What is a «foreign language”? We often use this concept, but, unfortunately, we rarely think about its content. However, in order to correctly build the modern process of teaching a foreign language, you need to know what a foreign language is and what should be understood as teaching a language / mastering a language / learning a language. We begin our discussion with how the concept of “language” is interpreted in science.
As you know, a language is understood primarily as a natural human language (as opposed to artificial languages and the language of animals).
The emergence and existence of natural language is inextricably linked with the emergence and existence of man — Homo sapiens. Language in general is a naturally (at a certain stage in the development of human society) emerging and naturally developing semiotic (sign) system, which has the property of social purpose — this is a system that exists primarily not for an individual, but for a particular society.
Artificial languages, as sign systems created for use in areas where the use of natural language is less effective or impossible, are not the subject of our consideration. We are interested in a foreign language, a foreign language, which acts as a kind of alternative to the native language.
However, what should be understood by the native language? As M. V. Dyachkov notes, there are various, sometimes conflicting criteria for determining the native language. The criterion of origin seems to be optimal, according to which the mother tongue is the language in which the mother begins to communicate with the baby from the moment of his birth and which he learns to some extent in the womb. The concept of “native language” when choosing a language of instruction in an educational institution is adequately replaced by the concept of “basic functional language”, that is, a language that a 5–6-year-old child is fluent in. In some cases, especially in a multinational society, there can be more than one major functional language. This means that the child speaks several languages almost to the same extent, which makes it very difficult to separate languages into their native and non-native languages.
Thus, a foreign language, unlike a second language, is acquired by a person outside the social environment in which this language is a natural means of communication. However, this difference is conditional, and it is rather difficult to establish clear boundaries between them. Indeed, any foreign language can be studied in different conditions, and each time the same language changes its significance.
Therefore, foreign and “second” languages can, under appropriate circumstances, easily “pass” into each other. This gives reason, despite all the differences between them, not to absolutize the latter. It would be more correct, since it is about finding the optimal way to improve the system of teaching a foreign language, to look for differences between them in the plane of “controlled” and / or “uncontrolled” language acquisition. The controlled process of mastering the language is associated with concepts such as language teaching and language learning, that is, language learning. Learning a foreign language is a special way (institutionally) organized process, during which, as a result of the interaction between the learner and the teacher, the reproduction and assimilation of a certain experience is carried out in accordance with a given goal. In our case, we are talking about foreign language experience, which the teacher (teacher) has to one degree or another and the student (student) does not fully or partially own it.
Learning a foreign language, the process of systematic and consistent communication by a teacher of knowledge and inculcation of skills in foreign languages, the process of active and conscious assimilation of them by students, the process of creating and consolidating in children those qualities that we strive to educate them. From this definition, it is obvious that the learning process is a two-way process, including in their unity the teaching activities of the teacher / teacher foreign language and the educational activities (language learning) of the student aimed at language learning / language acquisition.
There are significant differences between the concepts of “learning a language” and “mastering a language”. The process of mastering the language (acquisition) is built according to the laws of mastering the child's first / mother tongue. This process is characterized by an unconscious, intuitive assimilation of the language, carried out during the socialization of the personality of the child. In contrast to this process, learning a language is a conscious process, involving primarily the explicitly expressed use and assimilation of rules, language elements. Therefore, the concept of “learning a language” is broader than the concept of “mastering a language”. The process of mastering the language can be considered as «unintentional”, not under the direct control of the assimilation of foreign language content. Of course, you can learn the native language, which the child already speaks practically (which, in fact, happens when a small child comes to school). In direct contact with its carrier, learning elements also take place (for example, during prompting an adult child with adequate linguistic and speech means or correcting mistakes). Learning a language has the ultimate goal of mastering this language, that is, the student must master the speech skills at a certain level, arbitrarily high. However, unfortunately, learning a language and teaching it does not always imply that students learn this language.
As noted above, a person’s introduction to a new language can be carried out in different conditions: in the country of the language being studied and outside of it. In either case, we can talk about learning it.
Learning a foreign language in the country of the studied language can be carried out in two forms:
– in groups of students — representatives of the same culture and speaking the same mother tongue;
– in heterogeneous groups (by language), where the studied IJ acts as a natural means of communication in the classroom and after school hours.
Studying a foreign language in isolation from the country of the language being studied also has its own at least two sub-options:
– under the guidance of a teacher — a native speaker of the studied language, which makes possible the natural use of the language in communication with the teacher, not only in the lesson, but also after school hours;
– under the guidance of a teacher — not a native speaker.
The latter is most typical for the domestic learning environment of IN. At the same time, all these forms have one common component: they are controllable, and in these cases, as we have already emphasized, we are talking about language teaching and language learning. However, we have already noted that the mastery of a second / foreign language in the natural conditions of its existence and in isolation from the linguistic environment can have not only a controlled, but also uncontrollable character that is, proceeding spontaneously.
As you know, in a linguistic environment all the necessary components for successfully mastering a second language can be successfully combined: incentives for using the language as a means of communication (which students may not even be aware of), a person’s ability to master a foreign language speech activity, and, most importantly, direct access to the language and culture of another people.
- Dyachkov M. V. The social role of languages in multi-ethnic societies. A manual for universities and teacher training institutes. — M.: INR and INPO, 1993.- 115 p.
- Linguistic encyclopedic dictionary. — M.: Soviet Encyclopedia, 1990. — 685 p.
- Rakhmanov I. V. Some theoretical issues of teaching foreign languages in high school. In the book: General Methods of Teaching Foreign Languages: Reader / Comp. Leontiev A. A. — M.: Russian language, 1991.-P. 9−20.