Around the world today, there are more and more children and adults who, for esthetic, personal, economic and academic reasons, are becoming multilingual. It is a known fact that there are more bilingual minds on the earth than people who have only learned one language. Whether it be to find new friends, literatures or business ventures, there happens to be many reasons to learn something or a second language.
There are a number of rewards of being able to learn a second language. These rewards include learning advantages that can happen during a specific level of proficiency in another language.
For years it has been known that learning about other cultures, other people and other kinds of languages widens the perspective mind. Historically, people are faced with languages such as Greek and Latin in school to provide them access to a rich number of literatures and to enable a more profound thankfulness of the history and assembly of a language. Currently, students have had a chance to be faced to global languages, historical languages, official and cultural languages (French and English) and Aboriginal languages. Faced with these languages enhances cultural awareness. Students learn that national practices differ around the world. They learn reverence for members of other nations and speakers of other languages. It has been contested that it is much more complex to be critical of an individual you know than it is to be critical of an unknown group.
In a time where globalization comes close as a priority for most nations, acquiring different languages or a second language for that matter is important. The topic of language acquisition is a necessity when talking about the progress of acquiring another language essential for global competitiveness. Second language acquisition is different to the processes of acquiring a child’s first language. This process requires a deep interaction or immersion in an environment where the target language is communicated naturally. That is an environment where speakers are concerned not with their utterances or form, but with the messages or conversations that they are trying to convey and understand.
Correcting errors is not an essential part of this process but it is important for native speakers and parents or caretakers. This method is to modify their conversations modified to help students of the language to understand and help them be at ease with the acquisition process (Krashen, 1981). Almost the same goes with the process of consciously learning the language. Conscious language learning now holds great value for error correction. With this method, error correction is kept and aims to help the student come to terms with the correct mental model of the language. However, the significance of this feedback remains questionable. There is no “never changing” order of learning, although the order of study unobtrusively claims that learners go from simple to complicated, an order that is not the same with the acquisition arrangement.
With all these in mind, Lightbrown and Spada (2006), discuss the importance of the learner’s context in light of language acquisition. According to them, young learners in an unstructured second-language learning environment are usually allowed to keep quiet until they are fully prepared to speak. They are also allowed to have opportunities to practice their second language in games and songs that will allow them to blend with most learners their age. Young children in informal settings are more exposed to a second language for more hours than adult learners. Adult learners, on the other hand, are exposed to a more limited time in learning a second language. One condition that remains constant for learners of different ages is the exposure to the adapted or modified input.
The two interviews conducted reflected the same principles for second language learning. The design of the interview was constructed to be unstructured. An unstructured interview is an interview design in which questions are not planned (although some queries may be planned in advance), allowing for naturalness and for questions to progress during the time of the interview. It was an interview without any indicated format instead it was an interview where the interviewer had major questions planned in advanced. This unstructured interview allowed follow-up questions to flourish based on the interviewee's responses and developed like a non-threatening, friendly conversation. The interview was flexible because the queries were allowed to be changed and adapted that depends on the interviewee's answers. The interview has generated the use of open questions that allows the respondents to give more depth to their answers. With this type of interview, the interviewer was able to grasp a deeper sense of both the learners’ situations when conducting the interview. Both interviewees were able to express themselves fully because of the open-ended questions presented to them. The interview was constructed in such a way that the learners will feel more relaxed to express themselves and to give a comprehensive description of what they have experienced while learning a second language.
The first interviewee, a 48-year old female who is now a teacher had English and Chinese as her first and second languages respectively. According to her, she had difficulty in learning the Chinese language. After numerous years of learning Chinese, she can only speak the language at a certain level or until the “P5” level. She started to learn Chinese while she was still in kindergarten. She was five years old then. Growing up in an English speaking family and entering a school where English was the medium. She recalls that she had to study the language in an environment where her teacher is the only person speaking Chinese, and she and her classmates still spoke in English when conversing with each other. At home, she also had the same problem. Her family spoke to her in English and that she was not able to practice enough Chinese that caused her to forget the essential parts of Mandarin especially in writing where she forgot most of the characters. According to this interviewee, one of the most effective ways in learning a language is to “use it in the context of the situation” and to “have it in repetitive patterns.” It is also better to conduct the lessons in a non-threatening environment with numerous opportunities to practice role play. Watching videos that use the Chinese would have also helped. However, the most effective way to practice Chinese in her point of view is to practice it with a native speaker. Then to immerse one’s self totally into a situation wherein an individual will be forced to speak the language.
The second interviewee, on the other hand, is now 32 who spoke Hokkien that is her local dialect and Chinese which is considered to be her second language. Growing up, she had the opportunity of completing her studies in a government school. She relays during the interview that growing up; her parents spoke to her in Mandarin (Chinese). She states that her education of the second language began at the ripe age of one or two years old or when she first started talking. This event was enhanced formally when she entered Kindergarten. Aside from learning the language formally in school, this interviewee states that she watched a vast number of television shows in Mandarin and that she read Chinese newspapers greatly. Back in school, she read a lot of story books that were communicated in the language and that she was in an environment where she had to communicate with her friends in this language. In her observation of learning a second language, she believes that engaging in activities such as singing of Chinese songs, reading Chinese books and conversing in Chinese with friends proved to be the best method of learning for her.
Both interviewees had the pleasure to learn Chinese as a second language. The difference starts in the environment where they both belong. It is truly important to belong in a community where people speak a second language that one is trying learn. It was difficult for the first interviewee to enhance her language skills because she was not able to practice speaking Chinese. This is now a different case for the second interviewee who was able to practice Chinese at an early age and had a chance to converse with her friends and family in the aforementioned language.
Learning Chinese at a certain age also helped. The first interviewee only had the opportunity to learn this second language formally in school. This is in contrast with what the second interviewee has encountered. This interviewee learned Chinese at an early age being it as a first language for her. She was immersed totally in an environment where she was focused and forced to speak the language. As suggested by the first interviewee, it is better to use a language in a situational context. She believes that when the situation calls for Chinese as the only means of survival then she might have excelled in learning the Chinese language.
It is observable that both interviewees had different environments while growing up. She says, “I was given a rich language experience (including posters on the wall). I grew up in an environment where the teachers and mostly everyone in the school spoke in Mandarin. We also had to try to speak the language when we were communicating, among the other support put in place to help us remember rules.”
The scenarios discussed for both interviewees reflected different events and opportunities that allowed both interviewees to grow at a certain level in their chosen second language. Although both interviewees revealed that they also know a third basic language such as Japanese and German, they no longer had the time nor the opportunity to practice these languages. More so they did not have any chance to immerse themselves in an environment where the Japanese and the German language are used.
If we put into context the events experienced by both interviewees, Vygotsky’s theory comes into play. According to this theory, language development happens as a result of social interaction. The main interaction that is illustrated here is the interaction among individuals. This theory describes learning or acquiring knowledge as a social system and the beginning of human knowledge in culture or society. The major evolving theme of Vygotsky’s theory lies on the idea that a social interaction plays an important role in the progression of cognition or thinking. This idea is evidently presented in the lives of both interviewees and their venture into learning a second language. If only the first interviewee had the environment that the second interviewee had, she might have been a fluent speaker of the language. Vygotsky also believed that everything can be learned in two levels.
First people learn or acquire information through interaction with other people, and combined into a person’s mental structure. Every purpose in the child’s cultural progress shows twice: first, is on the social level and second on the individual level. The first interaction happens on the interpsychological level or interaction that happens between people and next is the interpsychological or the interaction that happens within the child’s internal make-up. This applies to equal distributions in the logical memory, voluntary attention and to the formation of concepts of the child’s mental capacity. All higher functions of the mental capacity of an individual originate from the individual make-up and interaction of the child. The second level for Vygotsky is what he has coined as the child’s Zone of Proximal Development. This zone is the area or space of discovery by which the learner is cognitively prepared, but would still need social interaction to progress fully in learning.
According to both interviewees, their social environment played a special role in developing their mastery of a second language. It became an advantage when majority of the interactions that the second interviewee had used the Chinese as a language for means of conversation. Suffice it to say that the second interviewee has claim of ownership over this second language.
Almost the same is observed by Krashen (1982) in his research on the principles and practice of the second language theory. According to him, a way to grow competence or expertise in a second language is by learning the language. Also, as defined by Krashen (1982), "learning" refers to the known learning of a second language. It knows its policies, being aware of the policies and being able to talk about the language. In non-technical concept, learning is being aware of the language and being aware of the rules of grammar.
Some theorists assume that children acquire while the adults can only learn. That is further explained by the acquisition-learning hypothesis. However, according again to Krashen, the ability to acquire and learn a second language does not go far from an adult’s ability. However, this does not mean that adults will always speak like a native speaker, as is the case for both interviewees. Again, the first interviewee started to learn Chinese only in Kindergarten, and the second interviewee started when she first started talking, judging from that experience, the second interviewee had more advantage over the first interviewee. The second interviewee developed into a native speaker of Mandarin. Error correction according to Krashen (1982), again has little or no effect on the subconscious acquisition of language, but it is thought to be a useful method for conscious learning. Error correction supposedly helps the learner to persuade or figure out the right form of rule.
Research on second language learning has shown that many misapprehensions exist about how children learn languages. Teachers need to be conscious of these delusions and realize that the fast and relaxed solutions are not right for difficult problems. Second language learning for play-aged children takes more time, is harder and includes more efforts than many educators realize. People should concentrate on the chance that linguistic and cultural differences provide. Different children enhance the schools and the knowledge of education generally. As a matter of fact, although the researchers on second language learning have been focused at children from linguistically and culturally different backgrounds, much of it relates equally well to conventional students.
It is obvious that children need chances to discover the language inside the school and practice the language in a social environment. It is widely believed that the language is acquired by doing, children learn a second language through activities such as singing, games, imitation games and movement games. The strategies used in the classroom may have a significant impact on how children learn the type of vocabulary and the second language used can have an impact on their learning development. It is, therefore, important that the teacher uses different teaching strategies and ideas to use in school because children acquire from their educator and tend to grip the vocabulary and accent of the teacher. Besides, if the aimed language is supposed to be utilized in the classroom, it is essential to make the children used to the language inside the school. After doing so, then accentuate that the marked language will only be utilized and also that it is fine to commit mistakes.
Archibald, J. (2006). A Review Of The Literature On Second Language Learning. Retrieved from https://education.alberta.ca/media/616813/litreview.pdf
Krashen, S. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.
Lightbown, P., & Spada, N. (2006). How languages are learned. Oxford [england]: Oxford University Press.
Stefánsson, E. (2013). Second Language Acquisition. Retrieved from http://skemman.is/stream/get/1946/15018/35741/1/BA_EinarG.pdf
Theories and Research of Second Language Acquisition. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.sil.org/sites/default/files/files/theories_and_research_of_second_language_acquisition.pdf