Tea With BVP

Each Friday morning at 6am (Australian time) Bill Van Pattern hosts a discussion about second language acquisition with Angelika and Walter.

tea with bvp hosts

Every session has a topic and today’s topic is:

“Are vocabulary and grammar learned differently?

Here are my notes that  I took while listening:

  1. Vocabulary and grammar are learned in essentially the same way.
  2. Acquisition is fundamental as opposed to learning (remember that the only thing that matters is the acquisition of language).
  3. Colourless green dreams sleep furiously. (Chomsky) Gibberish but the words fit grammatically!!
  4. Let’s hope teachers aren’t still asking students to memorise lists of vocabulary.
  5. Thematic conversations are not the same as thematic topics (e.g. restaurant, sport, body parts etc) Carol Gaab
  6. Frequency lists – If we use every day language, then we generate frequency vocabulary naturally.
  7. Verbs account to 20% of language. Nation (1990) 4000 – 5000 most frequent words account for up to 95% of written text & 85% of speech. Carol Gaab
  8. Be aware that context in classroom will be different to context out of classroom. If we prepare for outside experiences out of the classroom, then it is out of context. Stick to what students need in class. Stick to what is important to your cohort of students.
  9. Body parts (as a theme) will come naturally into speech when students need to know that specific vocabulary.
  10. Acquisition is effortless and involuntary – Karen Rowan
  11. You don’t have to talk about grammar unless your students ask for a clarification
  12. Is grammar acquired involuntarily? Word meaning is thought about consciously but grammar is not, by language learners.


As Bill is a professor of second language acquisition at Maine University, his knowledge of relevant theory and practice is prodigious. He would be a compelling lecturer because he sprinkles irreverent comments throughout which at first seem bizarre but once attuned to his sense of humour, listening to him becomes very entertaining.

The conversation between the 3 presenters is largely theory based but it is balanced practically by Walter & Angelika as well as the many language teachers who contribute to the discussion either on Twitter, Mixlr, by email, or by calling in and talking directly to the panel.

The conversations can either by listened to live however if that isn’t possible, then go to the TeawithBVP website and listen via links to past episodes on sound cloud.

Every week there is a SLA Challenge Quiz – a multiple choice quiz with prizes (coasters today) depending on the number of questions you get correct. Those listening on MIxlr generally help who ever is taking the quiz by posting answers. A true example of the collegiality that exists amongst TCI practitioners!

Here is a taste of the SLA Quiz!

Q1 just like grammar that has syntax and morphology, vocab is largely is largely acquired by

  1. ?
  2. Interaction with input
  3. knowledge of the first language
  4. Examining Trumps speeches


Q2 Researchers refer to vocabulary as?

  1. A morphological units
  2. The mental lexicon
  3. The syntactic and network
  4. One fish red fish blue fish


Q3 words can be changed not only from one meaning to another but also from a found to an adverb. How do we refer to how a word changes from one category to another?

  1. Inflection
  2. Extension
  3. Derivation
  4. Freudian catharsis


If you are keen to learn more, then sign up for the newsletter on the “Tea with BVP” website.

Another option is to listen to BVP talking about aspects of second language acquisition. Here is the first in a series and this one is titled “What Everyone Should Know About Second Language Acquisition.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s