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In Search of Processes of Language Use in Foreign Language Didactics

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Maria Dakowska

The author addresses key questions of foreign language teaching: How does foreign language learning take place? What is the mechanism of foreign language use and learning? What are the sources of our understanding of these processes? What significance does our understanding have for foreign language teaching? The main argument is that, in order to deal with the complexity of language learning and meet the current demands for foreign language competency, we must employ the framework of an empirical, relatively autonomous discipline of Foreign Language Didactics, constituted as a «normal» science which strives to understand foreign language learning as its subject-matter. This constructivist psycholinguistic conception targets language learning processes in the real world, i.e. as language use in the context of verbal communication, i.e. comprehension and production in speech and writing. The processes are represented as taking place in the learner’s cognitive system for information processing in communicative interaction, a universal human phenomenon. This perspective leads to systematic options and strategies for the practical teaching of foreign languages with focus on English as a world language.
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Chapter 1. Addressing the mystery of language learning and teaching: a retrospective sketch

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Unlike the historical accounts of second language teaching by Musumeci (2009) or Whong (2011), the purpose of this chapter is to outline some developments in the reflection of foreign language learning and teaching in the 19th and 20th century with focus on ideas and attempts of coming to terms with the notion of language, especially their source, nature and manner of implementation. This sketch will highlight the evolution of the field of second/foreign language learning and teaching from its initial reliance on intuitive ideas to the need for exploring foreign language learning in a systematic, disciplined manner. From the point of view of the development of the field, it is important to take into account the sociocultural context at each stage, especially the forms of human contact afforded by means of transportation and communication, as well as demands and expectations addressed to foreign language teaching. As the goals of foreign language teaching become increasingly challenging, and the intellectual resources grow more and more sophisticated, its conceptions and solutions also become increasingly refined. The list of questions below provides focal points for the following retrospective outline of the developments in the field of foreign/second language learning and teaching relevant to the issue at hand:

1.How are the ideas on language teaching and learning generated?

a)Where do they come from?

b)What do these ideas refer to?

c)To what extent are the notions of foreign language teaching linked to the notions of...

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