Week 3’s class : Theories of language learning

This week I have had the opportunity to watch an excellent video from Dr.  Nellie Deutsch about Language Learning Theories. Here is the link for the ones who want to see :


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There were some questions to be answered after watching the video. I tried to give the best response possible, but I am still in process of development as a teacher so I hope you enjoy what I wrote.

A lot has been discussed in the academic area about the best way for teaching and learning a foreign language. However, one thing is clear: every practice needs to be supported by a theory (at least). No teacher teaches the way (s)he does because considers it beautiful, but (s)he takes into account an underlying theory to justify his/her practice.

Many teachers when talk about theory usually say ‘theory vs practice’ as if they were enemies, but here I want to emphasize the importance of theory and practice working together.


What does each language theory emphasize?

In the presentation made by Dr. Nellie she mentioned six language theories : Behaviorist, Universal Grammar, Krashen’s monitor, Cognitive, Conversation and Schumann’s Acculturation.

Despite their differences, each one has its contribution and value for the science of learning.

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The first one, Behaviorist, believes that the behavior can be shaped through reinforcement. It is done with the use of drills to reinforce the correct ‘behavior’ until they become automatic. There is too much repetition. Errors are punished and achievements are praised, so  there’s a stimulus and a learner’s response to it.



The second theory is Universal Grammar. It was created by Noam Chomsky. According to him, we are born with a certain kind of grammar in our brain. It is innate.


The third one, Krashen’s monitor, says that we acquire a second language the same way we learn the first one (our mother tongue).


The cognitive theory is similar to the Behaviorist, the difference is that in the Cognitive what you measure is knowledge, not behavior.

There’s also the Conversation theory which says that you learn vocabulary and grammar through interaction, with conversations etc.


And finally, but not least, we have Schumann’s acculturation. For the author of this theory you learn a language in order to be part of the culture.

How will each language learning theory contribute to your teaching?

Each theory, with its different perspective, has a lot to add in my teaching  because when we teach there are many factors involved and each theory includes an aspect that another one could not have mentioned. Therefore, when I teach I can take a little of each language learning theory for a purpose in the classroom.

What language theory did your teacher use tot each a foreign language?

From what I remember my teachers would use the Conversation theory – the class had to act out role plays – and also the Behaviorist when necessary. Sometimes there were drills but the difference is that she would not punish us.

What language theory do you prefer? Why?

I work with the Communicative Approach so I use a little of everything in order to have a communicative class. What I prefer more is having the students act out role plays , doing pair and group work and I also consider their Universal Grammar.

Will you use one or multiple language theories? Why?

I reckon that I can use theories since I have a reason and an aim for doing that. For instance, despite using Communicative Method, when I find necessary I use drills in my class


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