The Accommodation Theory by Howard Giles draws attention to the roles of socio-psychological attitudes, motivation, formal instruction, and larger community or environment in L2 learning. And, the important features of this theory are embedded in the preceding variables. First, I would like to discuss the roles of socio-psychological attitudes and motivation in second language acquisition (SLA). Based on my experiences as an ESL teacher for more than 10 years, I’ve observed that second language learners (in-group) learn more effectively when there’s positive reinforcement in the classroom. As Giles and Gardner consider, motivation is the premium mobile or primary determinant of L2 proficiency.
Second, the role of formal instruction inSLAis a sensitive issue. Many language teachers fail to consider the importance of an accommodating lesson plan. Formal instruction means the L2 is taught under the supervision of an institution (public, private and language school) and it is learned under prescribed conditions. Meaning, the second language learners are taught by a qualified language teacher and uses books, manuals and other supplementary materials to ease L2 learning. To me, the success of classroom learning is manifested through the activities done by the students in an untutored setting. For example, my ESL students who are highly motivated communicate more in English with me, with other native English speakers and even with their peers. They choose to read more English novels than Chinese and they find ways to improve their language skills no matter where and when.
Third, the role of larger community or environment in L2 learning is imperative. When there’s high exposure to the target language community, high proficiency also transpires. When there’s no opportunity to mingle with the target language community, there’s low proficiency and the second language learners are not motivated at all. I once taught ESL in a remote area in Dalian City, China. The town’s name is Pulandian. My students were children of rice farmers and I had a difficult time teaching them at first. After two weeks, I decided to expose them to the target language community by showing them English movies. After that, they started to show more interest in learning English because the words and sentences they learned inside the classroom were contextualized.
I believe that Giles’ accommodation theory is sound and effective for he regards L2 learning by the learner’s social group (in- group) as dynamic and fluid in compliance with the changing views of the identity of the in-group and the target language community or out-group. And, I think that the unpredictability of the in-group speech markers is realistic. I’ve witnessed the existence of linguistic features (upward convergence and downward divergence) in my Chinese ESL students’ language learning.
To me, Howard Giles’ accommodation theory is theoretically sound because its premise is dynamism and variability. Its efficacy lies on the primary determinant of L2 proficiency which is motivation and key variables (determinants) of successful and unsuccessful learning namely identification of the individual with his ethno-linguistic vitality, perception of in-group boundaries, and identification with other in-group social categories.
As an ESL teacher for many years, the accommodation theory presents endless possibilities for me to improve my Second Language Teaching (SLT) methods and techniques. It’s always been my goal to see high level of motivation and proficiency among my students.