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Second Language Acquisition Research Paper


Second Language Acquisition: The Learner and the Learning Situations

Age: Lenneberg came up with a theory that acquiring proficiency in speaking a second language was an inborn process that was influenced by growth of the brain (Lenneberg, 1967, p. 78). Thus, many scholars report that age plays an important role on a second language acquisition (Randell, 2007, p. 13).

Lenneberg claimed that after the brain has been completely lateralized, then its ability to reopen the part that is concerned with language learning is limited (Lenneberg, 1967, p. 78). This means the brain losses its ability to take in new language skills. The best age for learning new language as a result of numerous researches was found to be from the age of six to fifteen years (Smith, 2004, p. 73).

Reportedly, the correlation between age and a second language acquisition can be best illustrated by the peculiarities of learning in the field of phonology where younger students are likely to have no significant accent whereas older students will remain speaking with quite noticeable accent (Randell, 2007, p. 13).

Motivation: it has been established that the motivation that inspires an individual to learn a second language and the thoughts that this person holds concerning speaking a second language play a big role in the process of learning it. It is necessary to point out that it is possible to distinguish to major types of motivation: integrative and instrumental (De Bot et al., 2005, p.72). Thus, De Bot et al. (2005) state that integrative motivation is a very strong tool inspiring students to learn, whereas instrumental is less effective.

The integrative motivation presupposes that students like the community speaking the language and want to find out more about the community and learn the second language. The instrumental motivation is reinforces by some more particular purpose, for example, reward. It goes without saying that integral interest in the community and the language itself is much stronger motivation than a desire to get some reward.

Environment: The condition in which learning takes place is of great impact on the process of learning a second language. As explored earlier, the extent to which input offer the maxima effect is important. An environment that encourages a greater amount of using the new language is very effective in the process of learning.

Thus, De Bot et al. (2005) suggest that there are two types of learning: implicit and explicit. Implicit learning is something that people can learn by intuition, and explicit learning presupposes that people should understand how it is done (De Bot et al., 2005, p. 9). Admittedly, people learn faster when they can constantly repeat and hear a second language, when they are naturally involved in the learning process, rather than trying to memorize some rules and new words.

Personality: this trait is very influential on the way a person learns a new language acquisition. When combined with environment, this can act to impede learning or to encourage it. Introverts have a high chance of being affected negatively. Students afraid of embarrassment by incorrectly speaking avoid opportunities for them to speak hence affecting their ability to learn.

When teachers correct mistakes, these students feel embarrassed, when a student shuts following an outright correction, then he/she looses the psyche to practice. Conversely, extraverts are usually more successful in speaking since it presupposes communicating which extraverts like (Carrasquillo and Rodríguez, 2002, p. 65).

The Importance of Classroom Instructions

This bears a special benefit because in the first place, teaching carried out in a classroom setting usually has a connection with the two forms of second language attainment processes, natural acquisition and classroom learning. Hunt et al. (2009) stress that one of constituent factors of effective teaching is correct and detailed instructions, i.e. teacher’s ability to explain what students are expected and how they can successfully fulfill their tasks.

When though it’s hard to draw clear differences between instructed languages and acquired, we can easily recognize the implications of language acquisition from classroom teaching and that from non-classroom learning. Obviously the impact of classroom teaching of language becomes positive and this view is supported by early researchers of learning a new language in 1980s.

The Importance of Carrying Out the Task of Teaching

From many years of teaching, there are several theories that teachers have linked to the process of teaching a new language as being conducive and best for acquiring a second language.

Input Hypothesis: this hypothesis explains acquiring a second language through a progression of natural process and it’s affected by an input that is ahead of the natural flow by a step. Admittedly, when a learner goes through the steps of learning through the stages of growth from birth mentioned, they will flow in a natural way as they encounter new input.

Sometimes, studies indicate that adults can learn new language the same way. The teacher can use this hypothesis and put a student in an environment that encourages input and feedback of information that is comprehensible (Hwang 1999, p. 26). Students are set in a very conducive environment for learning that is lively and realistic and this boosts understanding making learners to have better acquisition results.

Output hypothesis: this theory purports that learners have to use the resources they acquire and practice using comprehensible output. Classroom teaching plays a very good role in attaining this as learners are able to bridge the gaps of input and output interactions.

Learners and teachers are main factors of classroom learning (Hwang 1999, p. 26). This means teaching helps teachers to give information that students find interesting and that results into integration. Students hence collect and reprocess this information and efficiently acquire good linguistic skills.

Language Transfer

This concept is also described as the linguistic inferences of the first language. It’s mainly discussed in teaching English but it can normally occur for every language especially when the person does not have that deep command of the new language.

Positive Transfer and Negative Transfer: when appropriate unit or structure of two languages is similar there can be interference resulting in accurate construction of a language and this is termed as positive transfer. Accurate here means that the language was as if it were spoken by natives with little errors (Liceras, 2010, p. 250). An example is using cognates. Negative transfer on the other hand is when the learners introduce incorrect structures to a new language.

When the differences in structures are so great, then there is likelihood of committing more negative transfers. The impact of positive transfer usually gets overlooked and as a result they are not discussed extensively. However the results could have a very big impact on the learners (Liceras, 2010, p. 250). For example, English learner of Spanish learner can easily guess Spanish vocabulary from his English through structure could differ hence connotation.

Conscious-Unconscious Transfer: the transfer of a language may either be accomplished in an unconscious or conscious manner. It is quite possible for unskilled learners take a guess while writing or speaking a second language either due to forgetfulness, or lack of proper learning.

For instance, in North America, English speakers who boast of Spanish as their first language have thus far managed to influence the English native speakers in those regions that the Spaniards are a majority (Liceras, 2010, p. 253). They mix English and Spanish words in what they refer to as Spanglish. Such speakers could know the internal structures of first language well and not conversant with the second language structures hence slip back to their first language rules.

Contrastive Analysis

The theory of contrastive analysis consists in comparison of two languages that is based on their characteristic elements. According to Gass and Selinker (2008) contrastive analysis is aimed at determining “potential errors for the ultimate purpose of isolating what needs to be learned and what does not need to be learned in a second-language-learning situation” (96).

In other words, learning of a first language and a second language is compared and on the basis of this study it is possible to distinguish the probable difficulties that learners face when learning the second language. Presumably, when a student is learning the second language, the structure and rules of the first language cause the most difficulties to their effort of acquiring a second language.

The difficulties are because of comparing of two linguistic structures from different languages. Hence a second language teacher can be better placed to understand the students’ varied learning difficulties that are as a result of these linguistic variations (McLaughlin & Harrignton, 2008, p. 123).

For instance, Arabian students learning English can place gender pronoun of non-human objects when trying to speak English. “There are three glasses, she is on the floor” (she is used to refer to the glasses). Japanese on the other hand can have a very difficult time when pronouncing /r/ and /l/ sounds in English because they native (first language does not have these sounds).

Contrastive Analysis Is Important For Teachers

Many people assume that language is merely sentences, structures and words. However, there are many shapes and structures that make every utterance have a meaning and a function. This means that besides studying measurable elements like sound and words, it’s important also to study elements like notion, feeling and notion which are immeasurable (McLaughlin & Harrignton, 2008, p. 123).

Contrastive analysis takes into consideraition these aspects and hence it is very critical for teachers when comparing a new language and the first language if they are students (De Houwer, 2006, p. 332). Teaching language is not easy as one may overview considering that even native at times cannot use their own first language. Language is described as randomly structured groups of subjectively chosen vocals used by people of a certain culture to communicate.

This communication is subject to contrast always. This means that contrast is an aspect of language and exists between worst, sentences and languages. This concept is critical in teaching foreign language as it studies language used at that period in time. An assessment of language barrier along with a scientific examination of the structural differences that characterizes two languages may aid in the description of the taxonomy of a language.

Consequently, this could be beneficial to the teachers by allowing them to forecast the hardships that could face learners (McLaughlin & Harrignton, 2008, p. 123). With the help of contrastive analysis teachers can easily define what points do not require special attention, and which points in learning a second language should be explained and trained more thoroughly (Danesi & Rocci, 2009, p. 228).

There are four stages that the teacher can effectively use contrastive analysis to bring about better learning. First, Description: this is the use of formal grammar to explicitly describe the native and foreign language. Second, selection: certain set of rules; structures are chosen for contrast as it’s hard to virtually take all the differences. Third, contrast: this is when one language is mapped onto another and the relationships described. Finally, prediction: the teacher formulates how to predict an error or hardship of the other steps.

Language Transfer: Omission Copula by Arab Learners

Contrastive analysis reveals that Arab learners often make transfer mistakes because of the fact that they have a different language structure from English and or any other language for that case. The difference is very substantial with English though. This difficulty in learning comes up when students attempt to bring into play articles, copula and auxiliary verbs, that have nearly no Arabic equivalent or comparables for some syntax situations (Burt, 1975, p. 54).

Furthermore, in Arabic language, using the word ‘if’ is mostly evident in the incorrect application of order of words prepositions and pronouns. This kind of mistake is committed by Arabs who are learning as a second of foreign language often denoted as EFL and ESL. Arabs not only make interference ‘if’ error but also non-interference as well (Burt, 1975, p. 54). Typical syntax errors are categorized in various groups that deal with prepositions of objects, plurals of objects that are not countable, past tenses and thirds person singular.

Arabic and English constructive analyses indicate that copula omission is very evident especially in grammatical study of English by Arab learners. For instance, native Arabic speakers constantly omit copula verb. It’s important to note that in other tenses higher, sometimes other person other than the third single party, the copula is brought in again.

The reason why Arab learner tends to drop the copula often is because the native Arab language does not have these copulae. This is therefore a negative transfer from native language to the second language as students drop the copula as he/she speaks. Most grammatical problems that Arab students face are principally attributed to their native language and are mainly of omission of copula (Patil, 2006).

Solution: the better solution could be to scale down the difficulties that are pronounced among the second language learners. By all means, such common mistakes should be noted and used for working out the necessary teaching strategies. Thus, it can be helpful to use the so-called preventive strategy (Franceschina, 2005, p. 200). In this case a teacher will know what topics require detailed consideration. This can lead to avoidance of common difficulties in second language learners.

Reference List

Burt, M. K. (1975). Error Analysis In The Adult EFL Classroom. Tesol Quarterly, 9(1): 53- 63.

Carrasquillo, A., Rodríguez, V. (2002). Language Minority Students in the Mainstream Classroom. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Franceschina, F. (2005). Fossilized Second Language Grammars: The Acquisition of Grammatical Gender. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins North America.

Danesi, M., Rocci, A. (2009). Global Linguistics: An Introduction. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

De Bot, K., Lowie, W., Verspoor, M. (2005). Second Language Acquisition: An Advanced Resource Book. New York: Routledge.

De Houwer, A. (2006). Early Understanding Of Two Words For The Same Thing: A CDI Study Of Lexical Comprehension In Infant Bilinguals. International Journal Of Bilingualism, 10 (3): 331-333.

Gass, S.M., Selinker, L. (2008). Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course. Oxon: Routledge.

Hunt, G.H., Hunt, G., Touzel, T.J. (2009). Effective Teaching: Preparation and Implementation. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas Publisher Ltd.

Hwang, J. (1999). Current Theories Of Language. Leaning And Teaching. English Teaching Forum, 8(2): 26-29

Lenneberg, E. H. (1967). Biological Foundations of Language. New York: Wiley Publishers

Liceras, J. (2010). Second Language Acquisition and Syntactic Theory in the 21st Century. Annual Review of Applied Linguistic, 30: 248-269

McLaughlin, B., & Harrignton, M. (2008). Second Language Acquisition, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 10: 122-134.

Patil, Z.N. (2006). On the Nature and Role of English in Asia. The Linguistics Journal, 1(2): 88-131.

Randell, M. (2007). Memory, Psychology and Second Language Learning. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins North America.

Smith, A. (2004). The Brain’s Behind It: New Knowledge about the Brain and Learning. Stafford: Network Educational Press Ltd.

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