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[xmca] DA-L2: II

1.We appreciate Andy's comment that several scholars associated with Marxian theory have argued that the criterion for truth is found in practice. However, we don't agree that Marx "never talks about the criterion of truth." While Marx might not have actually used the exact wording "criterion of truth" his Second Thesis on Feuerbach does indeed address the issue rather directly. In the words of Sanchez Vasquez (1977, p. 120) "Thesis II is significant because it reveals a new dimension of the role of practice in knowledge; it provides not only the object of knowledge, but also the criterion of its truth." Sanchez goes on to expand on this point in greater detail. 2.Clarification of "natural" in our discussion of Education. Perhaps the way we phrased things is the reason for Mike's concern and justifiably so. We were certainly not saying that cultural concepts are acquired through a natural/biological process (e.g., we in no way buy into Chomsky's view of language acquisition as the mere triggering of pre-specified knowledge. In fact, in Lantolf and Thorne, 2006, we support Tomasello's usage-based approach to acquisition, including non-instructed adult language acquisition). We were trying to reflect Vygotsky's position that culture, whether everyday or formal education, empowers humans to gain control over processes that are part of our natural biological endowment. Here is a nice quote from A. N. Leontiev that reflects our orientation with specific reference to language: "language is the objective product of the activity of previous generations. In the process of development, the child appropriates language. This means that in the child specifically human abilities and functions are formed: the ability to speak and to understand, the functions of hearing and articulating spoken language. Naturally, these abilities and functions are not innate; rather they emerge in ontogenesis. What makes them emerge? Above all, the existence of language in the environment. With regard to the biological characteristics [e.g., human auditory apparatus, human vocal apparatus] inherited by the child, they constitute only the necessary conditions to enable the formation of these abilities and functions." (Principles of Mental Development and the Problem of Mental Retardation. 1959.) 3.With regard to learning L2s, we don't agree with David that learning of vocabulary is a linear process. It isn't simply learning new labels for concepts we already have in our first language (we aren't saying that David makes this claim, but many in the L2 literature have made this assumption, although, to be sure, things are beginning to change). Learning that the Spanish word for mother is madre, as Vygotsky argued, is the beginning not the end of the process. There is a rich set of cultural entailments that one must appropriate to fully know the Spanish word and these are radically different from Anglo-American concept of mother. On this topic see the 1997 dissertation by Howard Grabois (1997). Love and power. Word associations, lexical organization and second language acquisition. 4.Gaining control over the feature of aspect in a language such as French or Spanish is indeed all about development. By control we mean the ability to consciously understand the concept of aspect and the ability to deploy that concept as a semiotic tool to make and convey the kinds of meanings one wants to make and convey in specific communicative circumstances. This does not mean using the concept in precisely the way native speakers do. It means the ability to use the concept in perhaps innovative ways. Indeed, the average native speaker (i.e., one who has not study language formally in school) do not have conscious and sophisticated understanding of the conceptual features (grammatical, lexical, pragmatic, discursive) of their language. Yanez-Prieto (2008) On literature and the secret art of invisible words : Teaching literature through language (Ph.D. dissertation), among other things, documents how L2 learners gain control over Spanish verbal aspect and use it to create communicatively powerful texts. One student, for instance, relates a story about her mother's illness using imperfective and perfective in what would otherwise seem to be a « non-native » manner. Normally, imperfective is used to set background information (set the stage) for a story and perfective is used to relate the major events of the story. The student intentionally used the imperfective to relate the major events of the story as a way of drawing the reader into the action as if it were unfolding before one's eyes. It seems to us that this type of control of a key temporal concept shows genuine development. 5.The examples that David provides deal with children learning an L2, this may or may not be a different process from adults learning an L2. Indeed, a recent book by one of the leading neurolinguists working on bilingual acquisition, Michel Paradis in his (2009) book (Declarative and Procedural Determinants of Second Languages) provides empirical evidence to support the position we are arguing for regarding learning languages in educational settings. In a nutshell, he proposes that adult language learning rarely entails the same kind of implicit, non-conscious learning that occurs in the case of L1 and possibly L2 learning in childhood. Instead, it involves conscious and intentional learning of explicit knowledge, which can never convert to implicit knowledge. This knowledge can, however, be used in an accelerated way in oral and written communicative activities. We integrate Paradis's model with Vygotsky's approach to formal education in our new book on instructed second language learning. 6.We have always interpreted "cultural" in sociocultural as a historical formation. It plays a major role in our approach to language education, since for one thing we have to confront the language educational history of our students, who, by the time they enter university language courses, have, in most cases, already internalized knowledge of a particular language that is by and large inappropriate, incomplete and in many cases wrong. To even begin the educational process, we have to first bring out the history and then get the students to confront it and recognize that in most cases it is problematic.

Jim & Matt

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