Understanding, speaking & writing in ESL
Communication and Language Acquisition
"Language", remarks Deese (1970), "provides the principal means for social inheritance and the cumulation of cultural information" (p. 115). Vetter (1969) notes that the linguistic relativity hypothesis contends that "language to some degree directs cognitions and aids in defining situations. Further, it possesses the capability of operating as a force to initiate cultural changes as well as being modified by changes in other cultural dimensions" (p. 141). All very nice but... One of the problems with language is that "the use of most words for objects, qualities, or relations is uncertain and unsettled; and their meanings consequently vague" (Halloway, 1971, p. 138). The problem is compounded when the language is on the upswing as a world lingua franca, widely dispersed, highly dynamic, getting richer every day, with a rather flexible structure, and with speakers of a multitude of native language origins. If, in addition, there is no official body (such as the Academies in Spain and France) to hold the reins of polysemy and run-amock neologisms, we have English.
"There is little question that the mastery of any language must be regarded as an example of learning" (Eiseson, Auer, & Irwin, 1963, p. 85). Whether the potentiality for learning language is innate or acquired is currently an academic topic. One thing is certain, though: language is an arduous and long learning and acquiring process. It would seem that the best way to learn a language--whether first or other--is to be immersed in the target-language environment with its imposition of social communication. "Individuals respond most readily when they are highly involved in the purpose of communication" (Ibid, p. 231).
It is obvious that the more sophisticated, rich, and mature the learner's information processing system, the greater the potential input. "One reason that children are un...