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Archive for the ‘Second Language Acquistion’ Category

Language Learning - Indo-European Languages

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Many second language learners notice similarities between their spoken language and learner language. This often makes language learning easier, for instance if you speak English, you will find it easier to pick up Italian than you might Mandarin. The reason behind this is that many languages belong to a language group; Indo-European languages.Indo-European Languages are spoken globally by over three billion people, just under one thousand languages make up this group. There are ten major sub categories of languages that fall under this heading. The earliest is Sanskrit, with documented use of language dating from the third millennium BC. Other major categories include Germanic languages including English, Italic languages including Latin and Italian and the Indo-Iranian languages.

Similarities between Indian and European languages were first documented by missionaries in the 16th century who noticed the similarity between Indian with Greek and Latin. By the 17th century a theory evolved among scholars that a primitive universal language was spoken hundreds of years ago, from which modern languages are derived.

Linguists have devised what is known as a tree model. This is where the evolution of a language is traced back to its original, known as a proto-language, which is placed at the top of the tree. From here, languages which are derived from the proto-language are known as daughter languages. At one time, all languages from the indo-European group would likely have evolved form one common proto-language. Some of these daughter languages are also identified as proto-languages for further daughter languages.

Linguists have made many attempts over the last hundred years to reconstruct the proto-indo-european language, which is known within linguistics as PIE. Although there are many reconstructions, linguists have not reached a consensus over what such a language might look and sound like; opinions on this matter are diverse within the field. Some linguists have gone as far as to reconstruct stories and fables in PIE, you can find these easily on the internet. The King and The God is one such attempt.

It is proposed that native speakers of Indo-European languages have a genetic link, that is a common ancestor somewhere along the line from whence these languages started developing.

Of the twenty most spoken languages in the world, twelve of these belong to the Indo-European Languages. They include; Spanish, English, Hindi, Portugese, Bengali, Russian, German, Marathi, French, Italian, Punjabi and Urdu.

Language Learning - Stages of Language Development (PEPSI)

Monday, July 20th, 2009

There are four levels and stages of language development that helps anyone to learn a second language.

In level one, this is the silent stage where there is not much comprehending and production at this stage is nonverbal. The student is listening to the language to try and make sense of it.

This is the first level stage where there is a lot more imitation than anything else. There is a pretense in how much the student comprehends. A lot of gestures and body language take precedence.

Level two is the early stage of production with limited comprehending in which responses are only through one or two words. This is the survival stage where the student feels that they need to learn enough for basic functioning. There is a lot of uncertainty at this time in this stage.

The last two stages

Level three gives the student an opportunity to emerge from nonverbal to verbal interaction. Comprehending the language becomes much easier by using simple sentences. You will find that in this stage there are more mistakes committed in verbal communication.

Plural and past tense are not important at this stage. The student may understand the concepts of the language, but is trying to become comfortable with the new language. Grammatical errors don’t’ concern the student at this point. Words are used, but not necessarily appropriately.

Level four is the final stage that consists of excellent comprehension of language. The student is able to use more complicated sentences and language fluency is more noticed. A lot more generalization is used in this stage of the game.

In this stage, it is helpful if students ask the teacher to define words and concepts in the language by indicating if they do or do not understand. An experiment with words and phrase among peers is usually the result of this stage.

These stages are noticed specifically in young children two years old who are just beginning to form their new language. They usually start off by using a vocabulary of fifty words that are recognizable.

Their sentences consist of two or more words. They respond quickly to one word or short phrase instructions such as “get me the toy,” or “come.” The toddler will often do some self talk and takes time to name things and repeat what these things do. These are similar to the stages of language development.

Conclusion

In the first stage, the teacher should never force the student to speak unless they are ready. It is quite feasible to learn silently. The second stage is the production of words and phrases that highlight the answers to what, where and who questions.

The third stage enhances the student’s dialogue and they are able to ask simple questions, but with grammatical mistakes, which is quite normal. The fourth stage is the actual intermediate stage of learning where the vocabulary has grown so that the student can share their thoughts more clearly.

There is a fifth and final stage, but this is more advanced and may take up to seven years to acquire language proficiency.

Language Acquisition - Redsignation

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Redesignation is a reclassification of a new language speaker from limited fluency to proficiency. There are certain specific criteria to determine when a student moves from one phase of fluency to another. This is determined by the recommendation of the teacher, verbal fluency, reading, and writing as well as how the student does in other academic studies.

Teachers have to be accountable for making the decision whether a student truthfully progresses from one level to the next. Giving credit where credit is due should be the result of redesignation.

It is important for educators to assess the language proficiency of students by collecting and analyzing data effectively to get the best results.

They can use this data to adequately target and improve on the instructions necessary to help the student to become even more proficient.

Students that adapt to English language as their second language and pass through the redesignation phase do so from one level to the next. They move from being English Learners (EL) to limited English proficient learner (LEP) and then to fluent English proficient learners (FEP).

When someone is learning a second language such as English, they have to enter a reclassification process to determine fluency before they can enter a normal classroom. With additional assistance, they can perform even better and get to the next level.

To make sure that student’s progress, teachers are required to give the students language assessment and proficiency test. This kind of process will help the teacher to detect the student’s growth in language proficiency in the earlier stages of learning.

However, it does not detect little changes or proficiency shifts at higher proficiency levels. The reason for that is because second language students that communicate at a higher level of proficiency do so as closely in approximation as that of a native speaker.

Conclusion

It is easier for teachers to measure student’s proficiency progress orally than by written observation because it entails listening and speaking. It is just easier to compare proficiency in a more verbal communicative environment. It is difficult to measure growth by reading and writing because these do not grow as progressively as listening and speaking.

Language Acquistion - Natural Approach (Terrell and Krashen)

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen corporately developed the natural approach to language acquisition in 1977. They made an impact on the global community as this approach had an influence on many classrooms.

The goal of the natural approach is allow the beginner who is learning a new language to become an intermediate learner. It relies on the needs that the learner has.

Learning a new language using the natural approach is based on certain specifics, which include:

  • The Acquisition hypothesis – this is where language acquisition is more important than language learning. Language acquisition develops more competence in the students and not so much the rules of the language as language learning do.
  • Monitor hypothesis – this is the checks and balances of learning consciously.
  • Natural order hypothesis – this is the grammatical structure that is usually expected and will do the student no good to learn them in another way.
  • Input hypothesis – this is when students who are learning a new language are better able to comprehend it at a slightly higher level of competence.
  • Affective filter hypothesis – this is when the student uses their emotions to block the input that is needed for language acquisition.

Some of the techniques that teachers can use to enhance the language acquisition using the natural approach is to allow students to speak when they are ready to do so, put students in group to foster more communication and use comprehensible input in student’s native language with gestures and other forms of articulation.

Students that use the natural approach are able to use the new language to indulge in meaningful conversations and activities.

Conclusion

It does seem from the approaches implemented by Krashen and the methods used by Terrell that students would learn to apply what they have learned more outside of the classroom and more by communicating with their peers.

This constitutes why students will learn language in a natural way when they can identify with others. The natural approach indicates that the more exposure to the new language that a student has then the more successful they will be.

Immersion Programs - Language Learning

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

During the 1960s, Canada experimented with the French Immersion Program to allow students to understand their French culture, tradition and its language; both French and English.

Immersion programs can be either a full or partial instruction of a second language. A full immersion is more effective because of the intensive curriculum. The second language is the medium used to teach students and more time is spent on this especially in the early years of a student’s schooling. This includes both reading and the language arts.

Partial immersion cuts the time spent in half learning a second language. Language arts and reading are partially taught in English and the other half in the second language.

Teachers that use these immersion programs expect to accomplish one or all of the items listed below on a long term basis:

1.    To develop the student’s level of proficiency
2.    To create a positive attitude toward the native language speakers and their cultures
3.    Develop the student’s English Language skills dependent on their age and expected abilities.
4.    Acquiring skills and content knowledge according to the curriculum and the objectives of the school board

The success of an immersion program has to do with how much administrative support is offered. The support of the community and parents are also helpful. Teachers have to be qualified and must have the right teaching materials for the second language. Developmental staff training and time given to teachers for preparation of instructional materials are very important.

Total immersion programs give the students more exposure to the language to make them more proficient. Some students may find it too much and so teachers will make recommendations to move students to a less intense program. It is not easy to find a total immersion teacher and so schools will usually promote the partial immersion classes. Some parents don’t think that students can learn a second language just as well as their own.

Partial immersion programs does not need as much special teachers. Schools can utilize the services of one teacher for two partial immersion programs for two half-days. In some cases, it makes the parents feel more at ease that their children are not spending all day learning a curriculum in a second language other than English. The proficiency level, however, of part time immersion students is far less than those for students in the total immersion programs.

Conclusion

In an immersion program, the second language is not the subject matter, but only a tool used to teach students how to become proficient in another language other than their own.

Linguistics - Morphology

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Morphology examines and studies how words are structured internally. It also looks at the way words are formed and the rules that go along with them.

Morphology spans three primary approaches that embrace the difference of each model in different ways. These three approaches are:

1.    The item and arrangement approach - Morpheme
2.    The item and process approach - Lexeme
3.    The word and paradigm approach – Word-based

These are strongly associated, but do have their differences and are not unlimited in how they are applied to the new language. According to the morphology model, a student will have knowledge of a word when they become familiar with:

1.    The spelling of the word
2.    The pronunciation of the word
3.    The definition of the word
4.    The part of speech of the word
5.    The history of the word
6.    If the word is improper
7.    If the word out of date
8.    Examples of the word
9.    Any slang associated with the word
10.    The root and stem of the word

With morphology, students who can analyze and identify a word in a second language; would have mastered the language to some degree. Rules in most languages determine how closely related words are.

For example in the English language, native speakers may be able to relate to the words, cats, cat, and cat food. They intuitively make inference to the fact that cat is to cats as bird is to birds. In a similar instance, cat is to cat food as bird is to bird feed.

The way that a student identifies both words; cat and cats as being related or similar is known as lexeme. On the other hand, bird and bird cage are different lexemes because they fall into different categories of word form.

The student understands the rules in terms of precise patterns in which the word is formed in a sentence or phrase.

Conclusion

So it is conclusive to say that morphology is an area of linguistics that is the study of the pattern in which words are formed within any language. It tries to form rules that are a representation of the knowledge of the students that speak the languages.

Language Learning - Maintenance Bilingual Program

Monday, July 13th, 2009

The maintenance bilingual program is specifically created to maintain and improve a student’s native language as the student tries to learn a second language.

In 1997, the National Research Council wrote a report that signifies the fact that students who are fully developed in their native language are more than likely to develop proficiently in a second language than those who do not have that benefit.

When a student can understand instruction in their native language, they are able to use those same abilities to acquire a second language. However, the maintenance program puts more emphasis on how fluent those children speak in both languages while they are in school. It should also be evident in how they maintain their academic skills.

Maintenance programs enrich and add stability to how students learn a new language. They are better able to engage and become participants of instructional work given and not just for exposure to it.

Becoming Organized

Usually maintenance bilingual programs are organized in groups of students who have the same native language. This will help them to use their native language instructions to articulate in the new language learned. The primary goal for a maintenance bilingual program is to keep the student’s skills intact while they learn a new language. It helps to develop and continue the enrichment of both languages. The student’s culture is also important to maintain so the student can feel comfortable learning a new language.

There are so much more benefits to speaking two languages. However, having a proficiency in both is an added advantage to the student. The teacher should never let the student feel as if they are giving up their native language. The student will learn faster if they can identify with the new language learned and incorporate what they know from their native language into learning the new language.

The maintenance bilingual program helps students to be more competent in English while still maintaining their own language and culture. The idea of biliteracy is encouraged. Biliteracy is when the teacher accommodates the student and allows them to learn two languages using the same curriculum.

Conclusion

The student is able to develop their cognitive and academic skills in both their native and second language. This would help the student to become more successful because they would be prepared both academically and cognitively.

Language Learning - Comprehensible Input 2 of 2

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Research shows that students learn better when they are afforded the opportunity to practice the language that they are trying to learn. They also have to practice at the level that they are comfortable with. This is referred to as Comprehensible Output.

However, Comprehensible Input is much more complex. It has to do with how students hear and understand instructions that are above the level of language that they are learning.

Here is an example:

Someone who may be learning English as a second language could be told to “Pass the book to Emily,” and be able to understand quite alright.

If the teacher would change the sentence to reflect a slight variation such as “Open the book for Emily,” then this new information would be added to the student’s comprehension of the language.

The teacher would have to give the student the new material that will utilize any previous knowledge that the student had.

As long as the student understands the message, the teacher would have accomplished the task of equipping the student with what is needed to learn the new language.

Comprehensible Input, formerly known as the Input Hypothesis, was initiated by Stephen Krashen, who was a linguist and instructor. Krashen uses the equation i+1 to explain how people move from one point of understanding language to the next.

The “i” in the equation would refer to previous language competence and the additional knowledge of the language that we have that depends on situations and experiences. The “1” in the equation would be representative of newly acquired knowledge.

There are two levels of learning new language using the Comprehensible Input method. One is the beginning level and the other is the intermediate level.

In the beginning level, most of the time in class is used for verbal input that is comprehensible. Teachers have to make sure that their speech is modified so students can understand. Teachers should not force the student to speak at this level. Emphasis on grammar is only initiated for students who go to high school or are adults learning a new language.

In the intermediate level, it is more confined to mostly academic subjects for comprehensible input. More of the focus is on the meaning of the subject than the form of the subject.

Conclusion

Comprehensible input is a not based on the natural order of teacher, but students will be able to comprehend the natural order by receiving the input.

Language Learning - Comprehensible Input 1 of 2

Monday, July 6th, 2009

For a student who is trying to develop a second language, whether there are learning difficulties or not, Comprehensible Input is the solution. The way that this method will work is that the student has to understand what is being taught and be able to comprehend it.

The teacher does not have to only use words for the student to be able to understand. Sometimes, the student will know the words and yet the instructions cannot be comprehended. It is best that the teacher give the student the appropriate input.

The teacher can use visual aids, putting words into context, and clarifications to communicate to the student and make it more understandable. Giving some background knowledge of the content is reasonable enough for the student to learn the language better. The teacher should use different concepts with a little variation of the terms.

Comprehensible input has more to do with context than it is with the content of the curriculum and language development. There is an emphasis on context because the teachers can indulge the experiences of the students that have learning difficulties.

Although, culture is important to actively involving the student, the teacher does not have to know everything about the student’s culture.  However, it is important that the teacher understand the importance of culture and experience as it relates to learning a new language.

Other techniques

There are other tactics that teachers can use to get through to the students. Some of these include using language consistently and allowing students to be more expressive of their own ideas.

Some people learn better with visual aids, so teachers can incorporate this into the classroom to make learning a second language more comprehensible. To make the instructions more coherent and understandable, teachers can use objects for presentations and gestures to improve learning.

Openly Communicate

The teacher should openly engage the students by asking a lot of questions and encouraging the student to be more involved by expressing their own thoughts in the second language.

One way that the teacher can foster motivation in students to be eager to learn the language is to have them share their own experiences verbally in the new language. This will increase their language skills and give them a way to identify with the language.

Conclusion

Comprehensible input is a model to learn a new language, but it is also a real way that students can learn a second language well. It is certainly achievable.

Language Learning - Linguistics: Input +1

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Twenty five years ago, Stephen Krashen created five hypothesis of language acquisition theory that has been used successfully by students who want to learn a second language. Input hypothesis is one of the five hypothesis theory.

Input hypothesis indicates that language acquisition for individuals who are learning a new language is administered through the understanding of messages and the receiving input that they can comprehend.

The student learning that new language, as the input hypothesis suggests, develops by getting instructions in that language that is beyond their present state of language proficiency.

Learners acquire competence with language comprehension “i” when they are exposed to an input that is comprehensible at a higher level as Krashen indicates would level “i + 1”.

Krashen thinks that students who learn under less pressure and anxiety and adapt to the second language in their own time or comfort level of comprehending are usually the ones that learn best.

Their success and development of the language does not come from forced production and correction, but from communicating and comprehending the language at their own pace.

The input hypothesis is more geared towards language acquisition than the actual learning process.

A student who is at phase “i,” will comprehend not from that particular phase, but from a level that is a little higher, which would be level “i + 1”.

Not every student will be at the same level at the same time, so a teacher should consider this in preparing a curriculum that will address all students in the class at their own comfort level of learning a new language.

Students should learn naturally by communicating with their peers in the language that they are trying to acquire. This will put them at an advance level of comprehension that their stage would rely on.

Conclusion

Stephen Krashen tried to explain the idea of input hypothesis by giving an example of someone who spoke English, but was trying to comprehend Spanish from a program on the radio.

If you are a beginning Spanish student and have ever listened to a Spanish radio station, you know that it is very difficult to comprehend what you hear. First of all, the comprehensible input is too complicated and is lacking a context that you can identify with so as to get clues from it.  This means that the beginner Spanish listener is not at that level of comprehension. Its level is too high for the beginner to comprehend.

However, an advanced Spanish listener would be able to understand. The input hypothesis suggests only a comprehensible input a slighter level higher where the student can at least hear some of the words and phrases learned as a beginner.