A consideration of the factors involved in native language acquisition and foreign language learning and their relevance to modern languages methodology

Soles, Graham H.

July 1979

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© 1979 Graham H Soles. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Theory and practice converge to show that the complexity of the native and foreign language learning process must account for many factors. The literature would appear to suggest that the foreign language learning process is still far from understood and fundamental research has to be conducted still in this field. At present, many theories are centred around general principles of psychology and native language acquisition, which have been applied in the various teaching methods.

It would seem pertinent to query whether the various procedures employed for language teaching are congruent with contemporary knowledge of the process of learning, thinking and remembering. It has been suggested in the study that insight into pattern is the key element in language learning, aptitude and that the ultimate objective is the native speaker's competence. The learner has succeeded if he has internalised the syntactic patterns well enough to communicate naturally in an uncontrived situation. To attain perfect competence or mastery, it is necessary for him to have acquired the semantic, cultural, social and emotional propensities of the native speaker.

The intricacies of the learning process can be met only with adaptable, flexible and varied strategies. Over-emphasis on one or several aspects of the development of language has been responsible for the claim of each method of having unique value. Teachers should adopt the philosophy of language learning as a multivariate approach and accordingly of ensuring that methodological decisions are open to new adaptations and contributions, in most of which there is a grain of truth. Theorists and practitioners are sharing a feeling that effective techniques need to be based on the consideration of many facets and that any one particular method should be envisaged only as a partial set of principles and strategies to be integrated in a more comprehensive, procedural framework.

Department of Education, The University of Hull
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