Language Acquisition Theories and How It Influences Teaching
I have decided that only a few of the theories that in this book and some of the websites I have reviewed, relate to my teaching experiences. My students have more severe
disabilities which interfere with communication processing as well as language development. Most of their communication skills are severely limited. My students require constant visual cues to help them focus on what the speaker is trying to communicate; otherwise sensory distractions would cause them confusion. I thought I wouldn’t find a theory in this text that would relate to my students. Instead after reading the text, I have found a few of the theories that did seem to influence how I teach my students daily. I also found the Theories of Language Acquisition web article to be helpful with understanding language acquisition. I still feel that when a teacher is working with students with autism who come from backgrounds where English is not spoken can be a frustrating experience. Students with autism require a consistent, repetitive, instructional routine. They do not process information when it is given in many different techniques. They are slower at processing information and many of them are non-verbal which interferes with understanding. They also lack generalization which means that they have to be re-taught the same skill in a totally new environment.
A language acquisition theory that stands out with me personally is Hymes’ Theory of Communicative Performance (Diaz-Rico p. 55). He says that “the use of language in the social setting is important in language performance.” (55). I am fortunate to have some verbal students but they speak very simple 1-2 phrases at the most. I have to use visual prompts with them to help them focus on what they are attempting to communicate. I can relate to this theory because the main focus of my program is to get my students to learn to communicate their individual needs in a more socially acceptable and understandable manner. In addition, it helps them understand that language is a form to allow other people help them with their basic needs. Another theory
I relate to in my teaching is Krashen’s Monitor Model of language Acquisition (56). The Acquisition-Learning Theory Hypothesis is what my students mostly relate to because he says that “Acquisition is subconscious, and occurs via natural interaction. Learning requires effort and conscious though. This occurs via formal instruction, like that provided in a classroom (Vose).” I teach my students how to use language in appropriate contexts and how to communicate effectively using the classroom as the place to learn. Another theory is the Acculturation/Pidginization Theory which assumes that the degree of proficiency of language is “determined by how much a student’s learning the target language is willing to assimilate to the culture of the target language group (Vose).” Even though most of my LEP students come from backgrounds that their second language is Spanish, my students speak or communicate through English in my classroom. They understand that if they attempt to use English which is the target language in my classroom, they will be successful in learning this language. I have only a few students who have the ability to actually speak somewhat fluently which does help.
The Discourse Theory is another theory that I can relate to as well. This theory emphasizes that learners acquire a second language usually more successfully by participating and communicating with others in a more natural setting (Vose). Most of my students are taught in a community setting where they can learn to use some of the language that I have taught in the classroom. They learn that a “city bus” is the bus that you pay to ride to take you around the community and not only a bus that will bring you to school. They also learn various survival signs that are in the community as well.
This is probably the most influential of theories that my students would have to relate to more than the classroom settings. My students are learning functional skills such as learning to socialize, be around new people, and learn about community places as well. They learn skills such as the use of money and learning to purchase items as well. Students with autism benefit from being taught these skills in a more natural setting which allow them to generalize and transfer these skills into other environments.
Diaz-Rico, L., & Weed, K. (2006). The cross cultural language and academic development handbook: a complete k-12 reference guide. Third ed. Boston: Pearson.
Vose, K. (n.d.). Some theories of second language acquisition. Retrieved Feb. 05, 2006, from Language Acquisition in Adults Web site: http://www.richmond.edu/~pli/projects/project4/kvmain.html.