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In my class we are discussing teaching English as a second language. Some contend that to teach ESL, we need to know the processes and theories about first language acquisition, but it is not clear to me why or whether this helps. Is there clear evidence that this knowledge helps?

Case in point: I know several ESL teachers that volunteer and are great teachers and know nothing of these theories. On the other hand, to draw a parallel, in the code-switching literature there is plenty of evidence that: teachers that know what code-switching is about get their students to perform better in writing and reading exams. (for example: Rodolfo Jacobson and The Implementation of a Bilingual Instruction Model: The "New" Concurrent Approach.)

Is there hard evidence or at least a program that includes first lang. acquisition theories and the teaching of ESL?

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Well it partly depends on the age of the students involved. Knowing about how first-languages are acquired won't do much help if the students are outside the critical period. That is not to say that it isn't useful to know how language acquisition works and surely an knowledge on the latest theories of second-language acquisition will probably help teachers create useful classes. –  acattle Oct 26 '12 at 4:20
L2 acquisition is always studied in comparison and contrast to L1 acquisition. There's tons of research on this. Why not start with Bley-Vroman 1990, The logical problem of foreign language learning. A really good paper. Also, Lydia White 2003, Second Language Acquisition and Universal Grammar. –  Alex B. Sep 25 at 22:48
"I know several ESL teachers that volunteer and are great teachers and know nothing of these theories." A language teacher who knows little or nothing about language acquisition or linguistics can be good enough for a conversation club, no more. –  Alex B. Sep 25 at 22:51

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