Learning and teaching Second language is not easy and is not simple case. It takes many variables of the learners when they must think, feel and act in the second language; when they must leave their first language and come into the new language, and demand teacher to know and understand every variable that is taken from the learners. That is why only few people are able to success in learning the second language well.
Here, I will simply talk about the variables; including some theories had been created by many linguists since a century ago.
What is language?
It is impossible to teach something when we do not know what we will teach. So, when we will teach a language,
we must understand what language is. In simple explanation, language is the system of arbitrary symbols used to communicate in human life.
Is any different between study and learn?
In short, study is used for knowledge (the purpose is so that the student know) while learn is used for skill (the purpose is so that learner can do something).
We must say “I study Biology” not “I learn Biology:”, do not say “I study swimming” but “I learn swimming”.
What is Language acquisition (LA) and what is language learning (LL)?
According Wilkins (1974) in Ellis (1990:41) definite that the term acquisition is the process where language is acquired as a result of natural and largely random exposure to language while the term learning is the process where the exposure is structured through language teaching. In other word, that acquisition and learning were synonymous with informal and formal language learning context.
Another definition says that learning process can be explained as a process of learning by studying the forms firstly, then the meaning while acquisition can be defined as a process in learning language by studying the meaning firstly, and then may learn the form or not.
This is the example, you have two brothers. The one is studying in a senior high school and studying English there. He comes into the class everyday. When he was at the first time studying in the senior high school he was unable to speak English; he had not ability in English. But, day after day, month after month, year after year, finally, when he has graduated, he can speak English, he understands about English rules. While the other one, he went to US and work in a company. Firstly, he could not speak English, but after some years, he is able to speak English well. Because, everyday he always interact, communicate, listen, write and read in English.
The process in learning English of your first brother is a learning process while the second one is an acquisition process. If you ask what gerund is to your second brother, he may not understand, because he only practice in English (learn the meaning) without learning the form of English. Otherwise, if you ask what gerund is to your first brother, he may answer “the verb-ing form has function as noun”, because, he have studied the form, the rules of English language.
Although there are many others perception of the both term, but we can conclude that the term acquisition is used for the process of learning language naturally, informally while the learning is used for the process formally.
What is teaching language?
- Teaching is giving information and instruction about language
- Teaching is setting tasks so that student do activity using language
- Teaching is guiding and facilitating learning, enabling the learner to learn setting the condition for learning language.
SCHOOLS THOUGHT IN SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
In structuralist opinion, that look language from the form view, language can be separated become small parts or units that can be explained scientifically. When learners want to master a language, they must learn the structure of the language. By mastering the structure of a language, they can master the language. As the result, a teacher role in learning language is as instructor or informant of the language. Teacher must explain the structure of the language.
The main idea of behaviorism is “imitation”. The behaviorists say that at the first time, human brain is like an empty glass. Then, the glass is fulfilled water of knowledge by teacher, by environment and by events. More we fulfill the glass repeatedly, the water of knowledge will stronger cling to the glass. So, when student learn a language, its mean that teacher give them knowledge about the language, and then it strengthen by repetition; by practice, until the knowledge become a habit. In other word, learning language is training language to become a habit.
Here, the teacher is like God that gives revelation about language that must be followed by the students. The teacher is the major active actor while students are the passive actors.
In behaviorism idea, human is like an empty glass that is fulfilled water knowledge. If this opinion is right, so the output must be same as the input. In fact, when we look what a child said is different with what his mother said. It means that the input is different with the output. So, what is wrong? In this case, behaviorism has the answer.
Human is not like an empty glass, but he has potency in learning and producing language. Human has LAD (Language Acquisition Device). That make human is able to learn and produce language.
In learning language, students develop the language from the simple one to the complex one. They consider language like a house. Firstly we build the basement, the wall, the window, the door, the roof, and finally it becomes a house.
Here, the major active actor is the student. The teacher is only as a facilitator; as the constructor of the condition that can motivate students to develop their knowledge in language.
(this is a “lecture note” taken from a psychology of language learning class in IAINSA Surabaya)