SLA: an anology that shows why learners should focus on meaning rather than rules

Learners always complain that linguistic rules are too complicated and that there are too many exceptions to memorize. They are right. One way to explain why children learn language better is to say that they focus on meaning, not form.

When children learn about the moon, they don’t care about the rules that says we need an article when we say the moon. They care about the bright white ball in the night sky.

Imagine that language rules make up a jungle. A child will follow a trail through the jungle and come out of the jungle with good language skills. An adult will stop to examine every single tree, take some notes, describe it fully, try to memorize the description, etc. This will take forever, and the adult will never leave the jungle. In fact, anyone who tries to do this will become hopelessly lost.

Similarly, if an adult stops to memorize every linguistic rule, he or she will die before they finish language learning. To me this tells us that we need to learn more like children. We need to focus on meaning. This is oversimplifying things to be sure, but we don’t want to get lost in the jungle of SLA linguistics do we?

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