This book is a brief but comprehensive introduction to the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). The intended audience is primarily undergraduate students, but it is also suitable for graduate students who have little or no prior knowledge of linguistics.
Our goals in writing this book are threefold: (1) to provide a basic level of knowledge about second language learning phenomena to students as part of their general education in humanities, the social sciences, and education; (2) to stimulate interest in second language learning and provide guidance for further reading and study; and (3) to offer practical help to second language learners and future teachers.
Scope and Perspective
We have included a broader range of SLA phenomena in this book than is the usual case: those involved in both adult and child second language learning, in both formal (instructed) and informal (natural) contexts of learning, and in diverse sociocultural settings. Since our own professional identities and commitments are interdisciplinary, we emphasize the importance of integrating linguistic, psychological, and social perspectives on SLA even as we recognize the differential nature of their assumptions and contributions. An effort has been made to maintain balance among them in quantity and quality of representation.
The focus of this book is on the acquisition of second language “competence” but this construct is broadly considered from different points of view: as “linguistic competence” (in the sense of underlying grammatical knowledge); as “communicative competence” (adding notions of requisite cultural knowledge and other knowledge which enables appropriate usage); and as knowledge required for participation in communicative activities involving reading, listening, writing, and speaking.
Each chapter of this book considers three basic questions: What exactly does the L2 learner come to know? How does the learner acquire this knowledge? Why are some learners more successful than others? Chapter 1 introduces the most basic terms and concepts, beginning with “What is SLA?” Chapter 2 provides a foundational background, ranging from the nature and distribution of multilingualism in the world to generally accepted notions of contrasts between first and second language acquisition. The chapter concludes with a preview of the different theoretical frameworks of SLA which will be surveyed. Chapters 3 to 5 focus in turn on different disciplinary perspectives: linguistic, psychological, and social. Chapter 6 focuses on the competence required for academic and interpersonal functions, and on the interdependence of content, context, and linguistic knowledge.