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Chaos/complexity theory first emerged in the study of the natural sciences over thirty years ago. Through the years, experts from a variety of fields have held this theory up as a new way in which to view the world around us, including its applications to the study of second language acquisition. The language classroom, like the natural world, can also be observed from this perspective because it exhibits many features of chaotic/complex systems. Language instruction in a classroom setting not only produces strange attractors and fractals, but is dynamic, complex, nonlinear, chaotic, self-organizing, unpredictable, sensitive to initial conditions, open, feedback sensitive, and adaptive.

In this paper’s introduction, I briefly define these characteristics and explain how I began to apply them to my teaching practicum. The body of the paper deals with my observations of the language classroom and how it exhibits features of chaos/complexity theory. I have found that an impediment to constructing a better learning environment for my students resides in the fact that the characteristics of a natural, chaotic environment are not present in the classroom. As a result, I also explore ways of bringing chaos/complexity into my lesson and course planning. Because language influences thinking, teachers familiar with c/c theory will develop a greater awareness of what is going on in a language classroom and be able to reflect on their teaching with a new framework.


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | First and Second Language Acquisition