ERIC Number: ED412563
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1997
Reference Count: N/A
In Praise of Incidental Learning: Lessons from Some Empirical Findings on Language Acquisition. Report Series 4.9.
Elley, Warwick B.
This paper presents some empirical findings on language acquisition and learning, relates them to other research studies on the same topics, and draws some conclusions about the conditions in which optimal language learning occurs. The paper's focus is on the acquisition of vocabulary and grammar. The debate about the role of incidental learning takes place at several levels --questions are whether children: learn new vocabulary best by direct instruction, word by word, or frequent immersion in meaningful language; learn the grammar of a language best by deliberate classification of parts of speech and analysis of model sentences or naturally by inference from authentic language input; learn to read best by systematic study of sound-symbol correspondences or regular exposure to a diet of interesting text; and learn to spell best by frequent rehearsal of words in lists or by wide and regular reading and writing. The paper contends that results of research conducted in New Zealand and the South Pacific may offer a new perspective for researchers and insights for practitioners. Evidence is impressive of students' ready acquisition of vocabulary and syntax while engaged in reading or listening to high-interest meaningful text in the target language, in studies from first and second language learners, both young children and adults. The paper concludes that although the complexity of the task of acquiring thousands of words and learning hundreds of grammatical rules is obvious to those who analyze the problem, most children cope with these challenges without fanfare. (Contains 4 tables of data and 36 references.) (NKA)
Publication Type: Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement, Albany, NY.