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A person’s second language, or L2, is a language that is not the
A speaker's dominant language, which is the language a speaker uses most or is most comfortable with, is not necessarily the speaker's first language. The second language can also be the dominant one. For example, the Canadian census defines first language for its purposes as "the first language learned in childhood and still spoken", recognizing that for some, the earliest language may be lost, a process known as
The distinction between acquiring and learning was made by
Research in SLA "...focuses on the developing knowledge and use of a language by children and adults who already know at least one other language... [and] a knowledge of second-language acquisition may help educational policy makers set more realistic goals for programmes for both foreign language courses and the learning of the majority language by minority language children and adults." (Spada & Lightbown, p. 115).
SLA has been influenced by both linguistic and
Other dominant theories and points of research include 2nd language acquisition studies (which examine if L1 findings can be transferred to L2 learning), verbal behaviour (the view that constructed linguistic stimuli can create a desired speech response), morpheme studies, behaviourism, error analysis, stages and order of acquisition, structuralism (approach that looks at how the basic units of language relate to each other according to their common characteristics), 1st language acquisition studies, contrastive analysis (approach where languages were examined in terms of differences and similarities) and inter-language (which describes L2 learners’ language as a rule-governed, dynamic system) (Mitchell, Myles, 2004).
These theories have all influenced second-language teaching and pedagogy. There are many different methods of second-language teaching, many of which stem directly from a particular theory. Common methods are the
The defining difference between a first language (L1) and a second language (L2) is the age the person learned the language. For example,
In acquiring an L2, Hyltenstam (1992) found that around the age of six or seven seemed to be a cut-off point for
As we are learning more and more about the brain, there is a hypothesis that when a child is going through puberty, that is the time that accents start. Before a child goes through puberty, the chemical processes in the brain are more geared towards language and social communication. Whereas after puberty, the ability for learning a language without an accent has been rerouted to function in another area of the brain—most likely in the frontal lobe area promoting cognitive functions, or in the neural system of hormone allocated for reproduction and sexual organ growth.
As far as the relationship between age and eventual attainment in SLA is concerned, Krashen, Long, and Scarcella, say that people who encounter foreign language in early age, begin natural exposure to second languages and obtain better proficiency than those who learn the second language as an adult. However, when it comes to the relationship between age and rate
Gauthier and Genesee (2011) have done a research which mainly focuses on the second language acquisition of internationally adopted children and results show that early experiences of one language of children can affect their ability to acquire a second language, and usually children learn their second language slower and weaker even during the critical period.
As for the fluency, it is better to do foreign language education at an early age, but being exposed to a foreign language since an early age causes a “weak identification” (Billiet, Maddens and Beerten 241). Such issue leads to a "double sense of national belonging," that makes one not sure of where he or she belongs to because according to Brian A. Jacob, multicultural education affects students' "relations, attitudes, and behaviors" (Jacob 364). And as children learn more and more foreign languages, children start to adapt, and get absorbed into the foreign culture that they “undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made” (Pratt 35). Due to such factors, learning foreign languages at an early age may incur one’s perspective of his or her native country.
Acquiring a second language can be a lifelong learning process for many. Despite persistent efforts, most learners of a second language will never become fully native-like in it, although with practice considerable fluency can be achieved. However, children by around the age of 5 have more or less mastered their first language with the exception of
In the first language, children do not respond to systematic correction. Furthermore, children who have limited input still acquire the first language, which is a significant difference between input and output. Children are exposed to a language environment of errors and lack of correction but they end up having the capacity to figure out the grammatical rules. Error correction does not seem to have a direct influence on learning a second language. Instruction may affect the rate of learning, but the stages remain the same. Adolescents and adults who know the rule are faster than those who do not.
In the learning of a second language the correction of errors remains a controversial topic with many differing schools of thought. Throughout the last century much advancement has been made in research on the correction of students’ errors. In the 1950s and 60s the viewpoint of the day was that all errors must be corrected at all costs. Little thought went to students’ feelings or self-esteem in regards to this constant correction (Russell, 2009).
In the 1970s Dulay and Burt’s studies showed that learners acquire grammar forms and structures in a pre-determined, inalterable order, and that teaching or correcting styles would not change this (Russell, 2009).
In this same decade Terrell (1977) did studies that showed that there were more factors to be considered in the classroom than the cognitive processing of the students (Russell, 2009). He contested that the affective side of students and their self-esteem were equally important to the teaching process (Russell, 2009).
A few years later in the 1980s, the strict grammar and corrective approach of the 1950s became obsolete. Researchers asserted that correction was often unnecessary and that instead of furthering students’ learning it was hindering them (Russell, 2009). The main concern at this time was relieving student stress and creating a warm environment for them. Stephen Krashen was a big proponent in this hands-off approach to error correction (Russell, 2009).
The 1990s brought back the familiar idea that explicit grammar instruction and error correction was indeed useful for the SLA process. At this time, more research started to be undertaken to determine exactly which kinds of corrections are the most useful for students. In 1998, Lyster concluded that “recasts” (when the teacher repeats a student’s incorrect utterance with the correct version) are not always the most useful because students do not notice the correction (Russell, 2009). His studies in 2002 showed that students learn better when teachers help students recognize and correct their own errors (Russell, 2009). Mackey, Gas and McDonough had similar findings in 2000 and attributed the success of this method to the student’s active participation in the corrective processes.
Success in language learning can be measured in two ways: likelihood and quality. First language learners will be successful in both measurements. It is inevitable that all people will learn a first language and with few exceptions, they will be fully successful. For second language learners, success is not guaranteed. For one, learners may become fossilized or stuck as it were with ungrammatical items. (
For L2 pronunciation, there are two principles that haven been put forth by Levis (2005). The first is nativeness which means the speaker's ability to approximately reach the speaking pattern of the second language of speakers; and the second, understanding, refers to the speaker's ability to make themselves understood.
|Speed||slower than acquisition of L1||acquisition is rapid|
|Stages||systematic stages of development||systematic stages of development|
|Error correction||not directly influential||not involved|
|Depth of knowledge||beyond the level of input||beyond the level of input|
|Emotionality||less emotional when perceiving words by L2||more emotional when perceiving words by L1|
|Success (1)||not inevitable (possible fossilization*)||inevitable|
|Success (2)||rarely fully successful (if learning starts after Critical Period)||successful|
Being successful in learning a second language can seem like a daunting task. Research has been done to look into why some students are more successful than others. Stern (1975), Rubin (1975) and Reiss (1985) are just a few of the researchers who have dedicated time to this subject. They have worked to determine what qualities make a "good language learner" (Mollica, Neussel, 1997). Some of their common findings are that a good language learner uses positive learning strategies, is an active learner who is constantly searching for meaning. Also a good language learner demonstrates a willingness to practice and use the language in real communication. He also monitors himself and his learning, has a strong drive to communicate, and has a good ear and good listening skills (Mollica, Neussel, 1997).
Özgür and Griffiths have designed an experiment in 2013 about the relationship between different motivations and second language acquisition. They have looked at four types of motivations—intrinsic (inner feelings of learner), extrinsic (reward from outside), integrative (attitude towards learning), and instrumental (practical needs). According to the test results, the intrinsic part has been the main motivation for these student who learn English as their second language. However, students report themselves being strongly instrumentally motivated. In conclusion, learning a second language and being successful depend on every individual.