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close this bookReport on Reading in English in Primary Schools in Zambia - Education Research Paper No. 05 (DFID, 1993, 55 p.)
close this folder3. Reading and language learning
View the document3.1. Definition of reading
View the document3.2. Second and foreign language learning
View the document3.3. Learning to read in a foreign language
View the document3.4. The testing of reading

3.2. Second and foreign language learning

Language learning is a process that takes place over time. The extent of learning depends on the duration, amount and richness of the input (ie what the learner hears or reads). Learning is mediated by the motivation and degree of engagement of the learner, and the type of language activities that the learners undergo (ie whether they are repeating phrases, singing songs, listening to the teacher, etc.). No distinction is made in this report between second and foreign language learning.

The initial stages of language learning will not be error-free, but characterised by deviancies due in large measure to deficiencies in input, false generalisations, and interference from the mother tongue. At any stage in learning "fossilisation" may occur - in effect, learning ceases, and the learner's language remains at a level below that of fluent users of the language.

While the implications of these views for English language teaching, and particularly the teaching of reading, in terms of what is the best practice, are not entirely agreed upon, there would be general agreement that the following factors play a role:

(i) teacher's English language proficiency
(ii) appropriacy of materials
(iii) amount of time devoted to the language
(iii) quality of teaching methodology
(iv) degree of learner motivation
(v) class size and general material provision

These factors are further mediated by situational factors that might be crudely summarised as the congruence of the educational operation with socio-cultural norms.