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The development of theories of second language acquisition

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Florence Myles



Second language acquisition (SLA) is a relatively new field of enquiry. Before the late 1960s, educators did write about L2 learning, but very much as an adjunct of language teaching pedagogy, underpinned by behaviourism, the then-dominant learning theory in psychology. In this view, the task facing learners of foreign languages was to rote-learn and practise the grammatical patterns and vocabulary of the language to be learnt, in order to form new ‘habits’, that is to create new stimulus–response pairings which would become stronger with reinforcement. In order for the ‘old habits’ of the L1 not to interfere with this process by being ‘copied’, or transferred, into the L2, researchers embarked on thorough descriptions of pairs of languages to be learnt, in order to identify areas that are different and would thus be difficult.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Myles F

Publication type: Editorial

Publication status: Published

Journal: Language Teaching

Year: 2010

Volume: 43

Pages: 320-332

Print publication date: 01/07/2010

ISSN (print): 0261-4448

ISSN (electronic): 1475-3049

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0261444810000078


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