GRAMMAR TEACHING AND LEARNING IN ADULT ESL/EFL

GRAMMAR TEACHING AND LEARNING IN ADULT ESL/EFL

Oleh : Drs. Fentje Kodong, MA

ABSTRACT

Makalah ini membahas tentang salah satu aspek bahasa yang dikatakan merupakan pusat sistem bahasa, yaitu gramatika..Dalam uraian ini dinyatakan bahwa leori dan riset mengenai peran ‘L2 code knowledge’ dalam pemerolehan bahasa kedua pada orang de-wasa dilakukan melalui dua perspektif teoritis -Psikologl Kognitif yang yang antara lain mengikuti Krashen yang menyatakan bahwa pemerolehan bahasa akan berhasiljika pem-belajar mendapatkan input satu level di atas pengetahuannya (i+l);dan teori Perolehan Bahasa Kedua yang menyatakan bahwa pemerolehan bahasa terjadi dalam struktur de­clarative knowledge and procedural knowledge. Dalam realisasinya di kelas pengajaran grammatika dapat dilakukan melalui strategi: structural input, explicit instruction , pro­duction practise dan negative feedback. Adanya kesalahan-kesalahan yang dibuat pembela-jar, dapat ditelusuri karena adanya pengaruh bahasa ibu terhadap bahasa yang dipelajari.

I. Introduction

The Terms ESL refers to English as a Second Language or L2, whereas EFL re­fers to English as a Foreign Language or L3. In the past, the term lforeign lan-guage’was most widely used in contrast to ‘native language’. In recent decades, how­ever the other term ‘second language’has been increasingly applied for all types of non-native language learning. (Stern 1983:15). Throughout this paper L2 will be used to cover both EFL and ESL.

Theories of how second language and foreign languages are learned have been approached from a variety of perspective: sociolinguistic, educational, neurolinguistic, psycholinguistic, and linguistic. L2 research has been focusing on the sources of the learner’s hypotheses about the target lan­guage, the path the learners takes to reach ultimate proficiency, and the characteriza­tion of the knowledge underlying that ulti­mate proficiency. Thus it comes as no sur­prise to find that in recent years there has been a surge of interest in the way in which particular approaches to linguistic theory inform us about how second language are learned.

In this paper I discuss one aspect of language which is said to be the central area

of the system, the grammar. The focus is on the teaching and learning it in adult second language learners.

The discussion is divided into several subtopics. First, a brief observation of the theories and research on the topic of the role of L2 (second or foreign language) code knowledge in adult second language acquisition and background. Secondly, pre­senting the four features which grammar and communication share according to Lar-sen-Freeman and connect them with the teaching strategies proposed by Ellis. The last part of this discussion is on the contras-tive approach to language teaching and their application in the classroom.

II. Adult Second Language Learning and Acquisition Theories

Fraser (1992) observes the theories and research on the role of L2 code knowl­edge in adult acquisition. She divides the issues into two theoretical perspectives:

1. Cognitive psychology, an approach that examines the internal processing mecha­nisms involved in learning and then using language information for communication. In considering its role in language profi­ciency, the focus is on the processing mechanisms that lead to the initial internal representation and on the process whereby the “know that” is transformed into “know how”.

2. The second language acquisition, which examines the effect of instruction that fo­cuses on the L2 code on the learners devel­oping L2 proficiency. In this framework the focus is on the condition , such as learner, input, and instructional strategy factors that make instruction focus on forms effective.

According to her, this two perspec­tives overlap and interact, therefore, a vari­ety position have been taken concerning the L2 learner’s representation of knowledge about the L2 code and the relation of that knowledge to performance ability. Some of these positions are based on the theories of learning and experience in cognitive sci­ence while some are specific to language learning.

The first theoretical perspective that underlies this issue is Krashen’s theory of subconscious language acquisition. This is responsible for fluent speech production in communication. Acquisition requires only meaningful interaction in the L2 and take place as a result of the learners having un­derstood input that is a little beyond the cur­rent level of acquired knowledge (i+1). The learners does not need to have any con­scious knowledge of language rules and any self correcting is done on the basis of a “feel” for grammaticality. Conscious learn­ing that includes the representation of for­malized knowledge is available to the per­former only as a monitor before or after the utterance is spoken (Fraser 1992:52). This theory is based on the second language ac­quisition research evidence that suggest that a knowledge about L2 code does not di­rectly or necessarily transfer to the ability to function successfully in communication.

Within the information processing scheme Anderson 1982,1985) presents a theory of skill acquisition which is called declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge structures. Declarative knowl­edge is the new knowledge which is stored in prepositional form. According to him

access to this knowledge is slow and effort­ful in that it demands conscious effort on the part of the learner. Through the process of proceduralization, the former declarative knowledge is compiled so that the produc­tion triggers the needed behaviour without any intentional accessing of declarative knowledge. In this way conscious knowl­edge is subsumed into unconscious skill. Behaviour that once was activated slowly and deliberately is now activated automati­cally, effortlessly, without conscious con­trol or attention. These performance rou­tines are developed through the use of de­clarative knowledge through activation, proceduralization, and compilation and the use of production sets through experience (Le. practice) in performance.

Bialystok (1990) presents a model of cognitive dimension in language profi­ciency known as analyzed knowledge and cognitive control. She states that different language tasks make different demands on the cognitive control and analyzed knowl­edge components of cognitive processing. This two processing components are in­volved in the operasionalization of declara­tive and procedural knowledge for language use.

Cognitive control is essentially an ac­cess mechanism that includes the function of selection and coordination or fluency in carrying out this functions. Analyzed knowledge is information whose structure is mentally represented and organized in a way that allow the learner to manipulate and use it creatively across a range of con­texts.

In conjunction with the value of knowledge about the L2 in developing L2 proficiency, Fraser (1991) states that Bialy-stok’s framework has several implications:

1. The learner’s knowledge about L2 is important in proficiency. The learners level of analyzed knowledge about L2 can be increased by the experience of doing tasks that demands higher level of analyzed knowledge than the learner currently posses and by instruction, if the learner is ‘ready’, that is, is on the verge of insight regarding this informa­tion. This recall Krashen’s (i+1) hypothesis regarding the learner’s readiness to “acquire” a language rule.

2. Since different language tasks make differential demands on the analysed knowledge and, cognitive control di­mensions, some instructional strategies and learning tasks may lead to the de­velopment of certain aspects of language proficiency more effectively than others.

Some researchers who support this hypothesis maintains that adult L2 learners may acquire high level of fluency in learn­ing context where the focus is on meaning and communication do not lead to the de­velopment of accuracy. Rather the develop­ment of accuracy in adult L2 learners is en­hanced by directing the learner to focus of aspect of the formal system of L2.

3. In the control dimension, the main effort for adult L2 learners is to develop automaticity through experience (practise) since they have already devel­oped a variety of cognitive control mechanisms for LI functioning.

So it can be learned from the theo­retical views above that code knowledge has a role in promoting proficiency. One of the key routes in the development of auto­mated skill is the transformation of declara­tive knowledge “know about” into proce-duralized “know how”. This occurs through the conscious activation and operationaliza-tion of declarative knowledge by means of repeated practice. The instructional issue here concerns the type of practice that ef­fectively leads to automated skill develop­ment at the various stages of proficiency.

III. Grammar and Communication and Grammar Teaching

Larsen-Freeman (1992) identifies four features which grammar and communica­tion share. She maintains:

Both grammar and communication operate at different levels of language including word, utterance, and extended to dis­course.

Both can be characterized in terms of their form, meaning and friction.

Both can be viewed as static, declarative knowledge(or competence) on one hand, or as dynamic, or procedural knowledge (or performance) on the other.

The relationship is non-hierarchical that grammar and communication interact to shape each other.

Authentic discourse provide appropriate content and context for pedagogical pur­pose, because it allows us both grammar and communication.

Ellis (1998) elaborate four strategies for grammar instruction in the classroom:

1. Structural input, in which instruction is directed at input, Le., attemps are made to contrived oral or written texts in such a way that learners are induced to notice specific target fea­tures as they try to comprehend the text.

2. Explicit instruction, an attempt to develop learners explicit understand­ing of L2 rules or to help them learn about a linguistic feature.

3. Production practice, aim at creating opportunities for learners to practice producing a specific target structure.

4. Negative feedback, that shows learn­ers the error they have done.

To connect this with communicative language teaching, teacher can use authen­tic materials that contain elements of the forms that are going to be taught. Because these strategies are macro strategies, each one can be broken down into micro strate­gies. For example there are many ways of delivering production practice depending on whether the pedagogic aim is to care­fully control learner’s output or to provide opportunities for relatively free production using the targeted structure. Teachers have

to decide what micro strategies to use (Ellis 1998).

IV. Contrastive Approach

Another important thing to be consid­ered in the process of language acquisition and learning is the learner’s LI (first lan­guage). This native language of the learner is very powerful factor in second language acquisition and one which cannot be elimi­nated from the process of learning. A sub­stantial number of persistence mistakes made by student can be traced back to what Sridhar (1980) called “the pull of the mother tongue’, interference and transfer. One of the ways to overcome this problem is through contrastive approach. The as­sumption of this approach on language teaching is that similarities and differences between LI and L2 would account for ease or difficulty in learning particular aspect of L2.

Lee as quoted by Sridhar (1981:94) says that Contrastive Analysis is based on the assumption:

that the prime cause, or even the sole cause of difficulty and error in foreign-language learning is interference coming from the learners’ native language;

that the difficulty are chiefly, or wholly, due to the differences between the two languages;

that the greater these differences are, the more acute the learning difficulties will be;

that the result of the comparison be­tween the two languages are needed to predict the difficulties and errors which will occur in learning the foreign lan­guage;

that what there is to teach can best be found by comparing the two languages and then subtracting what is common to them, so that ‘what the student has to learn equals the sum of differences es­tablished by the contrastive analysis.

This approach has been criticized be­cause the research findings show that not all areas of similarity of an LI and an L2

lead to immediate transfer; and the number of errors which could unambiguously be attributed to contrasting properties between the first and the second languages was only a relatively small proportion of all errors (Zobl 1980; Odlin 1989; Lococo 1975). Al­though this approach has been criticized, there is still indication of the transfer of properties of LI to L2. Therefore, it is still necessary to adopt this approach in lan­guage learning. Make it as a warning for possible mistakes made by learners.

In conjunction with the classroom, the application of this approach could be based on semantic and forms; that is, the teacher first shows how certain meanings are real­ized in LI and in L2, and then point out the differences between the two language forms. This should be done before the practice of the given structure

V. Conclusion

Language has patterns and regulari­ties which are used to convey meaning, some of which make up its grammar. Knowledge of grammar is said to be the core area of language system. However im­portant the other components of language they relate to each other through grammar. Grammar is also the most distinctive aspect of language having features many claims are unique to language and hence is learnt in diffrent way from anything else that peo­ple learn. Grammar is competence in the mind rather than rules in a book. One cru­cial end- product of teaching is that student should be able to “know” language in an unconscious sense, so that they can put it to good use . Most grammatical explanation has relied on the assumption that rules that are learnt consciously can be converted into process that are know unconsciously.

VI References

Celce-Murcia, M. (1992). A non-hierarchical relationship between grammar and communication. Part II: Insight from discourse analysis. Georgetown University

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