This page collects references to research on second language acquisition, language learning techniques and strategies.
Theories and Research on Language Acquisition
Books are listed in chronological order (year of publication).
Understanding Second Language Acquisition (1985)
Understanding Second Language Acquisition.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985. (323 pages)
ISBN 0 19 437081 X.
(Now outdated, but gives an impression of the state of SLA research in the mid 1980s. See Understanding Second Language Acquisition on this website.)
Effective Language Learning (1997)
Effective Language Learning: Positive Strategies for Advanced Level Language Learning.
Modern Languages in Practice. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 1997.
This book investigates difficulties that learners of French and German experience when they transition to an advanced level, and the strategies and affective processes that help them overcome these difficulties.
Achieving Success in Second Language Acquisition (2005)
Leaver, Betty Lou; Ehrman, Madeline; Shekhtman, Boris:
Achieving Success in Second Language Acquisition.
Cambridge University Press, 2005. (280 pages)
From the description by Cambridge University Press:
This clear and informative textbook is designed to help the student achieve optimal success as a language learner and user. Aimed at beginning to intermediate undergraduates and above, it teaches students to understand their own preferences in learning, to develop individual learning plans and approaches, and to select appropriate learning strategies.
Third or Additional Language Acquisition (2007)
De Angelis, Gessica: Third or Additional Language Acquisition. Multilingual Matters, 2007. (160 pages). ISBN 9781847690036.
Understanding Second Language Acquisition (2008)
Ortega, Lourdes: Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Routledge, 2008. (320 pages). ISBN 9780340905593.
Second Language Acquisition Myths (2012)
Brown, Steven; Larson-Hall, Jenifer: Second Language Acquisition Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2012. (208 pages) ISBN 978-0-472-03498-7.
How Languages are Learned (2013)
Lightbown, Patsy M.; Spada, Nina:
How Languages are Learned. Oxford Handbooks For Language Teachers. 4th Edition. Oxford University Press, 2013. (272 pages)
This book discusses theories of both first and second language acquisition. It is aimed at language teachers, not researchers, and does not require a background in psycholinguistics, so it is also accessible to general readers with an interest in language learning theories. Nevertheless, the focus is on theories; the book does not provide lesson plans or materials that teachers can directly use in the classroom.
See the book's companion website, where you can download a glossary, discussion questions and other materials. See also the three-part interview with Patsy Lightbown and Nina Spada on YouTube: part 1, part 2, part 3.
Fremdsprachenunterricht und Neurowissenschaften (2013)
Sambanis, Michaela: Fremdsprachenunterricht und Neurowissenschaften. Narr, 2013. (153 Seiten) ISBN 978-3-8233-6800-7.
Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course (2013)
Gass, Susan M.; Behney, Jennifer; Plonsky, Luke:
Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course. 4th edition.
Routledge, 2013. (624 pages)
First Exposure to a Second Language (2014)
Han, Zhaohang; Rast, Rebekah; et al: First Exposure to a Second Language: Learners' Initial Input Processing. Cambridge University Press, 2014. (220 pages) ISBN 9781107017610.
Stavans, Anat; Hoffmann, Charlotte: Multilingualism. Key Topics in Sociolinguistics. Cambridge University Press, 2015. (319 pages) ISBN 9781107471481.
Theories in Second Language Acquisition: An Introduction (2015)
VanPatten, Bill; Williams, Jessica: Theories in Second Language Acquisition: An Introduction. 2nd edition. Routledge, 2015. (296 pages) ISBN 9780415824217.
Introducing Second Language Acquisition (2016)
Saville-Troike, Muriel; Barto, Karen: Introducing Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge Introductions to Language and Linguistics. 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, October 2016. ISBN 9781316603925. (Second edition, 2012 (230 pages): ISBN 9781107010895)
Autonomy and Self-Regulated Learning
- Oxford, Rebecca L.:
Teaching & Researching: Language Learning Strategies. Routledge, 2010.
This book is heavily based on research. It presents the Strategy Self-Regulation (S2R) Model of language learning, including practical applications of the model.
- Hamilton, Miranda:
Autonomy and Foreign Language Learning in a Virtual Learning Environment. Bloomsbury, 2014. (256 pages)
ISBN 9781472589767 (paper) /
Quoted from the publisher's description:
This book describes the use of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) by a group of advanced English language learners in Mexico, comparing what students thought and what they did in response to the technology. The theoretical aim of the book is to work towards the construction of a theory of the development of autonomy and virtual learning in an EFL context. (…)
- Machová, Lydia: Language Mentoring: Don't Teach Me, Make Me Learn (48 minutes, YouTube): presentation at the Polyglot Gathering 2016.
Language Learning Strategies
- Oxford, Rebecca L.:
Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know. Heinle, 1990.
ISBN 978-0-8384-2862-7. (342 pages)
This book is primarily for teachers of foreign languages at secondary, university and adult levels. It is mainly about teaching (language) learning strategies but the survey of language learning strategies may also be useful for learners. See also the Oxford taxonomy on Wikipedia.
- Griffiths, Carol: The Strategy Factor in Successful Language Learning. Multilingual Matters, 2013. (240 pages) ISBN 9781847699404.
- Hurd, Stella; Lewis, Tim, eds.:
Language Learning Strategies in Independent Settings. Multilingual Matters, 2008. (352 pages)
This book is mainly based on research on language learning at the secondary level.
- Cohen, Andrew D.:
Strategies in Learning and Using a Second Language. 2nd edition. Routledge, 2010. (440 pages)
Another book aimed at language teachers that is based on research, for example, on strategies to learn Spanish grammar.
- Cohen, Andrew; Macaro, Ernesto, eds.: Language Learner Strategies: 30 years of Research and Practice. Oxford University Press, 2007. (344 pages) ISBN 9780194422543.
- Macaro, Ernesto: Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms. London: Continuum, 2002. (288 pages) ISBN 9780826451354 (paper) ISBN 9780826425645 (PDF).
- Chamot, Anna Uhl; Barnhardt, Sarah; Beard El-Dinary, Pamela; Robbins, Jill: The Learning Strategies Handbook: Creating Independent Learners. Pearson Education, 1999. ISBN 0-201-38548-1.
- Griffiths, Carol: Language Learning Strategies: Theory and Research, 2004.
- Nation, I. S. Paul:
Learning Vocabulary in Another Language. Cambridge Applied Linguistics. 2nd edition.
Cambridge University Press, 2013. (640 pages) ISBN 978-1107623026.
See also the Wikipedia article on Paul Nation.
- Folse, Keith S.:
Vocabulary Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching.
Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2004. (200 pages)
See also Paul Shoebottom's summary.
- Shen, Helen H.:
Imagery and verbal coding approaches in Chinese vocabulary instruction,
Language Teaching Research, Vol 14, Issue 4, 2010.
From the abstract:
The result shows that, compared with the verbal encoding method, the verbal plus imagery encoding method does not show a superior effect in retention of the sound, shape, and meaning of concrete words, but statistically significant differences are present in retention of the shape and meaning of abstract words. The study supports dual coding theory and confirms the importance of visual learning in Chinese vocabulary acquisition.
- Webb, Stuart; Nation, Paul:
How Vocabulary Is Learned. Oxford University Press, 2017. (336 pages)
This book discusses questions such as: How many words should students learn at a time, and how often. The best way to group vocabulary for learning. Why it is useful to provide students with the L1 translations of unknown words.
- Schreiner, Thomas; Rasch, Björn:
Boosting Vocabulary Learning by Verbal Cueing During Sleep,
Cerebral Cortex, Volume 25, Issue 11, 1 November 2015, Pages 4169–4179.
This is a freely downloadable paper. Abstract:
Reactivating memories during sleep by re-exposure to associated memory cues (e.g., odors or sounds) improves memory consolidation. Here, we tested for the first time whether verbal cueing during sleep can improve vocabulary learning. We cued prior learned Dutch words either during non-rapid eye movement sleep (NonREM) or during active or passive waking. Re-exposure to Dutch words during sleep improved later memory for the German translation of the cued words when compared with uncued words. Recall of uncued words was similar to an additional group receiving no verbal cues during sleep. Furthermore, verbal cueing failed to improve memory during active and passive waking. High-density electroencephalographic recordings revealed that successful verbal cueing during NonREM sleep is associated with a pronounced frontal negativity in event-related potentials, a higher frequency of frontal slow waves as well as a cueing-related increase in right frontal and left parietal oscillatory theta power. Our results indicate that verbal cues presented during NonREM sleep reactivate associated memories, and facilitate later recall of foreign vocabulary without impairing ongoing consolidation processes. Likewise, our oscillatory analysis suggests that both sleep-specific slow waves as well as theta oscillations (typically associated with successful memory encoding during wakefulness) might be involved in strengthening memories by cueing during sleep.
- Schreiner, Thomas; Göldi, Maurice; Rasch, Björn:
Cueing vocabulary during sleep increases theta activity during later recognition testing,
Psychophysiology, Volume52, Issue11, November 2015, Pages 1538-1543.
Neural oscillations in the theta band have repeatedly been implicated in successful memory encoding and retrieval. Several recent studies have shown that memory retrieval can be facilitated by reactivating memories during their consolidation during sleep. However, it is still unknown whether reactivation during sleep also enhances subsequent retrieval‐related neural oscillations. We have recently demonstrated that foreign vocabulary cues presented during sleep improve later recall of the associated translations. Here, we examined the effect of cueing foreign vocabulary during sleep on oscillatory activity during subsequent recognition testing after sleep. We show that those words that were replayed during sleep after learning (cued words) elicited stronger centroparietal theta activity during recognition as compared to noncued words. The reactivation‐induced increase in theta oscillations during later recognition testing might reflect a strengthening of individual memory traces and the integration of the newly learned words into the mental lexicon by cueing during sleep.
- Cordi, Maren Jasmin; Schreiner, Thomas; Rasch, Björn:
No effect of vocabulary reactivation in older adults,
Neuropsychologia, Volume 119, October 2018, Pages 253-261.
Quality of memory and sleep declines with age. However, the mechanistic interactions underlying the memory function of sleep in older adults are still unknown. It is widely assumed that the beneficial effect of sleep on memory relies on reactivation during Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Targeting these reactivations by cue re-exposure reliably improves memory in younger participants. Here we tested whether the memory reactivation mechanism during sleep is still functional in old age. For this purpose we applied targeted memory reactivation (TMR) during NREM sleep in healthy adults over 60 years and directly compared the results to a group of younger participants. In contrast to young participants, older adults’ memories did not generally benefit from TMR during NREM sleep. On the oscillatory level, successful reactivation of Dutch words during sleep did not reveal the characteristic increases in early theta activity and frontal spindle activity previously reported in young participants. Only in a later time window, theta oscillations were similarly increased during successful cueing for both young and older participants. Our results suggest that reactivating memories during sleep might be possible also in older adults. However at the same time this reactivation by TMR does not necessarily lead to a strengthening of memories across sleep as in younger participants. Further studies are needed to examine a potential loss of functionality of memory reactivation for consolidation during sleep in older adults.
- Paller, Ken A.:
Do House-Elves Clean Your Brain While You Sleep?
Frontierst in Young Minds, 6:23 (2018).
Frontiers in Young Minds is an
open-access scientific journal written by scientists and reviewed by a board of kids and teens.
(The Myth of) Learning Styles
- Dr. Robert Bjork: The Myth of Individual Learning Styles (YouTube, 5 minutes).
- Tesia Marshik: Learning styles & the importance of critical self-reflection (TEDx, YouTube, 18 minutes).
Bloom's 2 Sigma Problem, Group Instruction and Tutoring
Bloom's 2 Sigma Problem on Wikipedia.
Benjamin Bloom also proposed the instructional strategy known as mastery learning and formulated the taxonomy of learning objectives known as Bloom's taxonomy.
- Bloom, Benjamin S.:
The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effectived as One-to-One Tutoring,
Educational Researcher, 13.6 (June 1984): 4-16.
This is the original article.
- VanLehn, Kurt:
The Relative Effectiveness of Human Tutoring, Intelligent Tutoring Systems, and Other Tutoring Systems,
Educational Psychologist, 46.4 (2011), 197–221.
A more recent meta-study from 2011.
- Redd, Brandt: Bloom's Two Sigma Problem Revisited, Of That (blog), 23.01.2013.
- Thayne, Jeffrey: The 2 Sigma Problem, lsdphilosopher (blog), 06.02.2013.
- Bailey, Melissa: Bloom’s Two-Sigma Problem And What It Means To You, Live Lingua (blog), 20.03.2014.
- VanderVeen, Arthur: Personalization and the 2 Sigma Problem, EdSurge, 10.08.2014.
- L1 Attrition and Recovery: A Case Study (9 minutes, YouTube, December 2014; presentation of a case study).
Miscellaneous Resources on Language and Linguistics
- Hyltenstam, Kenneth (editor):
Advanced Proficiency and Exceptional Ability in Second Languages. Studies on Second Language Acquisition. De Gruyter, 2016, 2018 (paperback, 274 pages).
Aim and scope, quoted from the publisher's website:
While the literature on second language acquisition and use is overwhelmingly rich with respect to initial and intermediate stages of development, present knowledge of levels of ultimate attainment that are equal or close to that if native speakers has so far not been presented in a coherent manner. This is what the present volume aims to achieve. In addition to chapters that summarize what is currently known about the grammatical, lexical, and discourse features that continue to exhibit instability at the most advanced levels of second language development, the volume presents overviews of the incipient research on two unique learner populations, polyglots and employees in international call centres. Polyglots, defined as language users who are proficient in six or more second languages, may be considered second language learners par excellence. Call centre employees in economically less developed parts of the world are intriguing in how they cope with the high language proficiency requirements of their job. In conclusion, this book is relevant for all readers - both professionals and students - interested in the development of second language theory. For language teachers, the book provides insights that are profitable in classrooms for advanced learners.
- Glottopedia: Discovering Linguistics: a wiki-based reference work on linguistics. Only academic linguists who have registered on the website can edit articles.
- GEN102 - 5 Reasons for Linguistics with David Crystal (9 minutes, YouTube): the German linguist Jürgen Handke interviews the British linguist David Crystal.
- David Crystal - How is the internet changing language today? (4 minutes, YouTube).
History of Language Teaching Methods
This is a temporary section.
- Taber, Joan: A Brief History of ESL Instruction: Theories, Methodologies, and Upheavals (2006).
- Puren, Christian: Histoire des méthodologies de l'enseignement des langues. Originally published in 1988 and digitised by the author in 2012.
- Mora, Jill Kerper: Second and Foreign Language Teaching Methods (no date).
- TJ Taylor: Language Teaching Methods: An Overview, T J Taylor Blog (no date). (TJ Taylor is a language school in Italy.)
- Lee, W. R.: Language Teaching Games and Contests. Oxford University Press, 1979. ISBN 9780194327169.
- Babylonia: website of “The Swiss Journal of Language Teaching and Learning”. The website is available in Italian, German, French, Romansh and English.
- Good language learner studies
- Several Wikipedia articles related to Second Language Acquisition:
- Second-language acquisition.
- Theories of second-language acquisition.
- Order of acquisition.
- Language learning strategies.
- List of common misconceptions about language learning.
- Language pedagogy; includes Edward Mason Anthony's distinction between “approach”, “method” and “technique”, and a long list of language teaching methods.
- Second-language acquisition classroom research.
- Comprehension approach. Examples:
- Loraine K. Obler & Peggy S. Conner:
Cognitive Underpinnings of Language-Learning in Polyglots,
Polyglot Conference, New York, 10-11 October 2015 (47 minutes).
Description from the conference website:
This talk examines the cognitive factors posited to enable skillful learning of a new language's accent, words and syntax: sound perception, working memory, musical ability, motivation, concentration. The speakers will consider them vis-a-vis Geschwind's Theory, Dynamic Systems Theory, and brain plasticity.Loraine K. Obler is principal investigator at the Neurolinguistics Laboratory the City University of New York. Her books include The Bilingual Brain: Neuropsychological and Neurolinguistic Aspects of Bilingualism (with Martin L. Albert, 1997), The Exceptional Brain: Neuropsychology of Talent and Special Abilities (with Deborah A. Fein, 1988), Language and the Brain (with K. Gjerlow, 1999).
- Linguistic Society of America
- Rickerson, E. M.; Hilton, Barry: The 5-Minute Linguist: Bite-sized Essays on Language and Languages. Second edition. Equinox, 2012. (320 pages). ISBN 9781908049490 (paperback) / ISBN 9781781790946 (PDF).
- Butzkamm, Wolfgang: Fremdsprachendidaktik & Spracherwerb: Die Internetseiten von Wolfgang Butzkamm: website of a (retired) linguistics professor. Butzkamm co-authored the book The Bilingual Reform: A Paradigm Shift in Foreign Language Teaching with John W. Caldwell (Narr, 2009; ISBN 978-3-8233-6492-4; see also the list of reviews on Butzkamm's publications page) and Psycholinguistik des Fremdsprachenunterrichts. Von der Muttersprache zur Fremdsprache (3rd edition, Francke, 2002; ISBN 9783825215057).
- Order of acquisition on Wikipedia. See also sequences of acquisition in the article on second language acquisition.
- Cook, Vivian; Singleton, David:
Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2014. (168 pages)
This book has chapters about the following topics:
- How do different languages connect in our minds?
- Is there a best age for learning a second language?
- How do people acquire the words of a second language?
- How important is grammar in acquiring and using a second language?
- How do people learn to write in a second language?
- How do attitude and motivation help in learning a second language?
- How useful is second language acquisition research for language teaching?
- What are the goals of language teaching?
- Cook, Vivian: Second Language Learning and Language Teaching. Fifth edition. Routledge, 2016. (334 pages) ISBN 9780415713801.
- Dornyei, Zoltan; Ryan, Stephen: The Psychology of the Language Learner Revisited. Routledge, 2015. (260 pages) ISBN 9781138018747.
- Piccardo, Enrica: From Communicative to Action-Oriented: A Research Pathway (PDF). 2014
- Publications about DuoLingo:
- Vesselinov, Roumen; Grego, John: Duolingo Effectiveness Study: Final Report, December 2012.
- Lardinois, Frederic: Study: Learning Spanish With Duolingo Can Be More Effective Than College Classes Or Rosetta Stone, TechCrunch, 17.01.2013. (Mentions WebCAPE Language Placement Exams.)
- Giles, Jim: Duolingo gives language learning a jump start, One Per Cent (New Scientist blog), 25.01.2013. (Mentions a study by Roumen Vesselinov at the City University of New York that was funded by DuoLingo.)
- Steely, Lauren: You are the product: A critical look at Duolingo, Hacking Portuguese, 13.05.2013.
- McKenzie, Hamish: Say what? Duolingo points to data's important role in online education, Pando, 30.05.2013.
- Guillén, Grabriel: Is Duolingo more effective than your Spanish class?, Gabriel Guillén, 23.10.2013. (Comments on the effectiveness study by Vesselinov & Grego.)
- Krashen, Stephen D.: Does Duolingo “Trump” University-Level Language Learning?, International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 9.1 (January 2014):13-15.
- Hopping, Clare: DuoLingo: Why – While An App Can Be Good – A Teacher Is Best, Listen & Learn blog, 30.09.2014.
- Magnuson, Paul: Teaching with Duolingo, December 2014.
- Jordan, Geoff: Geoff Jordan vs. Duolingo, ELTjam, 14.01.2015.
- Bézy, Michel; Settles, Burr: The Duolingo English Test and East Africa: Preliminary linking results with IELTS and CEFR, Duolingo Research Report, DRR-15-01, 04.08.2015.
- Duolingo: Publications by our staff and about our products.
- Mackey, Alison: What happens in the brain when you learn a language?, The Guardian, 04.09.2014.
- Vince, Gaia:
Why being bilingual works wonders for your brain,
The Guardian, 07.08.2016.
This article reports on research that suggest that we may be predisposed to learn more than one language.
- Zoltán Dörnyei's Personal Website: Zoltán Dörnyei is professor of psycholinguistics at the University of Notthingham.
- Accuracy versus fluency:
- Miles, Scott: Good Timing: The Spacing EfIect and Grammar Acquisition, Englisll Teaching, Vol. 65, No. 2, Summer 2010.
- Gorsuch, Greta; Taguchi, Etsuo: Repeated reading for developing reading fluency and reading comprehension: The case of EFL learners in Vietnam, System, Volume 36, Issue 2 (June 2008).
- Fortune, Tara Williams: What the Research Says About Immersion, CARLA (no date).
- Costa, Albert:
El cerebro bilingüe. La neurociencia del lenguaje. DEBATE, 2017. (256 pages)
English translation: The Bilingual Brain. Allen Lane, 2020. (176 pages) ISBN 9780241391518.
- Murphy, Victoria: Book review: The Bilingual Brain, Tes, 02.02.2020.
- Motivation and Learning theories for SLA through Chomsky, Bandura, Vygotsky, Krashen, and Gardner, Land of Lingtechguistics, 05.02.2015.
- Cook, Vivian: Chomsky's Universal Grammar and Second Language Learning, VivianCook.com, 2019 (originally published in 1985).
Child Language Acquisition
(Temporary list of books and links.)
- Tomasello, Michael: Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition. Harvard University Press, 2005. ISBN 9780674017641.
- Ambridge, Ben; Lieven, Elena V. M.: Child Language Acquisition: Contrasting Theoretical Approaches. Cambridge University Press, 2011. ISBN 9780521745239.
- Clark, Eve V.: First Language Acquisition. Third edition. Cambridge University Press, 2016. ISBN 9781316507605.
- McCune, Lorraine: How Children Learn to Learn Language. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 9780195177879.
- Brown, Roger: A First Language: The Early Stages. Harvard University Press, 1973. ISBN 9780674732469. (Now outdated.)
- Ask A Linguist FAQ: Child Language Acquisition.
- The Linguist List: Ask-A-Linguist: Child Language Acquisition, 18.07.2013.
- Amanda Alvarez: Japanese Babies Are Upending The World Of Linguistics, One Mora At A Time, pionic, August 2017.