A guest post by Geoff Jordan: SLA Research – who cares?

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to go to Seville to talk at the wonderful annual Spain TESOL conference. Outside of fretting about my own presentation and trying to ensure I deliver it as best I can, and away from the obligatory intensive socializing, my usual approach to conferences is to try to see a mixture of the big-name presenters and the plenaries (partly to keep an eye on what could reasonably be termed The Competition, partly because these large sessions are generally seen by most conference goers, and thus provide talking points as you chat to folk you’ve not met before) balanced out by rather more left-field kinds of things. When you’ve been going to conferences for a number of years, it’s easy to feel that you’ve heard it all before, so it’s always a pleasure and privilege to stumble upon something that pushes you, enlightens you, informs you, adds to where you’re at already or simply manages to entertain whilst also being highly informative. In all honesty, these days I feel lucky if I see two or three things per conference that really hit the spot for me.

Anyway, one of the talks I caught in 2011 was on Second Language Acquisition and its possible implications for ELT. It was delivered by a guy called Geoff Jordan, who’s I’m delighted to announce is now the second guest poster I’ve had here. Geoff has lived in Spain since 1981, working at ESADE, Barcelona for 28 years, first as a language teacher and then as Director of Studies. Since 2004, he’s been freelance, doing English immersion courses from home, working with post-doctoral students at the Universitat Politecnica de Barcelona and on the Distance Learning MA in AL and TESOL programme at Leicester University. Geoff also has his own blog, aimed particularly at those doing postgraduate work in Applied Linguistics, but surely of interest to anyone involved in teaching EFL.

I’ll say a bit about why this particular struck with me by and by, but now without further ado, I’ll let Geoff talk for himself!

There you go.

Hope you enjoyed that and found something of interest within.

If nothing else, it should’ve sent you reaching for a scrap of paper and had you jotting down bits and bobs to now go away and read!

From my point of view, firstly, it’s always good to see people who’ve clearly read a lot more than you have. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m first and foremost a teacher; secondly a writer and thirdly a trainer. Whatever else I may be, an academic is not one of those things! I try to stay as informed as I can manage, but there are only so many hours in the day, which is why it’s great that there are people like Geoff out there who are able to distill a lot of reading and thinking¬† into a fairly viewer-friendly / teacher-friendly kind of format. On top of all that, of course, it’s also always good to see something overtly theoretical that chimes with your own beliefs and practice. Here are just a few random thoughts I had whilst watching the presentation again this time around:

- I love the driving analogy. It’s a simile I’ve used myself before and I feel that there are many many similarities between learning to drive and learning to use a foreign language. In both, we have to internalize, proceduralize and then automatize before we can trundle along with any degree of comfort or competence. The role of the tutor in encouraging automaticity is one I’ve touched on several times before.

- Then notion that interlanguage doesn’t simply emerge – or at the very least doesn’t fully flower into something more recognisable as fluent use of the second language – of its own accord is one we would all do well to bear in mind. Interlanguage needs regular honing and restructuring if it is to be polished into something less odd or singular and more in keeping with mainstream use.

- The example of What’re you going to have? being learned and used competently as a chunk before being broken down and analysed, and then eventually,after some stumbling and falling and backsliding, being reconstructed in a range of different ways chimes very much with the idea of teaching grammar as lexis at low levels. The traditional idea has always been that you learn the parts first and build up to the whole but very clearly you can learn the whole first – or maybe it’s more accurate to say A whole first – and out of this, then learn how to build further similar examples.

- The idea that the door on anything approaching native-like SLA closes very young – around 14 – and that adults thus end up using entrenched L1 processing habits is very much what I was getting at in a recent post here. What seems to counter this entrenchment is not simply further exposure and comprehensible input, as Krashen once posited, but knowledge being made explicit, formal tuition, which can then feed back into improved acquisition away from formal instruction.

I could go on, but I don’t ant to steal Geoff’s thunder.

Instead, I’ll simply throw things over to you now and leave it up to readers to comment on what most struck you about the talk, what you agree with, what you’re unsure of, anything you vehemently object to, and so on.

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5 responses

  1. Mind-blowing! I’ve just listened to this and my mind is reeling!!!!! Thanks to both of you for sharing this. I shall re-post it in as many places as I can think of!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it.
      I really loved the original presentation I saw in Spain, as I said.
      I’m hoping that in future I’ll be able to persuade a few more of the more interesting folk I get to see at the conferences I’m lucky enough to attend to write posts.
      By the way, do have a look at Geoff’s blog when you get a spare moment.

  2. […] "2011 TESOL Spain talk on Second Language Acquisition and its possible implications for ELT. It was delivered by a guy called Geoff Jordan, who’s I’m delighted to announce is now the second guest poster I’ve had here. Geoff has lived in Spain since 1981, working at ESADE, Barcelona for 28 years, first as a language teacher and then as Director of Studies. Since 2004, he’s been freelance, doing English immersion courses from home, working with post-doctoral students at the Universitat Politecnica de Barcelona and on the Distance Learning MA in AL and TESOL programme at Leicester University. Geoff also has his own blog, aimed particularly at those doing postgraduate work in Applied Linguistics, but surely of interest to anyone involved in teaching EFL." Hugh Dellar  […]

  3. […] "2011 TESOL Spain talk on Second Language Acquisition and its possible implications for ELT. It was delivered by a guy called Geoff Jordan, who’s I’m delighted to announce is now the second guest poster I’ve had here. Geoff has lived in Spain since 1981, working at ESADE, Barcelona for 28 years, first as a language teacher and then as Director of Studies. Since 2004, he’s been freelance, doing English immersion courses from home, working with post-doctoral students at the Universitat Politecnica de Barcelona and on the Distance Learning MA in AL and TESOL programme at Leicester University. Geoff also has his own blog, aimed particularly at those doing postgraduate work in Applied Linguistics, but surely of interest to anyone involved in teaching EFL." Hugh Dellar  […]

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