A new paradigm for the learning of a second or foreign language: the neurolinguistic approach


Joan NETTEN and Claude GERMAIN

This article considers the contribution of research in neuroscience to resolving the question of how to develop communication skills in a second language in an institutional setting. The purpose of the article is to demonstrate how the findings of cognitive neuroscience can assist educators to understand the complexity of learning and, as a result, to develop more effective instructional practices. The article begins with a brief description of the two options for the learning of French as a second language currently offered in the Canadian school system and the deficiencies inherent in these programs for a country attempting to foster English-French bilingualism in its anglophone citizens. Secondly, the paradigm underlying the core French option, based on cognitive psychology, is examined and its limitations are discussed. The remainder of the article presents the Neurolinguistic Approach (NLA) as developed by the authors, explaining its bases in cognitive neuroscience, the ensuing five major principles of the approach, with the pedagogical consequences that each one entails. Reference is then made to two classroom applications of the NLA: intensive French implemented widely in Canada and another adaptation implanted in China. After comparing the approach briefly with French immersion, limitations of the NLA are presented, and the article concludes with some directions for future research. The positive results of the practical applications of the NLA indicate the important contribution research in cognitive neuroscience can make to improving learning in a classroom situation.

Netten, J., & Germain, C. (2012). A new paradigm for the learning of a second or foreign language: The neurolinguistic approach. Neuroeducation, 1(1), 85-114.   [PDF]