L2 Methods and Approaches: The Natural Approach

The Natural Approach and the Communicative Approach share a common theoretical and philosophical base.The Natural Approach to L2 teaching is based on the following hypotheses:

1. The acquisition-learning distinction hypothesis
Adults can “get” a second language much as they learn their first language, through informal, implicit, subconscious learning. The conscious, explicit, formal linguistic knowledge of a language is a different, and often non-essential process.

2. The natural order of acquisition hypothesis
L2 learners acquire forms in a predictable order. This order very closely parallels the acquisition of grammatical and syntactic structures in the first language.

3. The monitor hypothesis
Fluency in L2 comes from the acquisition process. Learning produces a “monitoring” or editor of performance. The application of the monitor function requires time, focus on form and knowledge of the rule.

4. The input hypothesis
Language is acquired through comprehensible input. If an L2 learner is at a certain stage in language acquisition and he/she understands something that includes a structure at the next stage, this helps him/her to acquire that structure. Thus, the i+1 concept, where i= the stage of acquisition.

5. The affective hypothesis
People with certain personalities and certain motivations perform better in L2 acquisition. Learners with high self-esteem and high levels of self-confidence acquire L2 faster. Also, certain low-anxiety pleasant situations are more conducive to L2 acquisition.

6. The filter hypothesis
There exists an affective filter or “mental block” that can prevent input from “getting in.” Pedagogically, the more that is done to lower the filter, the more acquisition can take place. A low filter is achieved through low-anxiety, relaxation, non-defensiveness.

7. The aptitude hypothesis
There is such a thing as a language learning aptitude. This aptitude can be measured and is highly correlated with general learning aptitude. However, aptitude relates more to learning while attitude relates more to acquisition.

8. The first language hypothesis
The L2 learner will naturally substitute competence in L1 for competence in L2. Learners should not be forced to use the L1 to generate L2 performance. A silent period and insertion of L1 into L2 utterances should be expected and tolerated.

9. The textuality hypothesis
The event-structures of experience are textual in nature and will be easier to produce, understand, and recall to the extent that discourse or text is motivated and structured episodically. Consequently, L2 teaching materials are more successful when they incorporate principles of good story writing along with sound linguistic analysis.

10. The expectancy hypothesis
Discourse has a type of “cognitive momentum.” The activation of correct expectancies will enhance the processing of textual structures. Consequently, L2 learners must be guided to develop the sort of native-speaker “intuitions” that make discourse predictable.

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