Complexity theory (CT) offers with complicated, dynamic, and nonlinear systems. When I first encountered CT some two decades in the past, it become no longer in the context of language. However, I couldn’t think of many things that had been extra complex, dynamic, and nonlinear than language (Larsen-Freeman, 1997). And it soon have become glaring to me that CT had the ability to teach us many lessons useful in language teaching and getting to know.
It is crucial to note that in CT “complex,” “dynamic,” and “nonlinear” have unique meanings from what one generally thinks of. Let me start with “complex.” “Complex” does now not suggest complicated. Although the components that make up a complex machine may be many and may be distinctive from each other, what makes a device complex is the quality of emergence. Emergence is “the spontaneous prevalence of something new” (van Geert, 2008, p.182) that arises from the interplay of the components of a complex machine, simply as a chicken flock emerges from the interaction of character birds.
The lesson from the emergence of complexity was delivered domestic to me some time in the past, once I read technology writer James Gleick’s description of the dynamics of complex structures: “The act of gambling the game has a manner of changing the policies” (1987, p. 24). Now, Gleick became no longer writing approximately linguistic rules. However, analyzing this line from his e book become an epiphany to me. I understood, opposite to my schooling as a linguist, that language became now not composed of a finite set of constant guidelines, but, as a substitute, that the language system as we knew it changed into continuously rising via speakers’ interactions. This cautioned to me that our college students might be nicely served by using “gambling the [language] sport.” By this I mean that they ought to be encouraged to use the language meaningfully and purposively. In so doing, their language sources could alternate — becoming more target-like — if that was the intention.
The dynamism of complex systems is fundamental to contributing to such an outcome. A complex system is ready becoming, not being. It changed into this lesson from CT that helped me make a connection to the inert expertise hassle, which had stricken me for a while. The inert knowledge trouble, given its call by way of Alfred North Whitehead a few years ago, refers back to the fact that scholars appear like capable of do some thing in the classroom at one time but no longer at a later time. In other phrases, what they have got received has grow to be inert — unavailable to apply for his or her personal functions at a later time and area.
There are many factors chargeable for the inert information trouble; but, I reasoned that if language had been to gain knowledge of in a extra dynamic fashion, college students wouldn’t have to conquer inertia to activate what they know. Teaching college students grammar through giving them regulations and having them practice them in written sporting activities is a time-commemorated process, but possibly it isn’t the maximum efficient way to overcome the inert information hassle. This led me to coin the term “grammaring,” a term I experience is more apt for what we instructors have to be trying to gain. Grammaring involves coaching college students to apply grammar structures correctly, meaningfully, and appropriately thru dynamic tasks and sports (Larsen-Freeman, 2003).
As for the nonlinearity of complicated systems, “nonlinear” method that the effect isn’t always proportionate to the reason. For instance, if I deliver my table chair on wheels a huge ward off from my table and it best movements an inch or so, the end result is nonlinear. Conversely, if I push the chair returned lightly, and it goes careening to the other facet of the room, this is also a nonlinear response. What is the lesson of nonlinearity in language teaching and mastering?
Well, one example is to consider the negative trainer who spends a notable deal of time and effort getting students to learn some particular grammar rule possibly in no way pretty succeeding. The teacher in the subsequent grade, though, has simplest to remind students once of the specific rule, and they immediately catch on. The second teacher blessings from the efforts of the primary in a nonlinear way.
Another way that I think nonlinearity applies to language getting to know is thru the power law of exercise. The electricity law of exercise displays the reality that the impact of practicing some thing declines through the years. In other phrases, the instantaneous advantages of exercise of the right kind can be full-size, however as time passes, the impact of persevering with to exercise falls off dramatically and handiest makes a greater modest contribution to talent. This is a nonlinear phenomenon.
There are many classes that a CT attitude has given me, and I might be speaking of others in Portland. Let me complex on one final lesson before I conclude this quick introduction. Sometimes complex systems are called “complex adaptive systems.” Calling them adaptive recognizes their potential to trade in response to a changing surroundings. One way that I think this feature applies to language is thru what’s referred to as co-version (Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008). Just as children advantage from speech custom designed for them, 2nd language beginners can enjoy the modifications or adaptations which might be made in speech to them if you want to decorate its comprehensibility for them. But word I wrote co-adaptation. The language resources of each conversational companions are modified by using the interaction. I myself have skilled this in many instances as I accommodate to my college students, such that through the years, I can feel my personal language use shifting — no longer an unusual experience for language teachers.