identify errors
  3. Classify errors
  4. Quantify errors
  5. Analyze source
  6. Remediate: Based on the kind and frequency of an error type, pedagogical intervention is carried out.
Error analysis is more useful to teacher/researcher to explain errors. There are 2 types of errors, interlingual and intralingual in EA. Interlingual errors can be attributed to the NL - cross-linguistic comparisons. Intralingual errors stem out from the TL, independent of the NL. One would expect similar intralingual errors from speakers of varieties of languages. 

Criticism

  1. One criticism said that EA is all about errors, and that one should consider errors as well as non-errors to get the entire picture of a learner's linguistic behaviour. 
  2. A 1974 article by Schachter showed that the NL is a determining factor in accounting for the facts of restrictive relative clause production, yet these facts would not be apparent through an error analysis alone! She studied the use of Restrictive relative clauses in English by native speakers of Persian, Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese. The error data she collected would say that Chinese and Japanese learners of English had control over formation of restrictive relative clauses, and Persian and Arabic users do not. But further data on errors plus non-errors showed a different analysis. While error were more in Persian and Arabic learners had more errors, they also produced half as many correct restrictive relative clauses as Japanese and Chinese learners! Why does this discrepancy occur?
    Japanese and Chinese form relative clause by placing the modifier before the noun it modifies. Persian and Arabic relative clauses are similar to English in that the relative clause is placed after the noun it modifies. Because the difference between how NL and TL forms relative clauses, learners do not frequently use the structure (Chinese and Japanese). But when they use it, they use it cautiously and with high degree of accuracy. Persian and Arabic learners use them a lot because their NL structure is similar to TL structure of relative clauses, and therefore, make more errors. Thus, EA alone couldn't bring out the explanation just by looking at the errors, while in fact, NL was a major factor.
  3. Another difficulty is in judging if something is an error. Learners can use structures of NL to construct sentences in TL. It might be interpreted as an error of some kind, while it might be of another kind. So, there could be a mismatch between what the teacher judges as error and what the learner is actually attempting to do. 
  4. Attempt to give reasons to errors is another inadequacy or EA. The assumption is that is the form is correct, underlying rule is also correct. But learner might make correct sentences, yet may not have internalized the necessary background rules.  In sum, error analysis alone cannot provide us with this information, because an assumption of error analysis is that correct usage is equivalent to correct rule formation.
  5. Source of errors also pose criticism. EA says that errors can be categorized as belonging to one source or another. Can we attribute single reason for errors? Learner production may be influenced simultaneously by multiple sources (article system and Czech learners of English). Source of error could be TL and NL simultaneously also. Schumann studied the use of negation by Spanish learners of English. Learners pass through 5 stages before figuring out that 'do' is the element that carries tense and person distinction qualities in negation. He observed that certain stages of development are more persistent for learners from certain languages. He found that in case of Spanish learner of English, 2 forces, namely native language and facts of development act as sources of error. In case of learners from other languages, the only factor at play is development. He says that a single source of error will have less influence than a set of converging sources, and will lead the learner to move much more rapidly in the developmental sequence. 
EA acknowledges that learners are more than imitators of language. But it only sees a part of what a second language learner produces. Therefore, it doesn't analyse sufficient data. EA doesn't have comprehensive approach. Therefore, one cannot hope to understand a learning situation with a partial study like EA.

Notes prepared from: Gass, Susan M. (2008). Second Language Acquisition. Routledge, New York.

Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis

1950s and 60s saw language as a habit. Second language learning was seen as forming a new set of habits. Therefore, native language had a very relevant role, since in this view of language learning, it was the major cause of lack of success in language learning. The habits established in childhood (NL) interfered with the establishment of a new set of habits (TL). From this understanding emerged the need to compare NL and TL. This is known as Contrastive Analysis which compares the rules of two languages to determine similarities and differences. Robert Lado is the major proponent of the this field.

Contrastive Analysis (CA) is a way of comparing languages in order to determine potential errors to isolate what needs to be learned and what doesn't need not be learned in second language learning. Phonology, morphology, syntax, social aspects, etc. are studied to predict what will be easier and difficult for learners. Similar structures will be easily transferred and learned.

Lado says:
Since even languages as closely related as German and English differ significantly in the form, meaning, and distribution of their grammatical structures, and since the learner tends to transfer the habits of his native language structure to the foreign language, we have here the major source of difficulty or ease in learning the structure of a foreign language. Those structures that are similar will be easy to learn because they will be transferred and may function satisfactorily in the foreign language. Those structures that are different will be difficult because when transferred they will not function satisfactorily in the foreign language and will therefore have to be changed. (Lado, 59) 
Pedagogical materials that came out of CA in North American tradition were based on the following assumptions:
  1. CA is based on the assumption that language is a habit, learning a new language is establisment of a new set of habits. 
  2. major source of error in second language is the native language - NL.
  3. errors can be explained using differences between NL and TL.
  4. Greater the difference, greater the difficulty. 
  5. One has to learn the differences. Similarities are easily transferred.
  6. difficulty and ease are proportional to differences and similarities between the two languages under consideration. 
Various views on CA Hypothesis
Strong/a priori/predictive view: One can predict about learning, and success of materials based on CA. 
Weak/a posteriori/explanatory view: Starts with the learners' recurring errors and gives explanations for the learner behaviour based on CA.
Weak version gained faith because the strong version failed. Weak version gave importance to the learner, the forms they produced and the strategies they used to reach their IL forms.

CA did not survive because its theoretical background-behaviourims- belief that NL was the driving force of L2 learning- was discarded. In the 60s, language came to be seen in terms of structured rules. Behaviourism was discarded. Learning was no more seen as imitation and habit formation, but as active rule formation. 

The failure of behaviourism had implication on SLA. If imitation and reinforcement has no bearing on NL acquisition, may be SL also is not influenced by it. This became evident through data analysis. Some errors learners produced in L2 were in no way related to the structures/errors in their L1. (He comed yesterday- attempt to impose regularity on irregular verb). The theory did not predict what was happening in non-native speech. Not only did the predictions NOT come true, things that they did not predict appeared more than often. Within a theory based on the transference of NL forms, this could not be explained, for why should transfer occur in one instance, but not in another?

For example:
In French, object pronouns precede the verb, as in 
- Je  les  vois.
  I  them see
 "I see them.”
In English, object pronouns follow the verb. However, the following facts emerge in learner data:
By French learners of English 
I see them. (produced) 
*I them see. (not produced) 
By English learners of French- None of these is possible in French. 
a. Je vois elle. I see her. 
b. Le chien a mangé les. The dog has eaten them. 
c. Il veut les encore. He wants them still. 
In other words, French learners of English never prepose the object pronoun. Rather, they correctly follow English word order, which in this case is in violation of French word order. With English speakers, the reverse occurs: they follow the native language word order. If the “habits” of one’s native language are the driving force, then why should they be operative in one language, but not the other? (Gass 98-99)
The ideas of difficulty were also questioned. Difficulty was equated to errors in CA. Error meant that learner was having difficulty in learning. It is not a real measure of difficulty. How does one judge what is difficult for the learner? Error is not a real measure of difficulty. To equate difference with difficulty attributes a psycholinguistic explanation to a linguistic description. 

We can't say that there are no factors in NL that influences TL. But there surely are other factors than NL. The conclusion is that the 1:1 correspondence implied by CA Hypothesis between native and second language does not hold ground. It is not that simple. L1 has its effect, but cannot be limited to difficulty and transfer. There are other factors that may influence the process of acquisition, such as innate principles of language, attitude, motivation, aptitude, age, other languages known, and so forth. 

Comparing languages is a complex business. Lado himself had identified it. Stockwell, Bowen, and Martin gives a framework or hierarchy of difficulty in learning. it speaks also about ways in which languages can differ. Categories in which there is differentiation (NL has one form, TL has two forms), absence of some category in either languages (articles in English; Japanese has no articles), Only one form in L2, but two in L1, Correspondence, etc. are the elements of the hierarchy. CA also failed to validate claims through data from real world (empirical basis). 

Lado's hypothesis inspired a lot of research in the field of second language learning (to match CA predictions and actual data). As a result of Lado's warning to check hypothesis against actual data, Error Analysis emerged.

Reference
Gass, Susan M. (2008). Second Language Acquisition. Routledge, New York.
Secondary: Lado, R. (1957). Linguistics Across Cultures. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Psychological background of language acquisition, Contrastive Analysis

Language learning and Associate theories have derived their Technology from Psychology of learning. Behaviourism was the leading school of thought at that time. One of the key concepts of behaviourism was the notion of transfer. Concept says that if you learn concept A first, then all the concepts that you learn after that concept will be influenced by the first concept. If someone has learned tennis, she will use this knowledge when she learns to play table tennis. Old knowledge is thus transferred to new situation.

Learning is cumulative for behaviourists. The more knowledge someone has, the more likely it is that her learning is influenced by her past experiences and learning. An adult rarely finds something 'completely' new. 

The implication is that speed of learning can be influenced by what you already know. That is old knowledge will be transferred to new situation. Behaviourist notion underlines Expectations of habit and cumulative learning. For an adult the point of departure is learning of his/her past.

Let us now see how this concept is applied to second language learning. The concept of transfer has two aspects. Positive transfer or facilitation and negative transfer or Interference- these are not two distinct cognitive processes, but points to whether the process gives correct or incorrect results.
Example: If a Spanish speaker is learning Italian, when asking a question that speaker might correctly produce - Mangia bene  il   bambino?      eats     well the   babybecause in Spanish one uses the same word order to form questions.- ¿Come bien el   niño?       eats  well the babyThis is known as positive transfer. But if that same speaker is learning English and produces- Eats well the baby?the incorrect utterance is known as negative transfer. (Gass, 113)
There are two types of interference. Retroactive inhibition and proactive inhibition. Retroactive inhibition is when someone forgets something that was learnt earlier because of the new learning - language loss. Proactive inhibition is when previously learned responses appear in situations where new ones are required. This is more similar to second language learning since the first language in this model influences the learning of the second language.

But most of the experiments and results are gathered inside the laboratory. Their application in the real world has to be meticulously tested. 

Lado was the one who brought the theoretical underpinnings of behaviourist position explicit. Now turning to the work on second language acquisition based on the behaviourist positions, the major reason behind all this work was pedagogical. Behaviourists believed that problems in second language acquisition arise not out of difficulty in the features of language, but out of the special set created by the first language  itself.

Thus in the 1950s and 60s, language was understood as habit. Second language learning is the development of a new set of habits. And native language was seen as an impediment to learning L2. Childhood habits interfered with the establishment of new set of habits. 

From this framework, contrastive analysis (CA) emerged, because one needs to compare the rules of two languages. There are two traditions in contrastive analysis- North American and European. North American tradition emphasized on language teaching and learning. The goal of analysis was improvement of class room materials (Applied contrastive analysis according to Fisiak). In European tradition, goal was not pedagogical, but to gain a greater understanding of languages. Here, CA is a sub-discipline of linguistics.

Reference

Gass, Susan M. Second Language Acquisition, Routledge, New York 2008.

Behaviourism in (First) Language Learning

The role of native language has come to be known as language transfer. Much of the theory in this field is connected to SLA research. Language transfer is accepted or rejected because the associated theory is accepted/rejected. The assumption always was that the second language learner relies heavily on her/his native language. The need to produce pedagogically relevant materials prompted scholars to make contrastive analysis of native and target languages to determine their similarities and differences.

Transfer in this context should be explained. This can be determined based on output. That is, although the use of the term implies a process, the result is determined by the product.

Behaviourism 
Bloomsfield's classic work 'Language' (1993) provides the most elaborate description of the behaviourist position with regard to language.

Typical behaviourist position is that language is speech primarily. It is a precondition for writing. It is believed so because children learn to speak before writing, and some societies have no written language but all have spoken language, there are no societies with only written language.

Speaking is imitation and analogizing. As children we establish habits, and grow them by analogizing from what we already know or mimicking the speech of others.

Bloomfield's description of how language acquisition takes place:

  1. babbling generated by a child- imperfect repetition of something according to Bloomsfield. Sounds are imitated, resulting in habit formation. This babbling trains it to reproduce vocal sounds which strike its ear.
  2. Next is pairing this stimulus with the response of a native speaker. Mother saying something to the child initiates the response based on its habit through babble.
  3. Mother says doll when handing the child a doll. Thus handing of the doll, hearing of 'doll' and sight of the doll happens until it becomes a habit- sight and feel of doll makes it say 'doll'.This is how language is learned.
  4. Bloomsfield says that the absence of the stimulus can generate another stimulus, which in turn can generate the desired/same response.
  5. Correct performance yields better results. If child utters something very vaguely, adults won't understand.
In short, child learns to make stimulus-response connection. Learning involves the establishment of a habit by means of which these stimulus-response sets become associated.

Second Language Acquisition (SLA) - A Basic Introduction

Second Language Acquisition (SLA) is a very young field of study. Therefore theories about SLA are still being developed.

It is the study of how second language is learned - study of acquisition of a non-primary language. It studies prospects, challenges and scope of SLA. Are there rules governing SLA? Are they the same for First Language Acquisition and SLA?

SLA theory is impacted by fields of linguistics, psychology, psycho-linguistics, socio-linguistics, sociology, discourse analysis, conversational analysis, education, etc. It is a truly interdisciplinary field of study. It takes tools and methodology from allied disciplines.

SLA is not pedagogy unless it affects language acquisition directly.

Chomsky says that learning language is knowing human essence, distinctive qualities of mind unique to humans.

Second Language Acquisition concerns itself with determination of linguistic constraints on the formation of second language grammars.

Today's language teaching courses teach SLA also. There is a realization that language learning is more than rule memorization and translation. It involves learning to express communicative needs. That is, pedagogical decision making and must reflect what is known about the process of learning. Another factor is teachers' expectations.

Cross cultural communication has its own kinds of barriers and limitations. Phonological issues are also there.

Policy formation is dependent on one's knowledge of SLA. So it has to be well rooted.

In short, SLA learns the processes underlying the learning of a second language. It is different from the study of pedagogy.

Terminology

  1. NL- Native Language- this is the primary language or mother tongue or first language- L1
  2. TL- Target Language- the language being learned
  3. SLA- Second Language Acquisition- Process of learning another language after native language is learned. Some prefer to refer to it as Second Language Studies.
  4. FLL- Foreign Language Learning- learning of non-native language in the environment of one's native language. This happens commonly in a class room. Second language learning happens in target language environment. This provides access to native speakers' language.
There are five elements of language that we learn:
  1. Phonology or sound system
  2. Syntax or grammar
  3. Morphology and the lexicon- study of word formation
  4. Semantics- meaning
  5. Pragmatics- the way language is used in contexts
Learning an L2 is a complex task. SLA assumes that an interlanguage (IL) is created by the learner. It is filled with random errors, but has its own system and structure. Elements from NL and TL and new elements found nowhere will be found in IL. 

Fossilization is central to the concept of IL. It is the cessation of learning at a certain stage of IL. Some say, stabilization is a better term instead of fossilization. 



(Drawn from Gass' book on SLA)

Comprehension-based learning and the Roles of Output in language learning (Peter Skehan)

Roles of Output in language learning
  1. To generate better input: good output serves as good input.
  2. To force syntactic processing: awareness of need to produce speech makes better listeners of the means by which meaning is communicated. Syntax, etc. It causes input and listening to be used more effectively for interlanguage development.
  3. To test hypotheses: speaker can control the agenda, take risks, look for feedback on the points of doubt in his/her developing grammar. This makes learning more efficient, because speaker can build upon the feedback.
  4. To develop automaticity: real time speaking needs speed in processing. Linking utterances automatically reduces/saves processing time and spares the same for planning responses in speaking. Fluency comes by practice. (In languages where morphology (word order, etc.) plays a vital role, speaking helps faster learning.)
  5. To develop discourse skills: to be an effective communicator, it is not enough to have sentence construction skills. Participation in discourse is the only means by which these skills can be achieved. 
  6. To develop a personal voice: One needs to steer conversations along the interests of the speaker, finding ways of expression to mean what one wants to mean.
Importance of output
The points above detail the inadequacy of simple listening for language learning.

But is output sufficient as an efficient language learning tool?

Skehan says that the points above indicate that output is an efficient agent in learning language. Output has a central role in promoting interlanguage development by forcing syntactic processing, testing hypotheses, and developing automaticity. These stand for fluency and form.

The place of comprehension in language learning

It has been a subject of discussion as to why while first language learning almost always leads to success, second language learning doesn't have a great success rate. ELT has experimented various alternatives to methods of teaching and learning. It also has checked if approaches that connect first language acquisition to second language learning hold out any promise at all.

One such approach is comprehension-driven learning. This states that under the right conditions, second language development can happen simply as a result of exposure to meaningful input. One of the claims made by Peter Skehan (2014, 11) is that instructional activities that give importance to meaning (both comprehension- or production - based) may make learners to rely on strategies for communication that result in bypassing of the form of language.

Comprehension in Language Learning
Krashen is the one who has given much to comprehension-based language development. He said that comprehensible input is the basis for interlanguage development and change. He also said that such change has the potential to be carried over to production stage as well. In short, listening leads to learning how to speak. Krashen's argument is that the predictable context implies that what is said is a commentary of what is understood. This results in the expansion of interlanguage by the context-to-language connection involved. He quotes examples such as immersion education where learner has a lot of content based input available, and has freedom to develop at her/his pace. Studies have shown that such learners have much higher rates of achievements than those from traditional methods.

But criticism says that there is a contrast between the receptive and productive skills of learners of comprehension-based methods such as immersion education. They may have excellent comprehension skills, but may not be as good in production skills. Their errors can be persistent in speaking and writing even after years of instruction.

Strategies of comprehension
Native speaker uses a range of comprehension strategies (syntactic and semantic) in listening. It is probabilistic in nature, and does not follow any sort of deterministic model. That is, they don't use any linguistic model but use a variety of strategies.

Skehan (14) gives an outline of comprehension as dependent on three main sources of knowledge.
1. Schematic knowledge: Background and procedural knowledge
2. Contextual knowledge: situation and co-text
3. Systemic knowledge: syntactic, semantic and morphological knowledge

That is, we don't depend entirely on systemic knowledge to make meaning- we draw from context and schematic knowledge as well. Comprehension is in short a mixture of bottom-up and top-down processes. When we use top-down approaches more, our dependence on visual and auditory stimulus is reduced.

The implication is that comprehension process can be partly detached from syntactic system and form production. It may be considered partly an autonomous skill, whose development does not automatically transfer to other areas. An effective comprehender may be an effective strategy user, but not someone who extracts syntactic inferences from the language being processed. In short, comprehension may leave interlanguage untouched!

In case of second/foreign language learner, he/she already has schematic knowledge in place (first language), but lack systemic knowledge. When they face comprehension problems, they are likely to use schematic and contextual knowledge to overcome their systemic limitations. Therefore, the need to use interlanguage is reduced. Also, chances of interlanguage change and development is less.

The conclusion is, most people don't learn a second language by simply listening to it!

Krashen's claim regarding comprehension strategies was that language input is necessary, sufficient and efficient, and would lead to effective comprehension, and production. His claim also includes the fact that interlanguage will also be affected, and changed in the process. In fact, it is this second claim that makes his first claim interesting and worth discussion.


Reference and Source

Skehan, Peter. A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning, Oxford University Press, New York, 2014.