Language Simulations for Fostering Language Acquisition and Communicative Competence in Adult Second-Language Learners

Language Simulations for Fostering Language Acquisition and Communicative Competence in Adult Second-Language Learners

Angelene McLaren (Wayne State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch804
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Abstract

Language teachers and students are making a mass exodus in theory and practice in the field of secondlanguage instruction. They are leaving behind boring drills, nonsensical memorizations and endless strings of grammatical rules and are demanding a shift from traditional language learning to modern language acquisition. Language acquisition means being culturally literate and commutatively competent in a language (Byrnes, 2001). This change requires finding effective ways to facilitate this paradigm shift. This chapter will try to answer the following questions: Can language simulations foster language acquisition and communicative competence in adult second-language learners? It will also explore: what language acquisition is and how it is obtained; theoretical foundations of language acquisition; learning simulations and what makes them effective; language simulations – how and why they work; what simulations can do to promote communicative competence; a practical example; future applications and importance of language simulations; and what future research is necessary to fulfill this promise.
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Background

The past few decades have seen a huge paradigm shifts in theory and practice in the field of second-language instruction (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 1991). Researchers and practitioners have moved away from language teaching and have shifted toward instead to language acquisition via communicative language teaching. The field of communicative language teaching stresses the development of communication skills over memorizing vocabulary and verb conjugation tables (Savignon, 1997).

Acquiring a language goes far beyond learning the names of things; it requires being communicatively competent in the target language. Communicative competence is defined here as a person’s ability to communicate in a target language in an appropriate way, (Hymes, 1972), which also may include non-verbal behavior. Teaching “language” has proven to be ineffective in attaining acquisition and fluency in second language learners (Horwitz, 1986). What research is now showing is that second language acquisition and communicative competence are best acquired in situations where learners are using language for communicative purposes, in realistic extra-linguistic, as well as verbal contexts (Garcia-Carbonell, Rising, Monero & Watts, 2001; Wesche, 1983; Krashen, 1982).

Crookall and Oxford (1990a, 1990b), feel that multimedia simulations may prove to be extremely effective in this in developing learners’ ability to communicate effectively in second languages. Simulations that incorporate effective instructional pedagogy can not only fun, which improves learner motivation, but effective as well (Aldrich, 2005; Prensky, 2002; Crookall & Oxford, 1990a, 1990b).

Contemporary applied linguists are inquiring into ways native speakers acquire first language, and are creating from these insights new models, methodologies, and practices for second-language acquisition. Babies do not acquire language through endless hours of vocabulary drills, memorization, and grammatical rule. As it turns out, current research is showing that second-language learners don’t either (Wesche, 1983). Researchers have discovered that second languages are acquired most effectively in meaningful, naturalistic environments.

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