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Introduction to Second Language Acquisition

General details of the subject

Face-to-face degree course

Description and contextualization of the subject

This course provides students with a foundation in second language acquisition (SLA). One of the aims of the course is to address three questions recurrent in second language acquisition:

1. What exactly does the L2 learner come to know?

2. How does the learner acquire this knowledge?

3. Why are some learners more successful than others?

In order to answer these questions, we will engage in the description and analysis of language, proceeding from the basis to the discipline to more advanced topics relating to second language acquisition research. The practical section will deal with the assumption that an understanding of how languages are acquired and learned will lead to more effective teaching practices. This knowledge will further lead us to set realistic goals for language acquisition.

Teaching staff

NameInstitutionCategoryDoctorTeaching profileAreaE-mail
RUIZ DE ZAROBE, MARIA YOLANDAUniversity of the Basque CountryProfesorado Catedratico De UniversidadDoctorNot bilingualEnglish

Study types

TypeFace-to-face hoursNon face-to-face hoursTotal hours
Applied classroom-based groups101525

Ordinary call: orientations and renunciation


The course will have the following format:

A. Lectures. Lectures will be reasonably informal, with participation by the students.

B. Selected exercise material: the classes will also involve working through selected exercises.

C. Readings: Readings will be expected and required to consolidate the understanding of the material provided during the lectures.

D. Group work: Students will be asked to perform several activities in groups.

E. Oral presentations: an oral presentation in pairs will be a requirement of the course.


The final grade for the course will take into account grades awarded on all assignments in the following proportions:

Attendance and participation 10%

Classroom presentation 20%

Final assignment 70%



The AIMS of this course are:

1. To provide an overview of SLA theory.

2. To provide the necessary background to stimulate interest in SLA and guidance for further research.

3. To offer practical help to understand and assess SLA.


- To foster an understanding of the basic principles and processes that govern second language acquisition.

- To be able to carry out an interpretation of different aspects of second language acquisition with the help of current linguistic theory.

- To explain the theories in SLA that account for the many facets of non-native language.

- To interpret relevant second language research in ways that benefit the language learner.

- To develop the ability to think critically about research findings in the field and to analyse information clearly.

- To be able to analyse and explain the main ideas of a research paper in second language acquisition.

- To be able to work autonomously and in groups, using the necessary techniques and tools learned.


1. What is second language acquisition?

2. L1 versus L2 learning

2.1. The logical problem of language learning

2.2. The role of the native language

3. SLA and related disciplines

4. Frameworks for second language acquisition

4.1. Linguistic framework

4.2. Psychological framework

4.3. Sociolinguistic framework

5. The linguistic framework for second language acquisition

5.1. Early approaches to SLA

5.2. Recent perspectives on SLA

6. The psycholinguistic perspective to language acquisition

6.1. Individual differences in SLA

6.2. Effects on multilingualism

7. SLA and the teaching component


Basic bibliography

• Bathia, T. & Ritchie, W.C. (Eds.) (2012) The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell.

• Brown, J.D. & Rodgers, T. (2002) Doing Second Language Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

• Cook, V.J. (2008), Second Language Learning and Language Teaching, Arnold. 4th edition.

• Doughty, C. & Long, M.H.. (Eds.) (2005) The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Blackwell.

• Ellis, R. (2008). The Study of Second Language Acquisition, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

• Ellis, R. & Barkhuizen, G. (2006) Analysing Learner Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

• Gass, M. & Selinker, L. (2008) Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course. London: Routledge.

• Larsen-Freeman, D. & Long, M. (1991) An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition Research. London: Longman.

• Lightbown, P. and Spada, N. (2013). How Languages are Learned. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

• Lowie, W., Versppor, M. & de Bot, K. (Eds.) (2005) Second Language Acquisition. London: Routledge.

• Mitchell, R. & Myles, F. (1998) Second Language Learning Theories. London: Arnold.

• Ortega, L. (2009) Understanding Second Language Acquisition. London: Hodder Education.

• Saville-Troike, M. (2012) Introducing Second Language Acquisition. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

• Schmitt, N. (2010) An Introduction to Applied Linguistics. 2nd ed. London: Arnold.

• VanPatten, W. & Williams, J. (2006), Theories in Second Language Acquisition, Lawrence Erlbaum



• Revista de la Asociación Española de Lingüística Aplicada

• Atlantis

• Miscelánea

• Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

• Estudios de Filología Inglesa


• AILA Review

• Applied Linguistics

• Applied Psycholinguistics

• International Journal of Multilingualism

• International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching (IRAL)

• Language Learning

• Language Teaching Research

• English Language Teaching

• Modern Language Journal

• Second Language Research

• Studies in Second Language Acquisition



The Linguist List website:

IcoSLA: Forum of SLA academics:

Vivian Cook’s SLA Bibliography:

Applied Language Learning:

The Modern Language Journal:

Spanish Applied Linguistics:

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