Introducing Second Language Acquisition

Muriel Saville-Troike. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006, Pp. vii + 206.

Reviewed by Ulugbek Nurmukhamedov
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Illinois, U.S.A.

Saville-Troike s Introducing Second Language Acquisition provides students in the fields of linguistics, general education, and TESL with the background knowledge they need to understand the field of second language acquisition. To do this, the author, Saville-Troike, addresses three basic questions throughout the seven chapters of the book: What exactly does the L2 learner come to know? ; How does the learner acquire this knowledge? ; and Why are some learners more successful than others? In order to answer these questions, Saville-Troike comprehensively reviews some of the major SLA literature and gives practical suggestions to language learners and teachers.
In Chapter 1,the author defines SLA from linguistic, applied linguistic, psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic, and social psychological perspectives and states that the complex phenomenon of SLA should be presented from three main perspectives: linguistic, psychological and social. The next chapter describes the foundations of SLA with regard to the issues of natural ability, innate capacity, and the role of social experience in language acquisition. In particular, she talks about L1/L2 transfer in the learner s initial, intermediate, and final states of L2 acquisition. Chapter 3 divides linguistic approaches to SLA into two parts, functionalist and structuralist, and examines the influence of linguistics on SLA in a detailed order. Chapter 4 addresses the contributions of psychology to SLA and neurolinguistics. The chapter describes the function of the language faculty in the brain and explicitly focuses on the second language learner differences and their learning strategies from psychological perspectives. Chapter 5 discusses what role communication strategies play in communication and how social and cultural knowledge are essential to use language appropriately. To do this, the author talks about microsocialfactors (i.e. potential effects of different surrounding circumstances on language behavior) and macrosocial factors (i.e. SLA and its relation to broader cultural, political, and educational environments) and concludes that looking at SLA from a social perspective gives us a better and holistic understanding of second language learning. Chapter 6 contains information about how communicative, linguistic, and pragmatic competences are important for L2 acquisition. The author concludes the book with chapter 7 where she talks about interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives of SLA and explains its full spectrum by stating that linguistic perspectives address issues of what is learned, psychological perspectives focus on how knowledge is learned, and social perspectives deal with questions of why some learners are more successful than others. She also includes a brief set of implications of SLA for L2 learning and teaching.
It is important to note that Introducing Second Language Acquisition is intended as a broad introduction to the field of second language acquisition. Because of this, the book runs the risk of covering many topics in a way that some may consider lacks depth, yet this should be expected from a book that is meant to be an introduction to the field. Thus the book should indeed be seen as a useful resource for both undergraduate and graduate students who would like to know more about the learning process and language acquisition and the teachers who need to explain these to them.