University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Second Language Acquisition

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Centre for English Language Proficiency

DESCRIPTION This study-unit explores theories of second language acquisition (SLA) and provides students with an introduction to research in the field. The major historical and contemporary theoretical perspectives are examined, as are the research methods - not covered in the core unit - used to study SLA. Students compare first and second language acquisition processes in both naturalistic and instructional settings, i.e., informal and formal environments such as the home and the classroom. Students also consider the influence of linguistic, cognitive, sociocultural and psychological factors on second language learning, as well as evaluate the implications and practical application of theory and research on second language teaching and learning in a variety of contexts, including the linguistic diversity where English has a special role.

Students will learn to fine-tune their understanding of the different ways in which language can be acquired or learnt, and what the implications of these different contexts and learning environments might be for the language user. The unit investigates second language pragmatic competence as it considers specific pragmatic aspects (e.g. speech acts, pragmatic markers, interactional devices, discourse connectors).

Study-unit Aims:

- To provide students with an understanding of a broad range of second language acquisition theories and approaches;
- To familiarize students with the similarities and differences between first and second language acquisition in different settings;
- To enable students to explore the influence of a variety of factors on second language learning;
- To help students understand the relevance of SLA theory to the teaching and learning of second and additional languages;
- To guide students in engaging with SLA theory via critical writing and oral presentations;
- To examine contemporary issues about pragmatic competence;
- To consider the individual differences that lead to successful second language learning, which includes a focus on cognitive and affective factors; and
- To familiarize students with SLA research methods so as to be able to analyse speech production data.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Develop an understanding of key theories and approaches in SLA and how these have shaped current research;
- Distinguish between product- and process-oriented research in SLA and appreciate the practical implications of each;
- Relate SLA theory to a variety of teaching and learning contexts;
- Identify social and personal factors that affect second language learning;
- Develop an awareness of the principles governing the use of different SLA research methods.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Read historical and contemporary SLA theory in an analytical manner;
- Compare and contrast different SLA theories;
- Evaluate the methods and results of empirical SLA research studies;
- Collect and analyse speech production data by means of different SLA research methods;
- Apply theoretical insights to an analysis of speech production data;
- Summarise and critique theory and research in oral and written forms;
- Critically analyse and review the changes in theoretical perspectives of SLA.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Required Reading:

- Lightbown, P., & Spada, N. (2013). How languages are learned (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Mitchell, R., Myles, F., & Marsden, E. (2012). Second language learning theories (3rd ed.). London: Hodder Education.

Note: All texts are/will be available through the library or as part of the lecturers' resources. Students will be given a comprehensive study pack at the start of the study-unit.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Presentation (15 Minutes) Yes 25%
Assignment Yes 75%

LECTURER/S Sarah Grech
Odette Vassallo
Daniel Xerri

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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