“Second Language Acquisition”: Book Review


Having started my MA in English Language Teaching course last month, there were some essential reading lists that I received prior to the course.  One of those books that I bought was Second Language Acquisition written by Rod Ellis with H. G. Widdowson as Series Editor.  The book is published by Oxford University Press (OUP), was first published in 1997 and is part of the Oxford Introductions to Language Study series.

The book splits the topic in to 10 chapters about SLA and intoduces past and present language acquisition theories.  The theories introduced are written in a style which is easy to understand, for example Behavourist learning theory, L1 transfer, etc.  The Preface of the book justifies the reason quite well;

There are many people that take an interest in language without being academically engaged in linguistics per se.  Such people may recognise the importance of understanding language for their own lines of enquiry, or for their own practical purposes, or quite simply for making them aware of something which figures so centrally in their everyday lifes.

The Preface is pivatol for the book; it would benefit not just academics seeking to understand theories, concepts, etc written in an easy to understand fashion but will also assist language teachers to identify why particular teaching practice is adopted in the classroom.  Questions that would be answered could include; Why do we teach in a student-centred basis?  What was the reason for parrot-fashion teaching?  Are errors something we should correct in class?  The chapters cover a range of areas in SLA including Social Aspects of Interlanguage, Individual Differences in L2 Acquisition and The Nature of Learner Language.  The chapters will go someway to answer the questions raised above but if readers would require more theory and are more academically inclined, then the book may not suit these particular readers.  However, the book is split into four sections with one focused on References.

The References do offer readers the opportunity to look at particular points in more detail and the author breaks down the technicality of reading in a easy, medium or hard context (with the use of blocks; the more blocks the harder it is).  The References is split between chapters, so if one had read a chapter about The Nature of Learner Language and read about learner errors, when refering to the References section one could read more about this when looking at ‘The Significance of Learners’ Errors’ in International Review of Applied Linguisitics (1967), pages 161-169.

I would recommend this book for those teachers that are interested in learning more about the supportive theories and understandings of language acquisition as it could answer some questions about teaching in a class environment.  It is highly invaluable also for those that are undertaking a post-graduate course at University or currently working towards DELTA-related qualification.

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