Connecting Theory and Practice in Second Language Instruction


  • Yanyin Zhang The Australian National University


Second language acquisition (SLA) theories describe and explain how second / foreign languages (L2) are learned. Empirical studies testing them are carried out to verify their claims. Together, they contribute to our knowledge and understanding of language learning processes and offer insights into the way L2s should be taught.

However, to what extent is L2 instruction informed by SLA theories? And to what extent are pedagogical practices, or teaching, guided by research and research findings? If we are to apply theories to our daily teaching, how do we do it?

In this presentation, I will address these questions through three studies that illustrate how one of the SLA theories – Processability Theory (Pienemann, 1998) -- is employed to guide the pedagogical practices of L2 Italian, L2 English and L2 Chinese. The studies demonstrate how SLA-based L2 instruction supports classroom teaching and coursebook evaluation, producing optimal learning outcomes.

 It is my hope that the examples will encourage and motivate L2 teachers to reflect critically on their teaching and actively move towards a model of pedagogical practice that is more scientific and intelligent, and that enhances learning.