Second Language Acquisition (SLA), Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), and Applied Linguistics (AL)

Students at Mainz University are familiarized with the basic principles of language learning and teaching. Teaching (English as) a foreign language as a meaningful, professional, and responsible undertaking is impossible without having significant recourse to and making substantial use of the insights into the principles of language learning and teaching as they are offered by Second Language Acquisition (SLA), Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and Applied Linguistics (AL) in general. For this purpose, it is a necessary precondition that the language student acquire an awareness of the language at all its levels and for its major communicative functions.

The abovementioned disciplines provide the necessary background, both in theory and practice of what general principles and cognitive mechanisms underlie and determine how this competence can be successfully achieved. They are informed by both linguistics and psychology, and they presuppose the study of the cognitive representations and mechanisms of second language processing and their time-course of acquisition before the more practical issues of instruction in the foreign language classroom can plausibly be accounted for.

Modern language teaching is learner-centered, which means that the conditions of the individual student have to be taken into account, as has their native language, their personal, social, and cultural background as well as their motivations for learning the language. And since the predominant setting for learning a foreign language in school is the classroom, future teachers also need to become familiar with effective learning strategies and the context of formal, institutionalized and instruction-based language teaching,

Among the essentials that SLA needs to explain are

  • Why learners of different native language backgrounds and with different native-second/foreign language configurations may encounter different problems in the learning process
  • Why there are differences between child and adult learners in their rate of acquisition and level of attainment
  • Why there are individual differences between learners and how aptitude, attitude, and motivation are related to rate of progress and success;
  • Why awareness and attention, focus on form and negative feedback are important for successful language learning

» Selected readings: Second Language Acquisition

  • Davies, Alan and Catherine Elder, eds. (2004), The Handbook of Applied Linguistics. London: Blackwell.
  • Doughty, Catherine J. and Michael H. Long, eds. (2003), The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Ellis, Rod (²2008), The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: OUP.
  • Ellis, Rod and Gary Barkhuizen (2005), Analysing Learner Language. Oxford: OUP.
  • Gass, Susan M. and Larry Selinker (2008), Second Language Acquisition. An Introductory Course. 3rd edition. Mahwah/NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Mitchell, Rosamond and Florence Myles (2004), Second Language Learning Theories. 2nd edition. London: Arnold.
  • Ritchie, William C. and Tej K. Bhatia, eds. (2009). The New Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. 2nd rev. edition. Bingley: Emerald.
  • Robinson, Peter and Nick Ellis, eds. (2008), Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. Mahwah/NJ: Erlbaum.