Language Acquisition Principles for ELL

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What Are the Principles?

All English language learners join ELL courses to upgrade themselves for scholastic requirements, job-related reasons and for immigration purposes. English has become the language for media, business, entertainment and education on the global level. The objective of ELL programs is to render training, adhere to the ELL principles and enable students to communicate without the mother-tongue influence.

What are the language acquisition principles for ELL? The basic principles of language acquisition should be on building self-confidence, introducing English language with ease, building vocabulary and developing the learning process by creating interest in the language itself. Stephen Krashen, an expert in the field of linguistics, does the most notable work on language acquisition principles of ELL. His principles are based on Acquisition-Learning hypothesis, Monitor hypothesis, Natural Order hypothesis, Input hypothesis and Affective Filter hypothesis.

Simplifying the Theories

Krashen’s theories can be simplified as followed. Language acquisition becomes more effective when it is learned in a context. “Language Acquisition” is the unconscious process that happens when language is used in real situations and conversations, as opposed to “Language Learning” which is the process of knowing more about a language. The progression of the learner can be monitored with error correction and by enhancing understanding of vocabulary and concepts. Correction in the early stages of language learning may affect the confidence level of the student. Natural order happens when language is learned through natural progression by infants, young children and second language learners. Skills are developed through interaction. Students can contribute their input that is understandable and error free. This process will increase their skills in thinking, listening, writing and speaking. “Affective Filter” is a screen of emotion that can actually block language acquisition, creating embarrassment and loss of confidence to the learner. Maximum input is achieved when “Affective Filter” is low (Krashen, 1982).

Cultural barriers may influence the difficulty level of learning English. In many countries, English medium schools are an option. The students in those English medium classes may have a better understanding of English vocabulary and grammar than those in the regional language medium classes. Initial assessment of individual students will give the level of expertise of the student to the ELL teacher. Students with very limited language proficiency may need additional attention. Goals should be set according to the student performance level required. Instead of asking, “Do you understand now?” the teacher should ask them to explain what they have understood so far. Instead of introducing the western culture initially, try bringing the learner’s culture into focus through concepts and words introduced. It is easier for English language students to speak about their culture than speaking about western culture. Humor plays a significant role in second language learning.

Current events, stories, mock interviews, fun-filled games and collaborative learning cultures should make classrooms lively and exciting. Normally teachers find topics from students more inspirational than the ones in their repertoire. Learning through music, role-plays and games makes the process easy and understandable. Games such as “Conversations with an alien,” “If I were …,” “Ship Wreck,” and “My Future Partner” are sure to prompt learners to speak without inhibitions. Simplify concepts using pictures, tables, charts and by showing things in large font. Debates on unconventional and controversial topics make second language acquisition amusing and inspirational. Students learn well by moving around and having conversations with others in the classroom. Teaching etiquette, body language and general knowledge will add to the vocabulary building process of all English language learners.