- June 13, 2020
Fossilization is the often-seen lossof progress in acquiring a second language after a period where therewas learning. Usually, this is regardless of the exposure that isregular, and also regardless of the interaction with the secondlanguage. Also, it is usually irrespective of any motivation for thelearner to continue with the language(Catelly, 2012, p.7). Second languagelearners who acquire fluency like the natives of the languageare generally small in number. Duringthe student’s development, there is no further possibility oflearning that can be seen their prowessbecomes impervious to both vivid error correction and exposure to thesecond language (Catelly, 2012, p.9). At this point, there is noprogress because the second language is now “set in stone”. As aresult of fossilization, various scholars,researchers, interested parties, and linguisticorganizations among others have come upwith strategies to foster de-fossilization. In this regard, the paperfocusses on various perspectives offossilization, its implications in thesecond language acquisition (SLA) classroom, and the possiblesolutions to overcome it among second language learners. Moreover, myperspective of the article on de-fossilization written by YolandaMirella Catelly shall be considered aswell, more specifically, concerning the three stages that she talksabout that include reflection, correction, and awareness raising(Catelly, 2012, p.7).
By introducing the term interlanguage (IL), Larry Selinker, anAmerican linguist, ignited a hot topic that has drawn much attentionacross the globe. Selinker noted that few second language (SL)learners acquire the competence of the natives (Catelly, 2012, p.9).Another author, Patsy Lightbown says that fossilizationoccurs when the need for communication by the learner is satisfied,or if there is integration in the community that the learnertargets. However, she says the matter is complicated because there isno certain determination of issuessurrounding fossilization, as witnessed inmany regions of the world (Catelly, 2012, p.9). Many factorsinfluence the SL learners, and an uncannydetermination of each factor takes much time. Thisis a perspective of every author who attempts to demystifythis topic. The factors include aptitude, motivation, age,strategies of learning, cognitivism, personality, and theenvironment, among others. However, there is a more accurateway of classifying the factors they include biological,cultural, pedagogical, cognitive, environmental, and social-affectiveamong others. Description of at least one of the factors isnecessary. Age, for example, affects thelearning motivation and skills one has for acquiring the SL. It isspeculated that as one gets older, he/she becomes prone togetting language fossilization because theSL is hard for him/her to learn (Catelly, 2012, p.10). Thus, childrenand young adults are quick in acquiring an SL.Selinker further says that there can be two different types offossilization. Unfavourablefossilization entails using a givenstructure incorrectly, for instance when the learner has much focuson the message than the form. Thus, it is a failure because thelearner is used to an incorrect manner ofusing the structure. At this point, it is hard,but it does not mean that it cannot be rectified.Another type is favorable,and it involves the fossilization of thecorrect usage in the interlanguage.
On the other hand, Hyltensam depicts that fossilizationcovers either the interlanguage characteristics that are a deviationfrom the norms of the native speaker and may not further develop, orthe deviant featuresthat may seem to have been left but may appear in the speech of thelearner. Another author, Mason, mentions the learner-driven characterof the systems of grammar that students develop at the interlanguagelevel (Catelly, 2012, p.10). During the evolutionary stages, thestudents build personal grammatical systems based on issues likeUniversal grammar, the communication desire and relying on the firstlanguage (Catelly, 2012, p.10). Therefore, the student may developand retain some errors along the way (Wei, 2011, p.127). He proposessome variables that have to be considered,and they include affective and sociologicalfactors, exposure amount, negative feedback, expression opportunitiesand presence or absence of pressure communication. Han, on the otherhand, considers that at the practical level, fossilizationentails the interlanguage forms that arestabilized and they remain in the speech or writing even whenthe student desires to eliminate them (Catelly, 2012, p.10). Shefurther says that once fossilized, even theserious endeavoursto improve remain challenging and arecharacterized by temporary improvement, andthen the student backslides. Despite all these views by differentauthors, evidence shows that fossilizationis actually not a permanent problem assuch. Thus, models and frameworks can be utilizedto help the students gain competence in the native language (Wei,2011, p.128). Catelly’s points of viewreflect what other authors and articlestalk about on the topic. Hence, the authors express the same opinionsin different words.
Regarding the implications of fossilizationin the SLA classroom, various factors can be put forth. A secondlanguage (L2) classroom has some significantimpacts on the SL learner and vice versa (Wei, 2011, p.129). Attimes, the incorrect output of language, both in the meaning andfeatures, will function or be taken as input by the learner, andeventually cause fossilization. In the SLinstructions, the only language the students are exposed to isprobably the one used in the classroom. In this regard, the input inthe classroom is majorly from three sources teachingmaterials, teachers, and the other learners. Teachers cansometimes be misleading because of theirown personal issues or lack ofconcentration on the SL learner. Moreover,the other learners have many errors in their day to daycommunication. Commonly, the teachers do not question the textbooks,and this may confuse the SL learner in thelong run. Researchers have proved that textbooks,teachers and fellow learners significantlycontribute to fossilization. Thus, the SLAclassrooms have a direct impact on the SL learner,and this is the reason there is a need toprovide an improved and proven stratagem that can fosterde-fossilization.
There are various solutions to the problem of fossilizationranging from systematic and structured frameworks to simplestrategies (Wei, 2011, p.130). Beginning with simple strategies, theteacher needs to have a right attitude towards the mistakes of thestudents. Researchers proved that making mistakes is not a weaknessor a sign of failure but an inevitable matter, and the teachers haveto respect it. Another strategy is the stimulation of the students tolearn a foreign language it entails rewards and exposing them to anenvironment of expression. Administration of strategic feedbackensures that the students are tuned to acertain process that promotes their language. Pay attention tothe creativity of the students and stimulate their imagination. TheLearning Language Strategy (LLS) andLanguage Using Strategy (LUS) model havebeen proposed to help learners understandthe risks of fossilization and monitortheir skills to adjust (Catelly, 2012,p.13). Thus, the models are a de-fossilization process,and they entail three levels, reflection, correction and raisingawareness (Catelly, 2012, p.14). Reflection is mainly about givingattention to self-analysis and detection of errors. The teacher has arole of providing opportunities for discussion and a baseline ofexamples. Again, the teacher can give suggestions on the instrumentsof reflection. The second stage is correction,and it entails focusing on remedial work at different levels self,peer, or group. The teacher promotes peer correction and revitalizesteacher correction. There is a need toblend feedback at this stage because it helps the student grow(Catelly, 2012, p.15). Lastly, raising awareness involves activitieslike Good Language Learner and the diary of the learner. The learneralso carries out personal research to develop the language skills andto understand himself/herself. I think that the three stages arestrategic and may help eliminate fossilizationwhen utilized in the long run. Thus, thereis a need to create awareness of the LLSand LUS model (Catelly, 2012, p.15).
In conclusion, fossilization is a topicthat has drawn different opinions from various authors. For instance,Selinker says that very few adult SL learners acquire the competenceof the natives because of various factors likeage, cognitivism, interests and others. Patsy says that when alearner is integratedinto the new society or satisfies his/her need for the secondlanguage, he/she becomes vulnerable to fossilization.Mason considers the learner-driven character of the grammar systemsthat helps them integrate a new language. He further says that analteration in these factors may intensify fossilization.There are other various authors with different concepts onfossilization. The SLA classroom hascontributions to fossilization. First, theteachers, the materials of teaching, and other learners are the majorcontributors to fossilization due to errorsmade when not careful. There are various solutions to fossilizationlike having a good attitude to the student’s mistakes, payingattention to the student’s creativity, and giving strategicfeedback among others. Additionally, the LLS and LUS model havethree levels that help in the de-fossilization process. They arereflection, correction and raising awareness. I concur with the otherauthors that it is hard to have adefinitive solution to fossilization, but Iprefer an individual assessment of the students so that they can behelped based on their personal aggravators of fossilization.Moreover, I approve the three stages established by the model.
Catelly, Y. (2012). Towardsinterlanguage defossilizing– a language learning and using strategy basedmodel. Synergy, 8(1/2012),7-20.
Wei, X. (2011). Theimplication ofIL Fossilization in Second Language Acquisition. EnglishLanguage Teaching, 1(1),127-130. http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/elt.v1n1p127