Language learning (2018/2019)

Course code
Serena Dal Maso
Teaching is organised as follows:
Unit Credits Academic sector Period Academic staff

Learning outcomes

Part I. Theories of language learning
The course aims at providing students with detailed knowledge on Second Language Acquisition and Learning.
At the end of the course students are expected to:
- acquire detailed knowledge on linguistic development and understand the fundamental milestones of L2 acquisition process;
- apply the tools for linguistic analysis in order to recognize and describe the main phenomena characterizing L1 and L2 acquisition process, to discuss them at the different levels of analysis (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon);
- develop critical judgments about the interpretations provided within the different theoretical frameworks for the acquisition and learning mechanisms and specifically about the role played by factors such as: age, first language, linguistic environment, learner’s ‘affective profile’.

Part II. Methods of language teaching
Upon successful completion of this course, students will demonstrate a mastery of knowledge and skills relative to the acquisition of second and foreign languages, with particular emphasis on the aspects concerning language teaching and the related pedagogical aspects.
At the end of the course, the students will be able to:
- know in depth the psycholinguistic and cognitive mechanisms underlying the acquisition of second languages and the main theories developed in the field of the Second Language Acquisition;
- know how to translate this knowledge into practice, applying it appropriately to the teaching context;
- develop a capacity for critical judgment regarding the different teaching practices that can be adopted in the second language teaching.


The first part of the course (Theories of Language Learning) will describe the development of second languages in relation to the acquisition of the first language and to bi/ multilingualism. More specifically, during the course we will discuss the role played by factors such as: age, first language and cross-linguistic influence, input and linguistic context, cognitive mechanisms (above all memory and attention), subjective variables (especially motivation and aptitude). The analysis of the scientific literature on the role played by these factors aims to clarify the complex interaction between internal and external variables on the learning process. Finally, the course will also try to make students aware of the different interpretations that the main theoretical approaches have proposed to account for the role of the factors discussed.
The second part of the course (Methods of Language Teaching), starting from the illustration of the cognitive and psycholinguistic mechanisms underlying second language acquisition, will discuss the teaching implications for the language class. We will therefore present different teaching techniques and will discuss their appropriateness and effectiveness in different contexts and in relation to learners with different characteristics. Finally, aspects related to the acquisition of languages in atypical contexts will be taken into consideration, as the presence of specific language and learning disorders that may require more specific and appropriate lines of intervention.

Assessment methods and criteria

The final exam aims at assessing the theoretical knowledge acquired by the students during the course, as well as their ability to apply this knowledge to concrete linguistic phenomena.

The assessment is carried out by means of a written examination, which lasts 1:30.
The test consists of both open and multiple-choice questions and will deal with all the topics of the program, both those addressed during classes and those autonomously studied by the students.

The evaluation criteria are:

- substantial correctness of the answers and exhaustiveness of the contents
- adequateness of analytical skills
- expressive soundness and argumentative skills

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Nava A. & Pedrazzini L. Second Language Acquisition in Action. Principles from Practice Bloomsbury 2018 9781474274890
Ortega, L. Understanding Second Language Acquisition Routledge 2013
Vender, M. Disentangling Dyslexia. Phonological and Processing Deficits in Developmental Dyslexia. Peter Lang 2017 Chapters 1, 2, 4 (pp. 155-172)