Hostname: page-component-7479d7b7d-m9pkr Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-15T21:22:08.499Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

SLA research and L2 pedagogy: Misapplications and questions of relevance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2013

Nina Spada*
University of


There has been considerable debate about the relevance and applicability of SLA theory and research for L2 pedagogy. There are those who maintain that SLA must be applicable to L2 pedagogy: a view based on the argument that because SLA is a subfield of applied linguistics, it should have direct relevance to L2 teaching. Others take the view that not all areas of SLA research need to be relevant to L2 pedagogy – only the more ‘applied’ areas. While I would agree that much of the work in SLA should be applicable to L2 pedagogy, particularly research on instructed SLA, my presentation takes a different perspective on the SLA/L2 pedagogy interface. It focuses on misapplications of SLA theory and research to L2 pedagogy. I argue that the applicability of SLA research for L2 instruction requires a careful consideration of context and that specific SLA constructs – even those considered to be important within instructed SLA – may not have direct relevance to L2 pedagogy. Three areas of SLA research that I will discuss with respect to misapplication and relevance are: the role of instruction in SLA, the role of age in SLA, and the nature of and distinction between implicit and explicit L2 knowledge.

Plenary Speeches
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Bialystok, E. & Hakuta, K. (1999). Confounded age: Linguistic and cognitive factors in age differences for second language acquisition. In Birdsong, D. P. (ed.), Second language acquisition and the critical period hypothesis. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 161181.Google Scholar
Birdsong, D. P. (2006). Age and second language acquisition and processing: A selective overview. Language Learning 56.s1, 949.Google Scholar
Birdsong, D. P. & Molis, M. (2001). On the evidence for maturational constraints on second-language acquisition. Journal of Memory and Language 44.2, 235249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brumfit, C. (1997). Theoretical practice: Applied linguistics as pure and practical science. AILA Review 1830.Google Scholar
Burstall, C. (1975). Primary French in the balance. Foreign Language Annals 10.3, 245252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bygate, M. (2005). Applied linguistics: A pragmatic discipline, a generic discipline? Applied Linguistics 26.4, 568581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chomsky, N. (1968). Language and mind. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
Collins, L. & White, J. (2011). An intensive look at intensity and language learning. TESOL Quarterly 45.1, 106133.Google Scholar
Collins, L., Halter, R., Lightbown, P. M. & Spada, N. (1999). Time and the distribution of time in L2 learning. TESOL Quarterly 33.4, 655680.Google Scholar
DeKeyser, R. (2000). The robustness of critical period effects in second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 22.4, 499534.Google Scholar
DeKeyser, R. (2003). Implicit and explicit learning. In Doughty, C. J. & Long, M. H. (eds.), 313348.Google Scholar
DeKeyser, R. M. (2007). The future of practice. In DeKeyser, R. M. (ed.), Practice in a second language: Perspectives from applied linguistics and cognitive psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 287304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Doughty, C. (2003). Instructed SLA: Constraints, compensation, and enhancement. In Doughty, C. & Long, M. H. (eds.), 256310.Google Scholar
Doughty, C. & Long, M. H. (eds.) (2003). The handbook of second language acquisition. Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ellis, R. (2001). Investigating form-focused instruction. Language Learning 51.s1, 146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ellis, R. (2005). Measuring implicit and explicit knowledge of a second language: A psychometric study. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 27.2, 141172.Google Scholar
Ellis, R. (2010). SLA, teacher education and language pedagogy. Language Teaching 43.2, 182201.Google Scholar
Erlam, R. (2006). Elicited imitation as a measure of L2 implicit knowledge: An empirical validation study. Applied Linguistics 27.3, 464491.Google Scholar
Gass, S. & Selinker, L. (2008). Second language acquisition: An introductory course (3rd edn). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Genesee, F. (1988). Neuropsychology and second language acquisition. In Beebe, L. M. (ed.), Issues in second language acquisition: Multiple perspectives. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle, 88109.Google Scholar
Hatch, E. (1979). Apply with caution. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 2.1, 123143.Google Scholar
Hulstijn, J. (2003). Incidental and intentional learning. In Doughty, C. & Long, M. H. (eds.), 349381.Google Scholar
Hulstijn, J. (2005). Theoretical and empirical issues in the study of implicit and explicit second-language learning: Introduction. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 27.2, 129140.Google Scholar
Hymes, D. H. (1972). On communicative competence. In Pride, J. B. & Holmes, J. (eds.), Sociolinguistics: Selected readings. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 269293.Google Scholar
Ioup, G., Boustagui, E., El Tigi, M. & Moselle, M. (1994). Reexamining the critical period hypothesis: A case study of successful adult SLA in a naturalistic environment. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 16.1, 7398.Google Scholar
Johnson, J. & Newport, E. (1989). Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of ESL. Cognitive Psychology 21.1, 6099.Google Scholar
Johnson, K. (1982). Communicative syllabus design and methodology. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
Kramsch, C. (2000). Second language acquisition: Applied linguistics and the teaching of foreign languages. The Modern Language Journal 84.3, 116.Google Scholar
Krashen, S. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language learning. London: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
Krashen, S., Long, M. H. & Scarcella, R. (1979). Age, rate, and eventual attainment in second language acquisition. TESOL Quarterly 13.4, 573582.Google Scholar
Krashen, S. & Terrell, T. (1983). The Natural Approach: Language acquisition in the classroom. San Francisco, CA: Alemany Press.Google Scholar
Lapkin, S., D. Hart & Harley, B. (1998). Case study of compact core French models: Attitudes and achievement. In Lapkin, S. (ed.), French second language education in Canada: Empirical studies. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 331.Google Scholar
Lenneberg, E. H. (1967). Biological foundations of language. New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
Larsen-Freeman, D. & Long, M. (1991). An introduction to second language acquisition research. London: Longman.Google Scholar
Lightbown, P. M. (1985). Great expectations: Second-language acquisition research and classroom teaching. Applied Linguistics 6.2, 173189.Google Scholar
Lightbown, P. M. (2000). Anniversary article: Classroom SLA research and language teaching. Applied Linguistics 21.4, 431462.Google Scholar
Lightbown, P. M. & Spada, N. (2013). How languages are learned (4th edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Long, M. (1990). Maturational constraints on language development. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 12.3, 127155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lyster, R., Saito, K. & Sato, M. (2013). Oral corrective feedback in second language teaching. Language Teaching 46.1, 140.Google Scholar
Mackey, A. & Goo, J. (2007). Interaction research in SLA: A meta-analysis and research synthesis. In Mackey, A. (ed.), Conversational interaction in second language acquisition: A series of empirical studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 407452.Google Scholar
Muñoz, C. (2006). Age and the rate of foreign language learning. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
Muñoz, C. (2011). Input and long-term effects of starting age in foreign language learning. IRAL 49.2, 113133.Google Scholar
Norris, J. & Ortega, L. (2000). Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A research synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis. Language Learning 50.3, 417528.Google Scholar
Ortega, L. (2011). Language acquisition research for language teaching: Choosing between application and relevance. In Hinger, B., Newby, D. & Unterrainer, E. M. (eds.), Sprachen lernen: Kompetenzen entwickeln? Performanzen (über)prüfen. Vienna: Präsens Verlag, Proceedings of the 2010 Annual Conference of the Austrian Society for Language Pedagogy, 24–38.Google Scholar
Pica, T. (1997). Second language teaching and research relationships: A North American view. Language Teaching Research 1.1, 4872.Google Scholar
Prabhu, N. S. (1987). Second language pedagogy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Schwartz, B. (1993). On explicit and negative data effecting and affecting competence and linguistic behavior. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 15.2, 143145.Google Scholar
Scovel, T. (1988). A time to speak: A psycholinguistic inquiry into the critical period for human speech. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.Google Scholar
Shiu, L. J. & Spada, N. (2012). An empirical validation of elicited imitation as a measure of L2 implicit knowledge. Paper presented at the International Association of Applied Linguistics (AILA) Congress, Beijing, August 2012.Google Scholar
Singleton, D. (2001). Age and second language acquisition. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 21, 7789.Google Scholar
Spada, N. (1997). Form-focused instruction and second language acquisition: A review of classroom and laboratory research. Language Teaching 30.2, 7387.Google Scholar
Spada, N. (2007). Communicative language teaching: Current status and future prospects. In Cummins, J. & Davison, C. (eds.), International handbook of English language teaching. New York: Springer, 271288.Google Scholar
Spada, N. (2011). Beyond form-focused instruction: Reflections on past, present and future research. Language Teaching 44.2, 225236.Google Scholar
Spada, N. & Lightbown, P. M. (2010). Instructed second language acquisition. In Schmidt, N. (ed.), An introduction to applied linguistics (2nd edn). London: Arnold, 108123.Google Scholar
Spada, N., Quinn, P., Venuti, J. & Yalcin, S. (2011). The effects of form-focused instruction on explicit and implicit L2 knowledge. Paper presented at the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL), Boston, March 2011.Google Scholar
Spada, N. & Tomita, Y. (2010). Interactions between type of instruction and type of language feature: A meta-analysis. Language Learning 60.2, 146.Google Scholar
Truscott, J. (1996). The case against grammar correction in L2 writing classes. Language Learning 46.2, 327369.Google Scholar
Truscott, J. (1999). What's wrong with oral grammar correction? The Canadian Modern Language Review 55.4, 437455.Google Scholar