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How Languages Are Learned (Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers) Paperback – April 13, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0194422246 ISBN-10: 0194422240 Edition: 3rd
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Patsy M. Lightbown is Distinguished Professor Emerita at Concordia University in Montreal and Past President of the American Association for Applied Linguistics. Her research focuses on how instruction and feedback affect second-language acquisition in classrooms where the emphasis is on "communicative" or "content-based" language teaching. The contexts for her work have included elementary schools in Canada and, more recently, dual-language bilingual classes in the U.S. Nina Spada is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Modern Language Centre, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, Canada. Her main areas of professional interest are second language acquisition, classroom research in L2 teaching and learning, and English as a Second Language.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 3rd edition (April 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0194422240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0194422246
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 0.6 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Mouldy Pilgrim on April 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
Lightbrown and Nada's "How Languages are Learned" makes a good introduction to second language acquisition and some of the linguistic theories that are out there regarding it. Without overloading you with details, the book gives you enough to make some more informed choices about the classroom.

They start from a basis set in first language learning and some of the ideas that have come from there, as well as the nature of how children learn their first language. From there, it is pretty much straight into second language acquisition, including 5 approaches to it, learner language, interaction approaches and styles, factors that affect second language acquistion, (such as learner beliefs, motivations and even a detailed discussion on the age of students), and a range of others. The book is wrapped up with the authors' responses to 12 common beliefs about language learning.

For those looking for more inspiration in the classroom, there are better books out there. This one will give you something to think about, and maybe use as a basis for adjusting one's technique, but it really deals more in the theory and how that impacts on our understanding of students. If theory, and a decent introduction to it, is what you are after, then might I recommend this one as a good starting point.

Unlike some, Lightbrown and Nada have avoided throwing in so much jargon that their book is rendered useless by most people. It is very accessible and easily read. There will probably be no headaches after this one. It is an interesting, well-written book.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rosamina Lowi on February 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
I have used this book in undergraduate Introduction to Language Learning and Language Teaching courses, as well as in a graduate seminar on language acquistion theory.

As previous reviewers have noted, Lightbown and Spada provide an easy-to-read and accessible text. The third edition expands on the second, and includes more recent variations on several of the language acquisition theories presented in the second edition (I've also used the second edition).

Unfortunately, it is missing some of the current and exciting work that is being done in usage-based theory and discourse analysis, and therefore will become more of a historical review of language acquisition theories as time goes on.

By itself it isn't enough for an entire course, either for language acquisition or teaching methodology. However, L&S deftly connect the dots with regard to how theories drive the thinking behind pedagogy.
I would recommend this book, in addition to other texts and course materials, to anyone teaching in a language teacher training program.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rosa Kay on January 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am an MA student at University of Massachusetts Boston. I had to read H. Douglas Brown's Principles of Language Learning and Teaching for my class but I didn't completely understand after reading his book. I then spent some time reading this book How Languages are Learned by Patsy Lightbown, and I understand completely. It cleared up my frustrations. I highly recommended it to anybody who needs a little reference before the more advanced book.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Fabien Snauwaert on February 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Based on research, this book focuses on a *descriptive* approach of how languages are currently being learned and taught. My main reproach is that there is no focus on how languages are *successfully* learned, just on how most teachers teach and most students struggle. Moreover, the focus is on learning inside the classroom, which -- even though obviously worth talking about -- is in my experience the least efficient of settings to learn.

All in all, it is a useful book if you want to know what kind of errors most students do commit. It does not cover, however, the *optimal* way for people to learn or teachers to teach, which to me is a shame. Take it as a description of symptoms, not as a way to fix people.

I would instead recommend reading:
- Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, 3rd Edition (Marianne Celce-Murcia), for a description of learning styles and teaching methods.
- How The ELL Brain Learns (David A. Sousa), for a description of the cognitives processes involved in learning a 1st or 2nd language.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pamela H. Long on January 27, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book gives an excellent overview of the way in which humans learn language--both their native language (L1) and subsequent languages (L2, L3, etc). Not only does it give an excellent introduction to each of the areas of language acquisition, it serves as a springboard to further research, with an outstanding and very recent bibliography. Recommended for methods classes, but specifically meant for self-study.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joost Strickx on June 24, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is aimed at teachers involved with language learning, with focus on second language learning. This is an introduction whereby an overview is given of the research in this field, handily organized in chapters on subjects such as language learning in early childhood, second language learning, individual differences, learning and teaching in the classroom. Very interesting is the last chapter in which some popular ideas (misconceptions?) are shortly discussed.

The writers give a summary of research, they do not develop a specific thesis. The language is clear and familiarizes the reader with the specific terminology. At the end of each chapter is a list with suggestions for further reading. A long bibliography and a useful glossary can be found at the end of the book.

Despite the fact that a lot is covered, the clear message is that one specific teaching method will not do for all and this because of different aptitudes of the students. Teachers should take this account and vary their method.

My motivation to go through this book was slightly different: I wanted to know - and this on basis of the current knowledge in the field - what would be for me the most appropriate way to master on my own (with of course access to websites, books, dictionaries, CD's) a language which is quite different from the languages that I do speak and this without having the luxury - unlike a child who acquires his first language - to be daily exposed to it.

I did find it interesting to learn how language teaching has involved over time.
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