A. The Concept of Learner Language

Before 1960s, when the behaviouristic viewpoint of language learning was prevailing, learner errors were considered something undesirable and to be avoided. It is because in behaviourists perspectives, people learn by responding to external stimuli and receiving proper reinforcement. A proper habit is being formed by reinforcement, hence learning takes place. Therefore, errors were considered to be a wrong response to the stimulus, which should be corrected immediately after they were made. Unless corrected properly, the error became a habit and a wrong behavioural pattern would stick in your mind.

This viewpoint of learning greatly influenced the language classroom, where teachers concentrated on the mimicry and memorisation of target forms and tried to in still the correct patterns of the form into learners’ minds. If learners made any mistake while repeating words, phrases or sentences, the teacher corrected their mistakes immediately. Errors were regarded as something you should avoid and making an error was considered to be fatal to proper language learning processes. This belief of learning was eventually discarded by the well-known radically different perspective proposed by Chomsky (1957). He wrote in his paper against Skinner, that human learning, especially language acquisition, cannot be explained by simply starting off with a “tabula rasa” state of mind. He claimed that human beings must have a certain kind of innate capacity which can guide you through a vast number of sentence generation possibilities and have a child acquire a grammar of that language until the age of five or six with almost no exception. He called this capacity “Universal Grammar” and claimed that it is this very human faculty that linguistics aims to pursue.

B. Definition of Learner Language

Second language learner language is also called “interlanguage” – learners’ developing second language knowledge (Selinker,1972). Interlanguage is a developing system with its interim structure, rather than an imperfect imitation of the TL. It is systematic, predictable but also dynamic, continually evolving as learners receive more input and revise their hypotheses about the TL.

Interlanguage has the following characteristics:

  1. Some characteristics influenced by the learner’s previous learned language(s),
  2. Some characteristics of the L2, and
  3. Some characteristics which seem to be general and tend to occur in all or most interlanguage systems.

Purpose of studying learner language:

  1. The study of leaner language helps teachers to assess teaching procedures in the light of what they can reasonably expect to accomplish in the classroom.
  2. It also helps learners to be aware of the steps that they go through in acquiring L2 features.
  3. It provides a deeper understanding of errors that L2 learners make. An increase in error may not result from a lack of practice or transfer from L1; rather, it can be an indication of progress.


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