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Posts Tagged ‘external factors’

Language Learning - Learner External Factors

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Have you ever stopped to consider how we learn second languages? If you are considering taking up a second language, knowing the process of how we learn can make you a more competent student as well as speeding up the process of learning at the same time. The way in which we learn our second language is different to how we learn our first. As we grow older our cognitive functions develop, giving us better skills to learn new things. As a child we are exposed to our native language, or languages, all of the time, whereas second language acquisition may be limited to just one or two hours a week.

Learner External Factors are the ways in which we are exposed to a second language and how we are effected by these outside forces. To better understand how we learn, linguists have studied the different ways we come across information on second languages.

Social effects can have a large impact on second language learning. If for example, you come from an Italian background but speak only English, you may encounter a large amount of encouragement in regard to learning Italian from your family and community. Discouragement can also occur, for instance after the September 11 attacks, the number of students studying Arabic dropped dramatically in many western countries due to the stigma attached to the Arabic language and culture after the attacks.

Input and intake are terms used within linguistics to describe exposure to language learning and the amount of information retained. Input is information the learner receives about the second language, usually direct exposure to the language itself. For example, if you spent an hour in a class learning Spanish, this would count as input. Intake is the information you remember. Linguists believe in order to maximize intake, input level should be slightly more than the learner is able to take in. Next time you are in a class and don’t quite feel like you understand everything, don’t worry. It’s the best and fastest way to learn. A good way to maximize intake is through interaction with native speakers. This ensures the language us have learnt is usable and also helps to build vocabulary.

Pedagogical techniques, or teaching methods, have also bee extensively studied. The way we are taught can drastically change how much we learn. It is believed by many specialists in the field that current techniques are not as effective as they could be.