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Key Skills of Interaction and Second Language Acquisition

written by: JKLlewthor•edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch•updated: 2/1/2013

Interaction is one of the best ways to learn a second language; and there are various ways to maximize your interaction with another language. There are a vast amount of resources online that will prove invaluable in this challenge.

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    Why Interact?

    To say that interaction is an important element of second language acquisition is a major understatement; it is absolutely paramount to nearly every aspect of learning a second language. Self-help courses and online flashcard exercises will, of course, always have a fairly important role to play in the world of language learning, yet they will always pale in significance in comparison to the truly titanic advantages of heavy doses of integration in one’s educational diet. Such an analogy may sound bizarre but in fact the practicalities of including interaction in your learning are not dissimilar to keeping a balanced diet.

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    Get Connected

    The first type of interaction that most likely springs to students' minds when they hear the word is interpersonal interaction. Speaking practice in the target language that you are trying to acquire will always be an absolutely fantastic method of not only identifying your strengths and weaknesses, but also allowing the person to whom you are talking to highlight your mistakes.

    This kind if constructive feedback will no doubt be far more attractive to language learners who prefer taking a more practical approach to second language acquisition, as opposed to pouring over textbooks. This is quite understandable. Communicate with as many other people--native speakers and students alike--as possible in the target language that you are trying to master. Even revisiting topics already learned in class can be an effective way to consolidate knowledge.

    Why not try making some friends who speak the target language online? This could be a helpful alternative if speaking to real-life partners proves difficult.

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    Log In And Swot Up

    The other type of interaction for second language acquisition that brings challenges and benefits in equal measure is interaction via social media. The resources can be located quickly, easily and free of charge online, and they are truly not to be underestimated.

    Let’s take learning English as a second language for an example. There is a wealth of newspapers online available for those seeking to interact with journalistic media in order to not only improve vocabulary but also grammatical awareness, and they are not even limited to those who live in the UK and the USA. Indeed, there are English language newspapers based in nearly every corner of the world, usually targeted at expatriates, yet they are easy and not too expensive to attain, should one have difficulty accessing the Internet.

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    Engage Online

    For those who do not find themselves attracted to newspapers, there are other media of interaction to choose from. Recently emerging from obscurity is the trend of websites such as YouTube of video bloggers. These charismatic individuals post humorous or politically engaged blogs and then invite viewers to debate the issues discussed on a comments page. This practice combines for the student of a second language the opportunity to not merely practice their listening and interpretative skills while hearing a native speaker talk, but also engage with other online native speakers with a casual or indeed critical approach. This can be a fun technique to improve your interaction with the target language should spending long periods of time in the target country prove to be difficult.

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    Get Interacting!

    Regardless whether you are slaking your thirst for improved second language skills, it is absolutely essential not to forget healthy amounts of interaction practice in your educational diet. Practices such as speaking the language with ‘real-life’ native speakers and checking out newspapers are excellent ways through which to improve this vital skill, yet engaging with alternative online resources such as the prolific blogosphere can also be indispensable. Of course, those who are really enthusiastic about interaction will try and alternate between all three and more.