Chapter 1. Mental representation and skill in instructed SLA

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In this chapter, I argue something that ought to be self-evident but is often overlooked in instructed SLA research: language is multifaceted and not reducible to a single concept. In simplest terms, this means that language consists of two broad domains: (1) mental representation, and (2) skill (language use). Within each domain there are separable sub-domains (e.g., syntax, phonology, lexicon, semantics, and so on in mental representation; and reading, writing, speaking, and so on, in the domain of skill). The implications of such a view are that the development of different parts of language may respond to different stimuli in the environment. What is more, some domains may be more or less amenable to instruction and practice while others are stubborn or resistant to external influences. I also discuss and argue against a commonly held notion in language teaching: that grammar is a skill. As I argue, grammar is part of the mental representation, and is not something that can be internalized “via practice” What is more, the kind of grammar that instructors use in classrooms (e.g., pedagogical grammar) is not how language is represented in the mind/brain of a human being, and thus is not something with which one “develops skill.”


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