Second Language Acquisition (a) -- Understanding Second Language Acquisition Studies

LecturerShunji INAGAKI, Associate Professor
DepartmentGraduate School of Languages and Cultures, 2011 Spring
Recommended for:Graduate School of Languages and Cultures Department of Japanese Language and Culture students (21.5 hours / session One session / week 15 weeks / semester)

Course Aims

To familiarize students with SLA and have them understand the basic findings in SLA.

Key Featuress

  • I give students "Study Guides," which contain lists of questions on the main points of the textbook, so that students know what to read in order to prepare for the class.
  • I elaborate on important studies introduced in the textbook by providing further data and/or introduce other relevant studies. In other words, I try to "teach using the textbook," not "teach the textbook."
  • I have students choose a research paper that they find interesting and have them report on it in ten minutes during the class. This is intended to encourage students to become independent researchers as well as to increase their participation in class. This culminates in the term paper, in which each student writes a critique of a research paper (or research papers) on an SLA topic.

In retrospect, introducing students' presentations did increase their participation in class, but more needs to be done to have them establish a firm foundation in SLA. Next year, as a solution to this, I intend to introduce a final exam testing students' general understanding of SLA.

Course Description

In this course, an overview of the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) is provided to give students a general understanding of SLA. The topics we will cover include first language transfer, universals, age, theories of SLA, effects of instruction, individual differences, and effective learning methods.

Textbook Shirai, Y. (2008).

Gaikokugo-gakushu-no kagaku—Daini-gengo-shutoku-ron-to-wa nani-ka [The science of foreign language learning: What is second language acquisition research]. Tokyo: Iwanami.

Reference books

  • Ellis, R. (1985). Understanding second language acquisition. Oxford University Press.
  • Ellis, R. (2008). The studies of second language acquisition (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.
  • Lightbown, P.M. & Spada, N. (2006). How languages are learned (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.
  • Richards, J. C. & Schmidt, R. (2010). Longman dictionary of language teaching & applied linguistics (4th ed.). Longman.


None, but students are advised to take linguistics and research methodology courses.

Course Schedule

Session Contents Presenters
1 Introduction
2 Shirai (2008) Prologue
3 Shirai (2008) Ch. 1 Transfer (1)
4 Shirai (2008) Ch. 1 Transfer (2) 2 students
5 Shirai (2008) Ch. 4 Mechanisms (1) 2 students
6 Shirai (2008) Ch. 4 Mechanisms (2) 2 students
7 Shirai (2008) Ch. 5 Acquisition/Teaching Methods (1) 2 students
8 Shirai (2008) Ch. 5 Acquisition/Teaching Methods (2) 2 students
9 Shirai (2008) Ch. 5 Acquisition/Teaching Methods (3) 2 students
10 Shirai (2008) Ch. 2 Age (1) 2 students
11 Shirai (2008) Ch. 2 Age (2) 2 students
12 Shirai (2008) Ch. 3 Individual Differences (1) 2 students
13 Shirai (2008) Ch. 3 Individual Differences (2) 2 students
14 Shirai (2008) Ch. 6 Effective Learning Methods 2 students
15 Summary / Term paper


  1. Attendance and class participation (50%)
  2. Oral presentation of a research article (20%)
  3. Term paper (30%)

Last updated

March 25, 2020