How Languages Are Learned, 3rd Ed, Patsy M. Lightbown & Nina Spada, Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers, 2006

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This text is not necessarily essential reading for the Delta exam, but I feel it is an essential book for anyone involved in language research, whether studying for a master’s or working in the publishing sector, for example, and wanting to have a reference to existing studies in areas of language acquisition. I would even consider it useful reading as part of a CELTA course.

Although the studies referenced are some twenty years or more old, they are nonetheless a useful starting point to address contentious points around our beliefs about learning languages. For example, toward the end of the book, as just one example, it mentions that research has shown if children learn a language for only one or two hours a week, it doesn’t matter how early they start – in most cases it produces no significant results over the long term. This takes me back to my first teaching post in Japan, where my youngest students were just one or two years old. They just came to class for one hour a week, and some parents supplied me with a list of phonemes they wanted their babies to ‘learn’ each week and questioned how well their baby was ‘picking up’ the language. Clearly, parents everywhere spend a lot of money on sending their young children to language classes.

Ideally the book should be updated to include research around online learning, although I have noted that there is a 4th edition of this title that came out in 2013, so maybe that is covered there.

I’m not going to provide summary notes on the rest of the book because there are a lot of useful/fascinating points in it, and I feel it should be read in its entirety and notes relevant to your area of teaching/research should be highlighted.

 

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