Bridging the Gap: A General Theory of Second Language Learning


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This article explores the requirements for a general theory of second language learning that can account both for the fact that people can learn more than one language and for the generalizable individual differences that occur in such learning. Such a general theory will be able to explain and describe differences between second and foreign language learning, between learning for general and special purposes, between formal and informal learning, and between developing knowledge and skills. It will need to be precise and clear on the nature of the goals and outcomes of learning and to recognize the complexity of the concept of knowing a second language, which can vary almost without restriction in both kind and amount. The model must be integrated and interactive, to assume that all or many parts of it apply to any specific kind of learning and that there is close interaction among the various parts. The theory proposed allows for a formally valued eclecticism, provided by the use of a preference model. This article considers the formalization of such a model in an expert system and the more recent implications of the Parallel Distributed Processing model. 1988 TESOL International Association

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-396
Number of pages20
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1988


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