Different from foreign language learning, second language acquisition (SLA) refers to “the learning of a nonnative language in the environment in which that language is spoken” (Gass, 2001, P. 5). According to the research timeline conducted by Myles (2010), the theories of second language acquisition date back to 1957 when Skinner (i.e., the representative of modern behaviorism) proposes stimulus-operant-response (S-O-R) theory emphasizing imitation and habit-formation, which is then intensely critiqued by Chomsky asserting that children are born with ability to acquire language and they can create new sentences besides imitation. Later, Krashen’s Monitor Model takes shape and his input hypothesis is further developed. Since the theories of SLA are of great importance in language teaching in both ESL and EFL settings, many scholars have made effort to this field. Payne (2011) argues that Krashen’s theory seems to be defective among students with different levels in a real classroom context because the notion of ‘i+1’ is unclear.
After a brief introduction of SLA, this paper is aimed at analyzing my own English language learning experiences from behaviorism and Krashen’s theory. This paper consists of three parts. The first part is an introduction concerned with background knowledge of SLA. In the second part, application of behaviorism and Krashen’s theory will be displayed before the final conclusion part is presented.
2. Application of two theories
According to the sketch made by Moore (2011), there are two phases of behaviorism: Watson’s classical stimulus-response (S-R) theory and Skinner’s radical behaviorism including the concept of operant (i.e., the possible behavior that people perform or are able to perform). Williams and Burden (1997) states language is taught as a behavior when behaviorism theory is implemented into language teaching. As we know, each teaching method is supported by a teaching theory. The typical teaching method based on this theory is audio-lingual approach which is characterized by ‘mimicry and memorization’ (Lightbown & Spada, 2013, P. 95). For example, when learning exclamation, I was asked to make sentences following a fixed pattern like “What a beautiful flower it is!” or “How beautiful the flower is!” by replacing the nouns with another. Similarly, learning passive voice is just like a process of switching from active voice to passive voice and vice versa after the teacher presents the basic grammatical forms and rules. The patters offered are deemed as stimulus to which students should respond. Also the teacher gives corresponding prizes or punishment immediately as reinforcement to ensure definite correctness.
Although behaviorism plays an important role in EFL and ESL settings from the 1940s to 1970s, Lightbown and Spada (2013) notes that this theory is not enough to explain second language acquisition. Additionally, Williams and Burden (1997) mentions “this...