What are some good books or articles on second-language acquisition?
December 30, 2012 4:36 PM   Subscribe

What are some insightful well-written books or articles, academic or otherwise, on the mechanics of how we learn second-languages and anything about the application of linguistics to learning languages?

I am both an intermediate Spanish learner and an English teacher here in Mexico City. Despite this, or because of this, I feel my next-to-non-existent knowledge of how exactly people learn languages is inadequate.

My knowledge of teaching and education comes from an M.A. in teaching English literature to high school students and my experiences here in Mexico. I t gets me by but I would like a more solid foundation.
posted by pynchonesque to Education (8 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I teach in a university foreign language department, and our pedagogical bible is Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen, with our god being one of its co-authors, Bill Van Patten. (He has also written lots of articles.) YMMV.
posted by pitrified at 4:56 PM on December 30, 2012

It's not hyperbole to say that Pinker's The Language Instinct is a classic in the genre of language acquisition.
It is not specifically about learning a second language, but touches upon it as part of a comprehensive but layman friendly exploration of how we learn language.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:05 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This book is very good, research-based, and inexpensive.

If you'd like to see a review of what the field has moved in the last couple of decades, here is a classic article by one of the book's authors.

Spada, N. (2011). Beyond form-focused instruction: Reflections on past, present and future research. Language Teaching. 44, 225-236.
posted by Prof Iterole at 5:05 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you work with children at all? If so, One Child, Two Languages is a good book.
posted by the twistinside at 9:15 PM on December 30, 2012

Best answer: Kató Lomb was one of the first simultaneous translators in the world. She taught herself 16-odd languages and later published an insightful book on autodidactic language acquisition called "Polyglot: How I Learn Languages." You can find PDFs of the English translation at the TESL-EJ site if you search for it. Highly recommended!
posted by fritillary at 11:34 AM on December 31, 2012

Best answer: Also, here's an overview of the strategies she writes about.
posted by fritillary at 11:40 AM on December 31, 2012

Best answer: Seconding Prof Iterole's suggestions.

Regarding Pinker: he does a great job promoting his particular theoretical position, but don't imagine that all, or even necessarily a majority, of linguists agree with him. Also, as OHenryPacey rightfully points out, Pinker talks mainly about FIRST language acquisition, which is not at all the same thing you are asking about.

Seriously, read Lightbown and Spada.
posted by Sing Fool Sing at 9:42 PM on December 31, 2012

Best answer: This article on Piotr Wozniak, his program "SuperMemo", and the learning process in general may be of interest to you. It's a quick read.
posted by metadave at 10:17 AM on January 9, 2013

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