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#1 / Two ways to “know” a language / acquisition hypothesis


The goal of this article is to help students understand that there are two ways to “know” a language: acquisition and learning. The first, acquisition, provides most of our fluency. It is a natural, automatic, subconscious process (see article #4). The second, learning, requires formal study and does not contribute much to our fluency. It does, however, contribute to our accuracy -- as a monitor -- especially when we write (see article #3).

Ideas for Teaching

  • It would be appropriate to teach these concepts in the students' L1 for classes with low English L2 proficiency.

Into (before)
  • Int/Adv (Activating prior knowledge) Create a T-chart with the answers to these two questions: (1) Before you went to school, how did you learn your first language? (2) After you went to school, what did you do to study your first language?

Through (during)
  • Do as a teacher read-aloud. Stop as appropriate to (a) clarify vocabulary or ideas and/or (b) to "think aloud" about the ideas, expanding them, applying them, etc.

Beyond (after)
  • Ask students appropriate questions to check comprehension.
  • Engage students in a summarizing (not retelling) discussion, saying it again in their own words.
  • Use Think/Pair/Share (TPS), Write/Pair/Share (WPS) to answer and discuss, "How can I personally use this information to improve my English?"