This material is the primary reading
for the class, Language as Human behavior, that serves as the foundation
course for the teacher preparation program in foreign languages K - 12.
A. Conceptualization: Language as Human Behavior
Teaching and learning reflect an interrelated process beginning with a
person's motivation to
change behavior and the tasks involved in that change.
1. Consider the proposition: a native English-speaking
person wants to learn to speak a second
language. Where does that person begin?
2. Answers to this question force a consideration
of the function of language and the implied
changes in order to develop strategies to facilitate these changes. This leads to the question:
What is the human behavior of language?
3. Background of the conceptualization: Language is human behavior.
Linguistic/philosophical orientation of professor:
1) nature of language change through personal experience.
2) adequacy and appropriate focus/context of language teaching strategy/techniques.
3) challenge of meaningful human development and teacher's role as interpreter and
facilitator; and commitment to continue gaining knowledge about the process of
language change and techniques for facilitating such change.
b. Perspectives fundamental to the focus of teaching:
1) language is creative human behavior
2) 3 keys: meaningfulness, mastery and communication.
The essence of these is meaningfulness.
3) instructional strategy is not limited by these due to the search for the essential aspects
regarding the nature of language, which lead to higher conceptualizations of learning,
teaching, contexts, experiences; i.e., essential focus of culture as the beginning point of
c. Culture as enhancement of 3 keys in that culture
is the foundation of language (it remains
when language has passed on) from which language can be derived for instructional
Human interaction is the essence of culture. [Cf. Language/culture/brain.]
4. Introduction highlights the need for linguistic and
pedagogical competence of teachers
(and intended outcomes of UCF professional foreign language teacher program.)
II. Importance of linguistic/pedagogical competence.
A. Important knowledge of language and functioning is
valuable to the teacher as a learner/speaker of
a second language regarding the ability to create conditions for change in the new language
behavior leading to new communicative competence by students.
B. Contexts to understand (Cf. III, below)
1. Physiological (complexity of language).
2. Communication (principles and settings).
3. Learning processes and use of language.
4. Language and thought.
5. Language acquisition.
6. Pedagogical perspectives: change and meaningfulness in cultural behavior.
C. Professional development/potential for action, self-perceptions.
1. Knowledge highlights difficulty of learning a foreign
2. Gives us the right/theoretical support for teaching methods and understanding of pertinent
linguistic/pedagogical changes. We need a rationale.
3. Professional growth leads to changes beneficial to learning/pedagogy.
4. Language teaching is the application of the best knowledge teachers can have concerning:
a. nature of the learner;
b. nature of language;
c. nature of language change;
d. nature of language acquisition
e. relationship of culture and language; =
f. appropriate strategies consistent with these changes in order to effect language changes.
5. Teachers should understand the process of communication
underlying the conceptualization of
language: a creative, human, communicative behavior.
6. Professional growth is needed in order for teachers to rethink pertinent issues in the field.
7. In general, teachers must learn to develop strategies
based on a broad understanding of the
critical factors affecting the learner, the instruction and the facilitator. Implicitly, the best
approach is the one most logically consistent with the soundest understanding of the nature of
language/language change with culturally appropriate settings of natural communication between
creative, unique, human beings.
Awareness: what is language as human behavior?
The description is divided into different aspects: nature of language (definitions and perspectives),
nature of communication, and nature of language as a learning tool. Implied changes highlight logical
pedagogical approaches: goals, contexts, content, methods and evaluation.
A. Nature of language
1. Definition: language is human behavior (see definitions
- separate page to come)
2. Other aspects.
a. Language is complex beyond contemporary understanding from research.
1) language is used in a complex social context: communication;
2) the thought to speech process is unknown;
(the physiological functioning well known. Refer to definitions);
3) culture influences language (creativity, change and utilization) and is its base; How:
a) patterns of syntax in communication are culturally influenced/based;
4) most important: language, therefore communication, is creative human behavior.
b. Language has no end in itself but serves other human behaviors: communication and
B. Nature of Communication: definitions, principles, interaction.
a. An active process, essential feature of which is the functional interrelationship of the parts
(cited from Kaplan in English as a Foreign Language, p. 49.)
b. Communication is a dynamic process; and linguistic expressions are like "ink spread on
paper at the will of the hand that controls the pen" (Vigotsky, cited by Jakobovits in
Foreign Language Learning, 1970)
c. Relevance to previous notes:
1) complexity re dynamic process and interrelationship of parts + "Spread" of linguistic
expressions at the speaker's will.
2) Creative behavior re "at the will" of the communicator.
3) Suggest others.
d. Principles of communication (see LHB definitions handout part II) + relevance to notes.
e. Discourse as context of communication.
1) "Discourse is like physical matter made up of limited (finite) number of units ...
operating in nearly infinite varieties of patterns in a constant state of agitated
2) It's important to understand the path of communication and the symbolism that is used
in order to stir reactions in the participants.
C. Language and Learning
Language facilitates learning through the symbolic means of abstracting behavior (see LBH
definitions), plus the use of symbols in concept formation.
D. Language and Thought
Symbolic interaction expedites the thought process. Vocalization is not an indicator of the extent of
the thought (relates to the difference between performance and competence in linguistic behavior.
E. Competence and (vs) performance.
Conceptualization: symphony orchestra contrasted with concert; intrinsic competence vs
the manifestation of ability. Performance is not a total example of competence, but there is no
meaningful performance without competence.
A. Language instructional strategy.
1. Focus of/on culture and human interaction within a cultural context deriving language patterns
2. Three keys: MMC (Item b.l, Part I.A.)
3. Language teaching cannot be assumed to deal with all aspects of second language acquisition,
nor be pertinent to all humans in changing their behavior.
a. Competence not limited by performance.
b. Individuality (creativeness) of linguistic behavior requires individually prescribed learning
4. FL learning must be meaningful activity for changes to occur in human behavior.
a. Context of learning must be consistent with content, and valid, at all times in language
b. Students must be involved (significant mental processing) in learning activities which show
language being used in natural communication contexts.
5. Meaningfulness as foundation of all language activities.
a. Conceptualization: the teacher who explores possibilities for making associations more
meaningful, who is prepared to meet, and allow for differences in imagery (response) has to
"look beyond method into philosophy and learning principles that method will help him
employ." Two questions are useful to ask, and their answers are indicative of future
1) "How can this (any) method help me provide reinforced learning experiences?"
Rivers, Wilga, Foreign Language Teaching, Oxford, 1968.
2) How can this (any) method help me to help the child "construct" himself?"
(Montessori). Cited by Stuart, Marion. Neurophysiological Insights into Teaching,
(Palo Alto, CA: 1965) Pacific Books, p. 80.
b. Potential: as student attention is focussed on a specific structure, with its meaning, the
conscious level of the student will be stimulated by associations in the memory with the
meaning elements used in the practice. When consciousness has risen, students are ready to
state (create) something reflecting their perceptions using the structure which, by this time,
they should have under control. The statements are unique utterances by students, creative,
c. Teacher implication: "help student overcome his/her inability to select the appropriate
speech activity." Students need knowledge of the various kinds of discourse blocks and
their makeup so that they can recognize what speakers are doing (i.e.understanding of
natural culturally appropriate, contexts of grammar uses).
1) allow for analysis and synthesis
2) include material which student has generated (Meaningfulness)
3) student control
4) teach word linkages
5) inductive reasoning
6) humanize/personalize teaching
7) restore the cultural context of language use
8) examine human interaction as the basis of language use.
Foreign Language Education/ESOL Specialist
Foreign Language Education home page
Language as Human Behavior page