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LINGUIST 3LA3 Second Language Acquisition

Academic Year: Fall 2015

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Elisabet Service


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 505

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 21352

Office Hours: By appointment in TSH-614

Course Objectives:

The objective is to 1) learn about factors that affect second language acquisition, 2) learn to reflect upon this knowledge by writing answers to questions 3) apply knowledge of linguistics and second language acquisition to come up with an idea for teaching a fragment of language using some new technology.

These objectives will be met by reading about the major questions in SLA research in a textbook and discussing them in class. There will be only a limited amount of lecturing. On days for which chapters have been assigned, students will be asked to answer in class in writing one or two questions about the chapter. Particular questions to prepare will be announced in the previous class and on Avenue. Other evaluation components are a midterm examination in essay format, a critique of a group presentation and an individual written paper. 

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Kirsten M. Hummel: Introducing Second Language Acquisition. Perspectives and Practices. Wiley Blackwell.

Method of Assessment:

Grading of all evaluation components will be on a scale of 0 to 12, corresponding to letter marks. The final grade is a weighted average of these marks. A midterm exam (Nov 5) on the textbook and class topics is weighted 25% and written answers in class to questions related to class topics are weighted 15% (answers for a minimum of 6 topics will be given A+, 4–5 answers B+, 3 answers C+ and less than 3 answers F). Participation in 2 hours of experimental research available through the departmental SONA system is worth a bonus of one grade point.

The main assignment is the development of an idea for teaching a fragment of a second language using new technology such as handheld devices, computers etc.  The ideas are developed in groups of 3–5 students and presented on Avenue and in class using Powerpoint (or equivalent). Another group has to critique the ideas based on the presentations. The instructor and TA will be available to discuss with each pair. The critiques are written up individually at home but revised in class for group submission to be passed in through Avenue. These group critiques contribute 20% towards the final mark. A thorough individually written description of the idea including some language material to be taught contributes 40%. These descriptions are written by each individual student.  

The syllabus describes the chapter themes for each week. These themes will be lectured on or discussed in class. The class will also try to collectively develop possible ideas for technology-based learning. In addition, there will occasionally be lectures on additional topics. An important part of the course will consist of groups of students developing an elaborate idea for teaching a language fragment using some new technology (computer, some handheld device, the internet etc.). They will present it in class and post the slides on Avenue. Based on feedback, written descriptions of these ideas individual students will pass in written descriptions of these ideas as a main assignment.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Being late less than 48 hours on an assignment results in a reduction of one point on the 12-point scale of the assignment grade (e.g. A+ becomes A). Being late more than 48 hours results in a grade of zero for the assignment. A missed mid-term exam can be re-scheduled for good reasons that can be documented.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

The syllabus below is only a rough outline and will be updated on Avenue when needed. 

Tentative Weekly Syllabus




1: Sept 10

First language acquisition

Hummel: Chapter 1and 2

2: Sept 14 and 17

Language learning contexts

Chapter 3

3: Sept 21 and 24

Library class (Mon Sept 21), Theoretical perspectives

Chapter 4

4: Sept 28 and Oct 1

Teaching approaches

Digital games and L2 instruction

Chapter 5, Articles on game design

5: Oct 5 and 8

Teaching approaches, Learner language

Chapter 5, Chapter 6

6: Oct 12 and 15 

Fall recess, no classes




7: Oct 19 and 22

The age factor

Individual differences

Chapters 7 and 8

8: Oct 26 and 29



Chapter 9

9: Nov 2 and 5

Games in L2 teaching


Midterm (Nov 5)

10: Nov 9 and 12

Development of game ideas in groups, 


11: Nov 16 and 19

Development of game ideas in groups


12: Nov 23 and 26

Class presentations

Individual critique deadlines class date following presentation

13: Nov 30 and Dec 3

Class presentations + critique writing


14: Dec 7

Class presentations + critique writing

Deadline for written game descriptions Dec 7