L2 refers to a second language that an individual learns after his/her mother tongue which is referred to as the first language or L1 language. L2 language can be a single language or a series of auxiliary languages learnt in the lifetime of an individual. In many cases an individual first language is not the one used all through the lifetime. Some individuals are not comfortable with their L1 languages and consequently they end up learning other languages (L2). This could be as result of their L1 language being unpopular language due to immigration or international adoption that is common in the 21st century. Linguistic research shows that different people have different fluency and frequency of their L2 language when compared to their L1 language (Hagen, 2008).
The reason for this disparity is associated with the age of the learner and the ability to acquire changes in the L2 language. Individuals who learn their L2 language during their early ages (below 8 years) are able to achieve native- like proficiency whereas those who learn L2 language at their older ages have few actual errors in the language. According to Krashen, individuals who learn their L2 language during the early ages have the natural exposure to these languages and are better in it than those who learn it at older age or as adults (Ortega 2011). However, it is worth noting that adults undergo the early stages of learning the L2 language such as syntactic and morphological development faster than children thereby having faster Second Language Acquisition (SLA). It also important to note that though acquiring fluency in L2 language is achieved better when individuals learn it during their early ages as children, there are negative effects associated with it such as such as having weak identification leading to a double sense of national belonging. This paper addresses the importance of Input, Interaction, Output and Feedback in the development of L2 language.
Krashen’s position on the nature and significance of input and output in L2 development
Behaviorists argue that learning of L2 language is greatly affected by most of the factors and traits acquired in L1 language. They farther argue that Learning of L2 language is as result of the transfer of rules and forms of L1 language with minor omission and modifications done into them. However, these views have been strongly criticized by language scholars such as Krashen who point out that learning L2 language is not as result of transfer of L1 rules and forms during the learning process. In order to explain learning of L2 Krashen developed 5 theories between 1973 and 1985 (Gass & Selinker, 2008).
- Acquisition/ Learning hypothesis- according to this theory, Krashen points out that in adults learning a L2 language normally takes place in 2 ways namely by Acquisition and learning. According Krashen, learning a L2 language by acquisition normally take place when people take the rules of L2 language just as the same way children do in their L1 language. This means that one has to engage in meaningful interaction with no attention. On the other hand familiarizing with the L2 language through learning involves the conscious process of studying the language with attention to form and error correction. Krashen argues that learning is similar to the formal learning that takes place in classrooms. However, according to Krashen, acquisition method is the best because individuals are able to acquire knowledge that is available for natural and fluent communication. On the other hand, learning cannot be acquisition and individuals will always lack fluency in their L2 languages.
- Monitor hypothesis- in this theory Krashen tries to explain how acquired and learned systems act to produce output. Acquired system is the one responsible for fluency and intuitive judgments about correctness as it acts to initiate the speaker’s utterances. On the other hand, learned system acts as editor (monitor) making minor changes to in order to improve what the acquired system has produced. According to Krashen, teachers should note that learned knowledge does not help much in oral communication and learning based on writing promotes monitoring and not oral communication.
- Natural Order Hypothesis- in this theory Krashen points out that individual acquire the rules of a language in a predictable sequence. The argument is that rules that are simple to state are not necessarily the first to be acquired. The order is the same for all learners of an L2 regardless of their age or L1. The implication of the natural order hypothesis in teaching L2 is that learners acquire these orders when they are ready no matter what grammar rules are taught (Ortega 2011).
- Comprehensive Input (CI) Hypothesis – in this theory Krashen tries to explain that individual acquire language in one way, only by receiving Comprehensive Input (CI). According to Krashen a good CI should contains forms and structures just beyond the L’s current level of competence in language. In that case both comprehension and acquisition will occur. CI occurs naturally if native speakers work hard to communicate with non-native speakers. Krashen therefore points out that teachers should find ways of exposing their students to lots to CI when teaching L2.
- Affective Filter Hypothesis- in this theory Krashen tries to explain how the learner’s state of mind influences what he/ she focuses on and acquires in L2. Here Krashen factors like motives, needs, attitudes, emotional state and other factor that may affect a learner of L2. In this theory Krashen points out the need for teachers to create a non threatening environment for students in which they are motivated to learn L2 comfortably. The theory does not require learners to speak during the learning process.
Positions of Processing Approaches and Knowledge
Processing Approaches and knowledge types explains how the nature of the input and significance of interaction or practice in the processing and internalization of L2 linguistic input. The first one is the “processability” theory which explains that linguistic properties are differentially difficult to process. According to this theory, those easier to process are acquired earlier bit Linguistic processor although it does not explain what makes properties easier or more difficult to process. Another approach is the Information processing. This normally involves automaticity and restructuring linguistic properties. The position of this approach is that controlled processing becomes automatic with practice. Planning or monitoring speech could help in the identification or errors and they can be eliminated too (Gass & Selinker, 2008p. 232). L2 learning naturally proceeds from controlled processing (short-termed memory) to automatic processing (long-term memory). Controlled processing is carefully monitored; results in limited output because of huge memory capacity required. Automatic processing doesn’t require huge capacity & results in more spontaneous speech (Gass & Selinker, 2008).
Another approach is the Input processing theory which explains that it is what learners attend to in input and why? The model explains strategies and constraints governing what learners’ process from an input. Generally, this model points that L2 learners tend to use lexical rather than grammatical information in processing unit. According to this approach, the formula input processing is as shown below:
Semantic Comprehension à Syntactic Comprehension à Acquisition
In terms of knowledge types, there are five hypotheses that try to explain the knowledge types and how they affect the nature of the input and their significance in processing and internalization of L2 linguistic input. They include affective filter, natural order, acquisition/ learning and Input among others. The implicit/ explicitly learning is important for students L2 language. This refers to the unconscious and conscious learning that plays a very important role in the learning of L2. Gap in implicit linguistic competence of adult L2 learners is compensated by reliance on explicit memory of L2. The declaration or conscious knowledge of arbitrarily related information includes memorized mental lexicon and grammatical rules. On the other procedural memory becomes less efficient with age and consequently acquisition L2 become more challenging. Adults are normally reliant on existing L1 knowledge and these results to a negative transfer of learned L2 rules (Gass & Selinker, 2008).
Significance of interaction and output in L2 development
Proponents of the significance of interaction and output in L2 development propose that regular speech rate, vocabulary and pronunciation make input incomprehensible in none native speakers (NNS). It is therefore important to have interactions between native speakers and non native speakers during the learning of L2 language. Studies show that semantically anomalous utterances and grammatical mistakes may lead Native Speakers (NS) into believing that Non Native Speakers (NNS) are not good speakers. This is because semantically anomalous sentences affect comprehension of the output (Gass & Selinker, 2008, pp. 311-312). Interaction of NS and NNS help in discovering these mistakes thereby promoting development of L2 language. However, it is worth noting that grammar is less important during the interaction than pronunciation and vocabulary. This is because in learning L2 language grammar rules are less than lexical items such as backchannel cues and input behaviorism that facilitate comprehension. According to Interaction theory, acquisition is primarily through conversational interaction which encourages learner to negotiate meaning through a number of adjustments and modification as shown below
Negotiation of Meaning à Comprehended Input à Acquisition