El espanol y la linguistica aplicada.
Research and scholarship in the field of applied linguistics attempts to identify and resolve real world issues related to language. One of the main subfields within applied linguistics is that of applied Second Language Acquisition (SLA), which focuses on the instruction and learning of secondary, or non-native, languages. The findings from the research in this field are particularly important in helping language educators prepare to be as effective as possible in their vocation. Since Spanish is the most widely taught second language in the United States, there is a great need for materials that will help prepare future Spanish educators. El espanol y la linguistica aplicada is designed as a textbook to help prepare future Spanish educators, and thus helps fulfill this need. Nevertheless, this book does not, as the title implies, discuss all areas of Applied Linguistics as they relate to Spanish, and those interested in a textbook that discusses Spanish with reference to applied linguistics in general, rather than SLA in particular, will either need to supplement the contents of this book, or look for another book altogether.
Blake and Zyzik organize the book into an introduction and eight chapters. The title of each chapter in the book is a question that is relevant in some way to an important idea for that chapter, though not necessarily to the central focus of the chapter itself. This naming system can confuse a reader who is only glancing at the index, so readers should be careful to look more closely before making decisions about the suitability of the content of this book. The book begins with three chapters which introduce the reader to the basic concepts and history of SLA in general. The next two chapters focus specifically on topics relevant to the instruction of Spanish. The three remaining chapters discuss important concepts in the field of SLA, with examples pulled from Spanish. The book is organized in such a way that it flows well from chapter to chapter, starting with basic background information and working up to more complex topics. By the end of the book, readers have been exposed to many important topics in SLA and have a good idea of some of the main challenges facing learners of Spanish in particular. Additionally, at the end of each chapter there are a few discussion questions and exercises to help inspire discussion and thought about the main topics of the chapter.
Chapters 1-3 outline the history of modern SLA and present the current theories of SLA and their implications for the classroom. Particular focus is made on the need for input and the potential benefits of structured input. Chapter 2 includes a discussion of some topics in Spanish that may pose particular difficulties for English speakers attempting to learn Spanish, such as the gender of nouns and the flexibility of word order. Chapter 3 discusses the importance of learning high-frequency lexical items and presents research findings about how many lexical items a language learner needs to know in order to meet different levels of competence in a language. The general background information provided by Blake and Zyzik in these chapters helps those new to SLA understand the basics of SLA that they will need in order to get the most out of the book, and provides a nice refresher for those who have studied SLA previously.
Chapters 4 and 5 are the only two chapters that focus on SLA material that is specific to Spanish. Chapter 4 discusses the First Noun Principle, clitic pronouns, the preposition a, null subjects, and issues with word order. In Chapter 5 Blake and Zyzik discuss the Spanish subjunctive and the difference between the preterit and imperfect in Spanish. As a part of this discussion, they make the well-founded argument that the subjunctive should be left for more advanced learners. In both of these chapters Blake and Zyzik discuss why these topics in particular are difficult for English speakers learning Spanish, and make some suggestions about when to address them in the classroom. However, because this is not a methods book, very few strategies about how to actually teach any of these topics are provided.
The last three chapters of the book return to more general SLA topics, and discuss them with the help of examples from Spanish. Chapter 6 discusses the sources and results of linguistic variation, and argues that the best Spanish to teach in the classroom is "standard Spanish", accompanied by an emphasis on the instructor's own Spanish dialect. In Chapter 7 Blake and Zyzik discuss Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). They conclude that CALL, and in particular teaching courses online, can be just as effective as more traditional face-to-face approaches, but that instructors need to be sure to be trained in the use of the technologies implemented in their courses. Finally, Chapter 8 discusses the importance of studying abroad. The authors emphasize that learners should be encouraged to go on study abroad trips that last as long as possible, in order to obtain the maximum linguistic benefits from the experience. They also cite research findings that indicate that students will get the most out of study abroad experiences the more of the language they have studied prior to the experience. Thus, upper level students will progress more during study abroad than will beginning level students.
Overall, El espanol y la linguistica aplicada provides a good introduction to key concepts in SLA, and to some important Spanish-specific SLA concepts as well. The book is geared mostly towards those taking their first steps in SLA, but those who have studied SLA previously would also benefit from reading it, particularly the sections that have Spanish-specific content. As such, it would be a good book for an intro to Spanish SLA course. However, readers should keep in mind that this is not a methods book, and provides very little in the way of suggestions or ideas of how to teach Spanish. This book is also not a textbook on Applied Linguistics, as SLA is the only subfield of Applied Linguistics discussed in the book, and no effort is made to delve into other subfields such as translation or discourse analysis. Nevertheless, the book as a whole is good at presenting the general ideas behind SLA, and some Spanish-specific SLA concepts, it flows well from one chapter to the next, and it helps guide readers from all levels without leaving anyone behind or bored. Moreover, the book contains nice features such as the end-of-chapter discussion questions, a thorough glossary of terms, and an extensive, and up-to-date, bibliography. Finally, the fact that the book is written in Spanish is a nice touch which should appeal to educators and students alike.
Department of Languages and Literature
Northeastern State University
Tahlequah, OK 74464
REVIEWED BY ARTHUR WENDORF
Northeastern State University
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|Publication:||International journal of the Linguistic Association of the Southwest|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2014|
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