Welcome to Psychology of Language Learning, a course in which we will engage in extensive consideration of issues germane to understanding the interplay of psychology and language acquisition.
If you would like (for some inane or perhaps insane reason), here is the course syllabus for your reading pleasure. Of course, I reserve the right to amend it, so please treat this as a guideline.
In my courses I seldom use textbooks, and in the present course we will also have no textbook. Class material will be available here, on Dropbox, and on Google Drive; feel free to download, save, print, or otherwise use it. I seldom make paper handouts, but if you prefer paper, please take care of printing files yourself.
Hereafter you will find a reasonably detailed synopsis of the respective classes we will enjoy this term.
Thus, with no further ado, here are the four units with their total of 15 sessions.
Session #1 (Thursday, June 8) — Why Is it so difficult to learn another language?
The first two sessions will focus on ...
As often happens, some text will be added here ...
Class Material for Session #1:
- ✔ Column 14, Why English is scary to Japanese people
- ✔ Something coming here ...
Session #2 (June 15) — The Role of Sound in Language
In the first part of tonight's class, I would like to turn to the reading that I distributed last week. Whether or not you personally find English to be scary, many learners find it to be so. Given that they do, what factors contribute to that feeling? For you, what things make English challenging? Why?
This class we'll be looking some at the physiological part of linguistics, which deals with the remarkable tool that we all have—our voice. This seeming simple yet quite complex tool enables us to communicate, and it behooves us to consider a bit more just exactly how that occurs.
Class Material & Homework for Session #2:
- ✔ A introduction to source-filter theory
- ✔ Diehl, (2008), Acoustic and auditory phonetics (just section 2, please, not the entire article
- ✔ A fine webpage on voice acoustics from the University of New South Wales
- Visual material
- ✔ Tim Welch's Inside the Voice Box: The Larynx
- ✔ Barbara McAfee @ TEDxGustavusAdolphusCollege: Bringing Your Full Voice to Life Bringing Your Full Voice to Life
- ✔ From Bethea Medical Media, How the Larynx Produces Sound
Session #3 (June 22) — Factors That Promote Language Learning
In our class this evening, we'd like to address at least two points concerning some of the myriad factors which affect language acquisition. The first is an attitudinal factor, a positive, 'can-do' outlook on language learning. This outlook has gained more traction lately with increasing interest in can-do lists to aid in assessment and motivation of L2 learners.
The second is, for lack of a more precise word or phrase, the innate ability to acquire additional languages. With a bit of effort we can find anecdotes of polyglot language learners that have acquired multiple languages (some of whom acquired dozens!).
The third factor is the role of chemicals in facilitating language acquisition. Now you might question whether this is a serious notion, but some support certainly exists for
Class Material & Homework:
- ✔ Column 8, A "can-do" attitude toward languages
- ✔ Mr. Vigor
- ✔ Optional: Ayahuasca usage along the Vaupes
- ✔ Optional: Guiora et al. (1980) The effect of [valium] on second language pronunciation
Session #4 (June 29) — Context and Language Immersion
Building on the discussion in Session #3 about factors that facilitate language acquisition, this evening we will look at the role of context. This is, of course, important in the distinction between ESL and EFL in the language learning field.
Some nay-sayers, however, have steadfastly maintainted that learning (and learning in) a second or foreign language is detrimental to development of one's first language.
Class Material & Homework:
Session #5 (July 6) — Memory
As mentioned in class, I have opted to revise our syllabus to allow us to explore the world of memory a bit more. For a quick look at memory, you might hazard a glance at the They Differ webpage. A second webpage with several videos by renowned academic Alan Baddeley is the aptly-titled Go Cognitive webpage.
From educational psychologist Peter Doolittle, here we have a TED Talk on "How you working memory makes sense of the world." This is well worth your time, folks.
- ✔ Grant (2016), Recent memory research and second language acquisition
- ✔ Silva (2017), Memory's intricate web (perhaps just skim this unless you have lots of free time!)
- ✔ (Optional) Yuste & Church (2014), The new century of the brain
Session #6 (June 13) — Young Children: Learning and Forgetting
As we all know to varying extents, children learn (and forget) things with dizzying speed. Granted that the brains of children are still forming and growing, what can we learn from them?
Let's begin with an interesting TED talk by Patricia Kuhl on the linguistic genius of babies. As you'll see in the material below, I've added a couple short pieces (LSA and Saffran et al.) about child language acquisition.
Session #7 (June 20) — Early Language Education
The obvious climax of this discussion is the question of whether we should begin foreign language education before junior high school.
Here you'll find a recent report by James McCrostie titled "Education in Japan in 2016" that was carried by the Japan Times—well worth your time, everyone.
Session #8 (July 27) — Brains Receptive to Second Languages
In this, our final session (how sad!), I'd like to return to the neurological part of our class and get away from the linguistics focus for a bit. To wit, we'll spend our evening examining some interesting aspects of the human mind.
Material here ... coming soon ...
- ✔ Column 6, Notes from the vivid world of synesthesia
- ✔ Column 16, Brains organized to grab languages
- ✔ Column 21, Multiple personalities and languages
In case you ever are in need of something to borrow some of your time, there are, of course, many books dealing with technology. A quick list of fiction works off the top of my head would include the following:
- 1984 by George Orwell
- The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
- The Circle by Dave Eggers