Complexity idea (CT) deals with complex, dynamic, and nonlinear structures. When I first encountered CT a few two decades in the past, it becomes not inside the context of language. However, I couldn’t consider many things that have been more complicated, dynamic, and nonlinear than language (Larsen-Freeman, 1997). And it quickly has become obvious to me that CT had the capability to train us many classes beneficial in language coaching and mastering.
It is essential to be aware that in CT “complex,” “dynamic,” and “nonlinear” have exceptional meanings from what one typically thinks of. Let me begin with “complex.” “Complex” does not suggest complicated. Although the components that make up a complicated gadget can be many and may be one of a kind from every other, what makes a system complicated is the quality of emergence. Emergence is “the spontaneous occurrence of some thing new” (van Geert, 2008, p.182) that arises from the interplay of the additives of a complicated machine, just as a chook flock emerges from the interaction of individual birds.
The lesson from the emergence of complexity was delivered home to me some time ago after I read technology author James Gleick’s description of the dynamics of complicated structures: “The act of playing the game has a manner of converting the guidelines” (1987, p. 24). Now, Gleick becomes not writing approximately linguistic guidelines. However, analyzing this line from his ebook changed into an epiphany to me. I understood, contrary to my education as a linguist, that language became not composed of a finite set of fixed regulations, but, as a substitute, that the language device as we knew it turned into continuously emerging through speakers’ interactions. This cautioned to me that our students might be well served by way of “playing the [language] game.” By this, I imply that they ought to be encouraged to use the language meaningfully and purposively. In so doing, their language resources would change — turning into extra target-like — if that was the goal.
The dynamism of complex structures is prime to contributing to such final results. A complex gadget is about turning into, not being. It turned into this lesson from CT that helped me make a connection to the inert expertise trouble, which had me for a while. The inert know-how hassle, given its call by using Alfred North Whitehead a few years ago, refers back to the fact that students appear like capable of doing something within the lecture room at one time but no longer at a later time. In other words, what they have got acquired has ended up inert — unavailable to use for their very own functions at a later time and region.
There are many factors responsible for the inert information hassle; but, I reasoned that if language has been to learn in a more dynamic style, students wouldn’t have to conquer inertia to activate what they know. Teaching students grammar via giving them policies and having them apply them in written sporting activities is a time-honored technique, however, possibly it isn’t the maximum green manner to triumph over the inert information problem. This led me to coin the time period “grammaring,” a term I sense is greater apt for what we instructors should be seeking to gain. Grammaring involves teaching students to apply grammar structures appropriately, meaningfully, and appropriately through dynamic obligations and activities (Larsen-Freeman, 2003).
As for the nonlinearity of complex structures, “nonlinear” way that the impact isn’t always proportionate to the reason. For example, if I deliver my desk chair on wheels a huge push back from my desk and it handiest movements an inch or so, the end result is nonlinear. Conversely, if I push the chair back gently, and it is going careening to the other side of the room, that is additionally a nonlinear reaction. What are the lesson of nonlinearity in language teaching and studying?
Well, one example is to think about the negative trainer who spends a first-rate deal of time and effort getting students to examine some unique grammar rule perhaps never quite succeeding. The teacher inside the next grade, though, has handiest to remind college students as soon as of the unique rule, and they right away catch on. The 2d trainer blessings from the efforts of the first in a nonlinear way.
Another way that I suppose nonlinearity applies to language learning is thru the strength law of practice. The energy regulation of exercise reflects the fact that the impact of working towards some thing declines over time. In other phrases, the instant blessings of exercise of the right kind may be large, however as time passes, the effect of persevering with to exercise falls off dramatically and best makes a greater modest contribution to skill ability. This is a nonlinear phenomenon.
There are many instructions that a CT attitude has given me, and I will be speak of others in Portland. Let me elaborate on one final lesson earlier than I conclude this short creation. Sometimes complicated systems are called “complicated adaptive structures.” Calling them adaptive acknowledges their ability to alternate in reaction to a changing environment. One manner that I assume this feature applies to language is thru what’s known as co-version (Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008). Just as kids advantage from speech customized for them, 2d language newbies can benefit from the changes or diversifications that are made in a speech to them as a way to beautify its comprehensibility for them. But the word I wrote co-model. The language assets of both conversational companions are changed through the interplay. I myself have skilled this generally as I accommodate to my college students, such that over the years, I can feel my own language use moving — not an unusual revel in for language instructors.
A more realistic lesson from the belief of language as a complex adaptive device is my suggestion that we must no longer simplest be coaching college students language, but we should additionally be teaching them to conform (Larsen-Freeman, 2013a), i.E., teaching them to take their modern-day language resources and mold them to new situations. One way that this could be performed is to use new release: returning to a pastime numerous times, however converting the hobby a little bit each time (Larsen-Freeman, 2013b). For example, a well-known pastime is looking students to inform tales to their classmates. Teachers ask college students to do so in pairs, in which they are given 4 mins to tell their story to a partner, who then reciprocates. Next, college students change companions and tell their new partners the same tale in 3 minutes. Finally, they trade partners all over again, but this time, the most effective have minutes each to tell their stories. Through this progression, the challenge is renewed for college kids, and they are given the possibility to conform their resources to converting conditions. What is exciting is that no longer best does college students’ fluency improve, however, students’ narratives also get extra accurate and linguistically complicated. With generation and variation, then, the students’ language resources exchange, not in an additive way, but in a manner that transforms the language sources that scholars draw on.