FACTORS AFFECTING SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING
We will see whether anecdotal evidence is supported by research findings
Characteristics of the good language learner
Rate of development varies widely among first language learners
1. Is a willing and accurate guesser; guessing and inferencing is a strategy learners use to figure out what the speaker means by using all the available and relevant, verbal and non-verbal contextual
2. Tries to get a message across even if specific language knowledge is lacking; it’s about a
learner’s managing communication without worrying about not enough knowledge to express his message
3. Is willing to make mistakes; it’s about risk-taking
4. Constantly looks for patterns in the language
5. Practises as often as possible
6. Analyses his own speech and the speech of others
7. Attends to whether his performance meets the standards he’s learned
8. Enjoys grammar exercises
9. Begins learning in childhood
10. Has an above-average IQ.
11. Has good academic skills
12. Has a good self-image and lots of confidence
Good academic skills are used to refer to success in subjects other than learning language. All of the characteristics listed above can be classified into 5 categories; motivation, aptitude, personality, intelligence and learner preference.
Research on Learner Characteristics
Researchers select a group of learners and give them a questionnaire to measure the type and degree of their motivation. The learners are then given a test to measure their second language proficiency. The test and questionnaire are both scored and the researcher performs a correlation on the two measures. The first problem is that it’s not possible to directly observe and measure qualities such as motivation, extroversion or even intelligence.
Learners are often asked whether they willingly seek out opportunities to use their second language with native speakers and how often they do this. It is problematic, because learner has more opportunities for language practice in informal contexts. Another factor which makes it difficult is that how language proficiency is defined and measured. The language proficiency tests used in different studies don’t measure the same kind of knowledge.
It refers to performance on certain kinds of tests. Many studies have found that IQ. Scores were a good means of predicting how successful a learner would be. While intelligence, as measured by verbal IQ. Tests, may be a strong factor (language analysis and rule learning), it may play a less important role in classrooms where the instruction focuses more on communication and interaction.
Learning quickly is the distinguishing feature of aptitude. Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT), Pimsleur Language Aptitude Battery (PLAB).
1. The ability to identify and memorize new sounds
2. The ability to understand the function of particular words in sentences
3. The ability to figure out grammatical rules from language samples
4. Memory for new words.
Many teachers end researchers come to see aptitude as irrelevant to the process of language acquisition. Successful language learners may not be strong in all of the components of aptitude. One could determine learners’ profiles of strengths and weaknesses and use this information to place students in appropriate teaching programs.
It is often argued that an extroverted person is well suited to language learning. However research doesn’t always support this conclusion. Another aspect of personality is inhibition. This discourages risk-taking. Other personality characteristics are self-esteem, empathy, dominance, talkativeness and responsiveness. The major difficulty in investigating personality characteristics is that of identification and measurement. Personality variables may be a major factor only in the acquisition of conversational skills, not in the acquisition of literacy skills. Many researchers believe that personality will be shown to have an important influence on success in language learning.
Motivation and Attitudes
The question is, are learners more highly motivated because they’re successful, or are they successful because they’re highly motivated. Motivation can be defined in terms of two factors; learners’ communicative needs and their attitudes towards the second language community. Integrative motivation: it refers to language learning for personal growth and cultural enrichment, instrumental motivation: it refers to language learning for more immediate or practical goals. One factor is the social dynamic or power relationship between the languages. Members of a minority group learning the language of a majority group may have different attitudes and motivation from those of majority group members learning a minority language.
Motivation in the Classroom Setting
If we can make our classrooms places where students enjoy coming because the content is interesting and relevant to their age and level of ability, where the learning goals are challenging yet manageable and clear, and where the atmosphere is supportive and non-threatening, we can make a positive contribution to students’ motivation to learn.
- Graham Crooks and Richard Schmidt point several areas;
- Motivating students into the lesson,
- Varying the activities, tasks and materials,
- Using co-operative rather than competitive goals
Clearly, cultural and age differences will determine the most appropriate way for teachers to motivate students
The term ‘learning style’ has been used to describe an individual’s natural, habitual and preferred way of absorbing, processing and retaining new information and skills. Visual learners, aural learners, kinaesthetic learners. Distinction between field independent and field dependent. This refers to whether an individual tends to separate details from the general background or to see things more holistically. Another category is based on the individual’s temperament or personality.
These beliefs are usually based on previous learning experiences and the assumption (right or wrong) that a particular type of instruction is the best way for them to learn. The available research indicates that learner beliefs can be strong mediating factors in their experience in the classroom.
Age of Acquisition
CPH. suggests that there is a time in human development when the brain is predisposed for success in language learning. As discussed in chapter 1 development changes in the brain ,it is argued ,affect the nature of language acquisition.According to this view,language learning which occurs after the end of the critical period may not be based on the innate biological structures believed to contribute to first language acqusition or second language acquisition in early chilhood.The difference between adult and young learners is that there is a critical period for second language acquisition. In addition to the possible biological differences, the conditions for language learning are often very different. Younger learners have more opportunities to hear and use the language in environments where they don’t experience strong pressure. Adults are often
embarrassed by their lack mastery of the language.
Mastery of the Spoken Language
Mark Patkovsky studied the effect of age on the acquisition of features of a second language other than accent.He hypothesized that,even if accent were ignored,only those who had begun learning their second language before the age of 15 could ever achieve full,native-like mastery of that language.Patkovsky examined the spoken English of 67 highly educated immigrants to the U.S. The main question in Patkovsky’s research was ‘Will there be a difference between learners who began to learn Eng. before puberty and those who began learning Eng. later?’ The findings were quite dramatic. 32 out of 33 subjects who had begun learning Eng. before the age of 15 scored at the 4+ or the 5 level. Patkovsky’s first question was answered with a very resounding yes. These results gave added support to the CPH for second language acquisition. Experience and research have shown that native-like mastery of the spoken language is difficult to attain by older learners.
Comparing child, adolescent and adult language learners
In the Snow and Hoefnagel-Höhle study, the adolescents were by far the most successful learners.They were ahead of everyone on aall but one of the tests(pronunciation)on the first test session. By the end of the year the children were catching up and had surpassed adults. Snow and Hoefnagel-Höhle concluded that their results provide evidence that there is no critical period for language acquisition.
Arguments against them;S
1. Some of the tasks were too hard for young learners
2. Adults and adolescents may learn faster in the early stages of second language development. Young children eventually catch up and even surpass them.
3. Adults and adolescents can make use of the language on a daily basis in social, personal, professional or academic interaction.
At what age should second language instruction begin?
Both experience and research show that older learners can attain high,if not ‘native ‘,levels of proficiency in their second language.For every researcher who holds that there are maturational constraints on language acquisition, there is another who considers that the age factor can’t be separated from factors such as motivation, social identity and conditions for learning. It’s usually
desirable for the learner to be completely surrounded by the lang. as early as possible to have native-like mastery.When the goal is basic communicative ability for all students in a school
setting,and when it is assumed that the child’s native languag will remain the primary language,it may be more efficient to begin second or foreign language teaching later.
In this chapter we shift our attention away from learner characteristics to the learner’s language
itself.Knowing more about the development of learner language helps teachers to assess teaching procedures in the light of what they
can reasonably expect to accomplish in the classroom.
The Concept of Learner Language
Children’s early language seems best described as a developing system with its own interim
structure, not simply as an imperfect imitation of adult sentences. Contrastive analysis was the basis for identifying differences between the first and second language and for predicting areas of potential error.However,not all all errors made by second language learners can be explained in terms of first language transfer alone. Many errors can be explained better in terms of learners’ attempts to discover the structure of the language being learned rather than an attempt to transfer patterns of their first language.Furthermore,some of the errors are remarkably similar to the kinds of errors made by young first language learners.An example in English would be the use of
ed past tense ending on an irregular verb(as in the example,’I buyed a bus ticket’.)In a regular –
addition,it has been observed that the errors are not always ‘bi-directional’.A traditional version
of the Contrastive Analysis hypothesis (CAH)would predict that,where differences exist,errors would be bi-directional,that is,for example,French speakers learning English and English speakers learning French would make errors on parallel linguistic features.In english ,direct objects,whether nouns or pronouns, come after the verb(for example,the dog eats it,the dog eats the cookie)In french ,direct objects which are nouns follow the verb,but pronoun direct objects precede the verb(for example,’Le chien le mange’—literally,The dog it eats)The goal of the error
analysis wasto discover what learners really know about the language. Error analysis differed from contrastive analysis in that it didn’t set out to predict errors. Rather, it sought to discover and describe kinds of errors in an effort to understand how learners process second language data.Larry Selinker gave the name interlanguage to learners2 developing second language knowledge.Analysis of a learner’s interlanguage shows that it has some characteristics influenced by the learner’s previously learnde language(s),some characteristics of the second
language,and some characteristicswhich seem to be very general and tend to occur in all or most dynamic,continually evolving as learners receive moreinpu and revise their hypothesis about the second language.
The Great Toy Robbery
After viewing a film, students were asked to retell the story in writing.Many error types are common to both learners.Both make errors of subject-verb agreement.Such errors are clearly not due to first language iterference.They reflect learner’s understanding of the second language
system itself rather than an attempt to transfer characteristicsof their first language.These are referred to as ‘developmental errors’ because they areerrors which might very well be made by children acquiring English as their first language.Sometimes these are errors of ‘overgeneralization’that is,errors causd by trying to use a rule in a context where it does not belong,for example, the –s ending on the verb in ‘they plays’.Sometimes the errors are better
described as simplification,where elements of a sentence are left out ,for example,or where all verbs have the same form regardless of person ,number,or tense.
Jacquelyne Schachter-- Avoidance: learners sometimes avoid using certain features of language which they perceive to be difficult for them. This may lead to the absence of certain errors and leaves the analyst without information about the learners’ developing interlanguage.
Even among second language learners,these developmental sequences are similar:what is learned early by language backgrounds and different learning environments.
Grammatical Morphemes: The second language researchers took speech samples from a large number of learners’ speech.This was done by identifying every obligatory context for each
morpheme and dividing the number of correctly supplied morphemes by the total number that should have been supplied in a grammatical sentence.The resulting percentage was treated as the accuracy score for this morpheme.These scores were then ranked from highest to lowest,giving an accuracy order for the morphemes. The overall results of the studies suggested an order which, while not the same as the developmental sequence found in the first language backgrounds. All the morpheme acquisition studies suggests that the learners’ first lang. has a more important influence on acquisition sequences than some researchers would claim.
Negation: What is different is that second language learners from different first language backgrounds behave somewhat differently within those stages
Stage 1. the negative element (usually ‘no’ or ‘not’) is placed before the verb or the element being negated (no bicycle. I not like)
Stage 2. ‘no’ or ‘not’ may alternate with ‘don’t’ (he don’t like. I don’t like)
Stage 3. begin to place the negative element after auxiliary verbs like ‘are’, ‘is’ and ‘can’
Stage 4. ‘Do’ is marked for person, tense and number (It doesn’t work. We didn’t have supper.)For some time,however,learners may continue to mark tense,person,and number on both the auxiarly and the verb.(I didn’t went there.She doesn’t wants to go.)
Questions: Development stages for question formation
Stage 1-single words,formulae or sentence fragments-‘four children?’ ‘A dog?’
Stage 2-declarative word order
No inversion,no fronting:’It’s a monster in the right corner?’ --- ‘The boys throw the shoes?’
Stage 3 fronting
Wh-fronting,no inversion:’Where the little children are ?’ ‘What the dog are playing?’
Do-fronting:’do you have a shoes on your picture?’ ‘Does in this picture there is four astronauts?’
Other-fronting:’Is the picture has two planets on top?’
Stage 4:Inversion in wh- +copula and ‘yes/no’ questions
Wh-+copula:’Where is the sun?’
Auxiliary other than ‘do’ in ‘yes/no’questions:’Is there a fish in the water?’
Stage 5Inversion in wh-questions
Inverted wh-questions with ‘do’:’How do you say [proche]?’
Inverted wh-questions with auxiliaries other than ‘do’:’What’s the boy doing?’
Stage 6:complex questions
Question tag:’It’s better,isn’t it?’
Negative question:’Why can’t you go?
Embedded question:’Can you tell me what the date is today?’
It is clear from this figure taht second languae learners learn to form questions in a sequence of development which is similar in most respects to first language question development.The developmental sequence for questions,while very similar across learners,also appears to be affected by first language influence.For example,even though german reguires subject-verb inversion to form questions,German learners of English will pass through a phase of asking questions without inversion.
Relative Clauses: A number of studies have found that second language learners first acquire relative clauses which refer to nouns in the subject and direct object positions,only sentences roles learn to use them to modify nouns in other sentence roles.
Part of Speech Relative Clause
Subject The girl who was sick went home.
Direct Object The story that I read was long.
Indirect Object The man who[m] I gave the present to was absent.
Object of Preposition I found the book thatJohn was talking about.
Possessive I know the woman whose father is visiting.
Object of Comparison The person that Susan is taller than is Mary.
Edward Keenan and Bernard Comrie:If a learner can use one of the structures at the bottom of the list he will probably be able to use any that precede it. On the other hand, a learner who can produce sentences with relative clauses in the subject or direct object positions will not necessarily be able to use relatives in any other position.
Reference to Past: in the beginning with very limited language learners can refer to past using a time or place.(My son come.He work in restaurant.---January.It2s very cold.----Vietnam.We work too hard.) Later they start to attach grammatical morphemes.(The people worked in the fields) Even after they begin marking past tense, learners may still make errors such as the overgeneralization of the regular –ed ending.( She rided her bicycle.)
Bardovi-Harlig has suggested that these differences are due to the kinds of meanings expresse by the different verbs.Learners seem to find it easier to mark past tense when referring to completed events than when referring to states and activities which may last for extended periods without a clear end-point.
Verbs are classified into different categories depending on their meaning as in the following:
States (or stative verbs):These verbs do not involved any action and they do not have a beginning and end point.Examples:be,love,know,etc.
Activities:These verbs denote an action.Examples:walk,run swim,etc.These verbs do not have a natural end point.
Verbs with a natural end point:These are limited with a natural end point.For example,in the case of read a book,the reading wiil nbe over when the book finishes.other examples are build a house,climb the mountain,etc.
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