Teaching principles

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Contrastive Analysis
A descriptive Consideration


The use of Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis theory as a tool in the EFL classroom to predict possible mistakes made by learners of a L2, was very popular in the 50’s and 60’s. Based on the Behaviourist theory, it argued that possible errors made by students could be predicted and thus helps the students toimprove their knowledge of the second language.
As a natural development of this theory, the Error Analysis (EA) and other peripheral hypothesis developed in later decades to try to understand better the evolution students have in learning the target language.
After many discussions, and analyzing both the pros and cons of the said theory, nowadays, many theoreticians pronounce themselves infavor of a revision of CAH, based on a lot of reflective classroom research.
The present essay pretends to describe CAH theory and its evolution, as well as respond to the question of the validity and pertinence of the use of it when teaching ESL students, and how this can help or not help the teacher of the L2, as a facilitator of language learning.

Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis: itsdevelopment.
The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH) started in the USA, and had its major impact in the decade of the 50’s. It was an evolution of what was previously known as Comparative Analysis. The maximum exponent of this theory was Robert Lado (1957). In that decade, the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis became a very important theory on how the first language of the learner couldinfluence the L2 processing and learning itself. (1)
Its basis were Behaviorist Psychology and Structuralism, which means that its advocates understood SLA as the development of new habits, and also transfer of positive or negative habits. Charles Fries (1945) and Weinreich (1953) preceded Lado in structuring this hypothesis. (2)
Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis, encompasses a very strictway of comparing step by step the mother tongue of the learner and the target language. It essentially covers the areas of phonology, grammar, writing system, and culture. (Schutser, 1997).It can be said that, the basic assumption of this theory is transfer.
CAH, had in a way as a task to make a comparison of the form the languages in question were structured, as well as being able to marktheir differences. Thus, inferring from that, it would be true that where there were similarities between the two languages, learners were likely to encounter less problems in their acquiring process. As a contrast, where there were more differences between the structures of the two languages, learners were to find more problematic the acquisition of the target language. (Weinreich, 1953; Lado,1950) (3)
Amongst theoreticians who advocate CAH, there are some who assumed what is known as the “strong version of CAH”. They are the ones that in principle accept the “development of teaching methods based on a comparison of phonological, grammatical and syntactical features of the native language and the target language.” The so called “strong version” of CAH states the following:▪ The principal source of errors when learning a L2 have to do with transfer of L1 habits
▪ Errors can be predicted by contrastive analysis of the two languages
▪ The more difference between the L1 and L2, the more errors are likely to occur.

On the contrary, there are others who assume what became to be known as the “weak version” which emphasizes analysis of errors after theyoccur.
The “weak version” of CAH , states that CAH, although useful, was thought to be of no use beyond marking the differences between the two languages. Those opponents to the CAH, argued that, difficulty on the basis of the differences in themselves between two languages was not always a real base to predict difficulty. Brière (1968). Several studies demonstrated this, and got the...
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