English 333 : Second Language Acquisition

Syllabus for Fall 2011

Tuesdays and Thursdays 8:00 - 9:15 a.m., in 1651 George L. Mosse Humanities Building


bulletRequired Materials
bulletAssessment and Grading
bulletAims of the Course
bulletCourse Outline


dividing line Professor Richard F Young 7163 Helen C White Hall
Office hours: Wednesdays, 12:00 - 2:00 p.m., or by appointment

E-mail: rfyoung at wisc dot edu
Home Page: www.wisc.edu/english/rfyoung
Phone: 263-2679<

Class E-mail List. You may send e-mail messages to me and to all students registered for this course through the class e-mail list.  Send your messages to english333-1-f11 at lists dot wisc dot edu.  In order for you to receive messages from the e-mail list, your e-mail address must be in the Registrar's database.  You can update your preferred email address by accessing My UW-Madison, "Student Records" tab, "Preferred Address" module.

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Required Materials


Ortega, L. (2009). Understanding Second Language Acquisition (USLA). London: Hodder. ISBN: 978 0 340 90559 3

The textbook is on reserve at the College Library Reserve Book Collection, located in the first floor center area just across from the entrance to the libtrary.

bullet A packet of twelve readings available at Bob's Copy Shop, 208 N Charter St., which includes:
  • Abrahamsson, N., & Hyltenstam, K. (2008). The robustness of aptitude effects in near-native second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 30, 481–509.
  • Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1994). Reverse-order reports and the acquisition of tense: Beyond the principle of chronological order. Language Learning, 44, 243-282.
  • Brown, A., & Gullberg, M. (2008). Bidirectional crosslinguistic influence in L1-L2 encoding of manner in speech and gesture: A study of Japanese speakers of English. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 30, 225–251.
  • Conklin, K., & Schmitt, N. (2008). Formulaic sequences: Are they processed more quickly than nonformulaic language by native and nonnative speakers? Applied Linguistics, 29, 72-89.
  • Guilloteaux, M. J., & Dörnyei, Z. (2008). Motivating language learners: A classroom-oriented investigation of the effects of motivational strategies on student motivation. TESOL Quarterly, 42, 55-77.
  • Eckerth, J. (2009). Negotiated interaction in the L2 classroom. Language Teaching, 42, 109-130.
  • Firth, A., & Wagner, J. (1997). On discourse, communication, and (some) fundamental concepts in SLA research. The Modern Language Journal, 91, 800-819.
  • Ioup, G., Boustagoui, E., Tigi, M., & Moselle, M. (1994). Reexamining the Critical Period Hypothesis:  A case of successful adult SLA in a naturalistic environment. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 16, 73-98.
  • Kubota, R. (2003). Unfinished knowledge: The story of Barbara. College ESL, 10(1/2), 11-21.
  • Muñoz, C. (2008). Symmetries and asymmetries of age effects in naturalistic and instructed L2 learning. Applied Linguistics, 29, 578–596.
  • Schmidt, R. (1983). Interaction, acculturation, and the acquisition of communicative competence. In N. Wolfson & E. Judd (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and language acquisition (pp. 137-174). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
  • Yan, J. X., & Horwitz, E. K. (2008). Learners’ perceptions of how anxiety interacts with personal and instructional factors to influence their achievement in English: A qualitative analysis of EFL learners in China. Language Learning, 58, 151–183.

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Aims of the Course

This course is a general introduction to scientific research into how people learn a second language. Although the course is designed to be accessible to students from a wide variety of backgrounds, some knowledge of the linguistic structure of English will be assumed.

Second language acquisition, or SLA, is a theoretical and experimental field of study which, like first language acquisition studies, looks at the phenomenon of language development -- in this case the acquisition of a second language.  The term "second" includes "foreign" and "third", "fourth" (etc.). Since the early nineteen seventies, SLA researchers have been attempting to describe and explain the behavior and developing systems of children and adults learning a new language.

The dominant aim behind this research is to extend our understanding of the complex processes and mechanisms that drive language acquisition.

By virtue of the fact that language itself is complex, SLA has become a broadly-based field and it now involves:

bullet Studying the complex pragmatic interactions between learners, and between learners and native speakers
bullet Examining how non-native language ability develops, stabilizes, and undergoes attrition (forgetting, loss)
bullet Carrying out an analysis and interpretation of all aspects of learner language with the help of current linguistic theory
bullet Developing theories that are specific to the field of SLA that aim to account for the many facets of non-native language and behavior
bullet Testing hypotheses to explain second language knowledge and behavior

The goal of SLA is to understand how learners learn and it is not the same as research into language teaching. However, applied linguists whose particular interest is in facilitating the language learning process should find ways of interpreting relevant SLA research in ways that will benefit the language teacher.  SLA, in this light, should become an essential point of reference for those involved in educational activities as well as researchers looking at how to facilitate the learning process.

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In modern learning theory, learners are considered to be active participants in the process who mediate their understanding by producing language. The languge that learners produces can be private writing (note-taking) or private speech (talking to oneself) or, most effectively, by social interaction with others in which all learners participate. To faciliate this kind of learning, much of the work that you do for this class involves discussion with your peers. The best way to facilitate discussion with fellow students is to form a group of 4-5 people, who work together on assignments. Group members will be jointly responsible for each assignment and will each receive the same grade. I encourage you to form groups by the second week of classes and to include in each group at least one graduate student and one undergraduate student. If, part way through the semester, you find that your group is not working effectively, please let me know, and we will try to rearrange students in groups.

Attendance and Readings. These are individual assignments. You are expected to attend class regularly and to complete weekly readings assigned from the textbook and course packet. An attendance sheet will be circulated at class meetings.

Exams. These are individual assignments. Your knowledge and interpretation of the readings and lectures will be assessed by two take-home examinations.  The midterm exam will be available on Tuesday, October 25 and is due before 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, October 27.  The midterm will focus on chapters 1 - 5 of the textbook.  The final exam will be available on Thursday, December 15 and is due before 4:45 p.m. on Friday, December 23. Exams that are handed in or emailed late will receive a failing grade.  The final will focus on chapters 6 - 10 of the textbook.  After you receive your grade for the midterm, you have one week in which you may choose to rewrite your answer to one question that you have attempted. I will read your new answer and re-grade your midterm accordingly. No rewrites are possible for the final exam.

Discussion Questions. These are group assignments. After completing each chapter on the textbook, I will make available a set of discussion questions related to topics covered in the chapter. You will have an opportunity to discuss these questions in class before responding as a group to each question with no more than one typewritten page for a total of 4 - 5 pages. Each group should submit a single set of responses at the following class meeting.

Group Facilitation. These are group assignments. On 11 days, one group of 3 - 5 students will be responsible for facilitating a class discussion of that week's reading from the class packet. The discussion should last no longer than 30 minutes. Some tips for facilitating effective classroom discussions are available here. The effectiveness of the group at facilitating discussion will be evaluated by your peers using the protocol provided here.

Many of your assignments for this course involve integrating information from published sources into your own writing. In doing so, you must do your own work and honor others for theirs. This means that you need to be careful not to plagiarize: "to steal or pass off (the ideas and words of another) as one's own" or to "present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source" (Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, p. 888). For advice on what sources you should document and how to document them, consult Quoting and Paraphrasing published by the Writing Center.

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Assessment and Grading

Letter grades will be awarded for the SLA problem sets and for the presentations of SLA research. Percent scores will be awarded for the exams. The meanings and equivalencies of the grades follow.

Grade name Percent cutoff Letter grade equivalent Definition
A+ 100 100% Excellent. Work goes well beyond the requirements of the assignment.
A 93 96% Demonstrates full understanding of all concepts; creatively applies theories and methods to new problems in the field.
AB 85 88% Intermediate grade
B 77 80% Demonstrates understanding of all concepts; can correctly apply theories and methods to new problems in the field.
BC 69 72% Intermediate grade
C 61 64% Demonstrates understanding of some but not all concepts; some errors in applying theory and methods to new problems in the field.
D 53 56% Demonstrates understanding of only a limited number of concepts; many errors in applying theory and methods to new problems in the field.
F 0 0% Missing, late, or incorrect assignment

The final grade for the course will take into account grades awarded on all assignments in the following proportions.

Attendance 10%
Midterm Exam 25%
Final Exam 25%
Discussion Questions 20%
Group Facilitation 20%

Incompletes. The grade of "Incomplete" will only be used for a student who has carried the course with a passing grade until near the end of the semester and then, because of illness or other unusual and substantial cause beyond his/her control, is unable to complete the remaining assignments.

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Course Outline

Dates Topic Readings Assignments Due
Tuesday, September 6 Introduction to the Course    
Thursday & Tuesday,  September 8 & 13 Introduction to SLA Chapter 1 in USLA  
Thursday & Tuesday,  September 15 & 20 Age

Chapter 2 in USLA

Ioup et al. (1994)

Discussion questions for Chapter 1: Introduction due Thursday, September 15

Thursday & Tuesday,  September 22 & 27 Age

Chapter 2 in USLA

Muñoz (2008)

Group facilitation of Ioup et al. (1994) on Thursday, September 22 by Nakamadaebak

Thursday & Tuesday,  September 29 & October 4 Crosslinguistic Influences

Chapter 3 in USLA

Brown & Gullberg (2008)

Group facilitation of Muñoz (2008) on Thursday, September 29 by The Sleepy Dinosaurs

Discussion questions for Chapter 2: Age due Tuesday, October 4

Thursday & Tuesday,  October 6 & 11

The Linguistic Environment

Chapter 4 in USLA

Schmidt (1983)

Group facilitation of Brown & Gullberg (2008) on Thursday, October 6 by the Early Birds

Discussion questions for Chapter 3: Crosslinguistic influences due Tuesday, October 11
Thursday & Tuesday,  October 13 & 18 The Linguistic Environment

Chapter 4 in USLA

Eckerth (2009)

Group facilitation of Schmidt (1983) on Thursday, October 13 by Jakke

Thursday & Tuesday,  October 20 & 25 Cognition

Chapter 5 in USLA

Conklin & Schmitt (2008)

Group facilitation of Eckerth (2009) on Thursday, October 20 by Rabyt

Discussion questions for Chapter 4: The Linguistic Environment due Tuesday, October 25

Midterm take-home exam is available on Tuesday, October 25

Thursday, October 27 'Speaking in Tongues' movie   Answers to the Midterm exam are due before 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, October 27

Tuesday & Thursday, November 1 & 3

Development of Learner Language

Chapter 6 in USLA

Bardovi-Harlig (1994)

Group facilitation of Conklin & Schmitt (2008) on Tuesday, November 1 by Team Word

Discussion questions for Chapter 5: Cognition due Thursday, November 3

Tuesday & Thursday,  November 8 & 10 Foreign Language Aptitude

Chapter 7 in USLA

Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam (2008)

Group facilitation of Bardovi-Harlig (1994) on Tuesday, November 8 by Suriyong and the Three J's

Discussion questions for Chapter 6: Development of Learner Language due on Thursday, November 10

Tuesday & Thursday, November 15 & 17 Motivation

Chapter 8 in USLA

Guilloteaux & Dörnyei (2008)

Group facilitation of Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam (2008) on Tuesday, November 15 by Albus and the Dumbledores

Discussion questions for Chapter 7: Foreign Language Aptitude due Thursday, November 17

Tuesday,  November 22, Tuesday, November 29, & Thursday, December 1

Affect and Other Individual Differences

Chapter 9 in USLA

Yan & Horwitz (2008)

Group facilitation of Guilloteaux & Dörnyei (2008) on Tuesday, November 22 by the L2s.

Discussion questions for Chapter 8: Motivation due Tuesday, November 29

Tuesday & Thursday,  December 6 & 8

Social Dimensions of L2 Learning:

  • Vygotsky, Sociocultural Theory, and SLA
  • CA for SLA

Chapter 10 in USLA

Kubota (2003)

Group facilitation of Yan & Horwitz (2008) on Tuesday, December 6 by The SLAckers

Discussion questions for Chapter 9: Affect and Other Individual Differences due Thursday, December 8

Tuesday & Thursday, December 13 & 15

Social Dimensions of L2 Learning:

  • L2 Identity as a Site of Struggle
  • Language Socialization

Chapter 10 in USLA

Firth & Wagner (1997)

Group facilitation of Kubota (2003) on Tuesday, December 13 by the Symbionese Liberation Army

Discussion questions for Chapter 10: Social Dimensions of L2 Learning due Thursday, December 15

Final take-home exam available on Thursday, December 15

Friday, December 23 Final exam due by 4:45 p.m. on Friday, December 23

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This page was last updated on October 22, 2011 .