Choose Your Language

Archive for July, 2009

Learning English - ESL (English as a Second Language)

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

English is one of the primary languages that is taught almost everywhere in the world.
It has a lot of extended reach and influence around the world. The United States especially have a tremendous amount of immigrants that need to learn English as a second language.

The public school system accommodates this learning model by creating a specific program to assist children to make that transition. Most schools have debated whether they should isolate these children and keep them from interacting with their peers or allow them to learn some of the language through their peers.

If the student has developed cognitively and academically in the native language, this can have a positive effect on how they learn a second language. All the skills learned in the first language transfer to the second language.

It is critical that schools provide a learning environment that will sustain and encourage the use of what the child learned in the first language. Research has shown that first language acquisition helps the student learn a second language.

Students who are learning English as a second language will approach the second language using the same tactics they learned in the first language. One difference to be noted is that the student not only has to understand the meaning, purpose and use of the language, but also how to communicate it in written and verbal form.

Phases of learning English

Students go through five different stages when learning to write and speak English as a second language. The same is true for any second language. The stages include:

1.    Pre-production
2.    Early production
3.    Speech Emergence
4.    Intermediate Fluency
5.    Advanced Fluency

The pre-production phase is considered to be the silent or mimicking phase. Their vocabulary is limited and they don’t feel comfortable with speaking the language yet.

The early production phase may last for six months as the vocabulary expands and students learn more words. They begin to speak using one or two word phrases.

The speech emergence phase carries an even more wide vocabulary where students are actually speaking in simple sentences, but more comfortably. They may ask uncomplicated questions of incorrect grammatically error.

As they emerge in the intermediate fluency phase, they are speaking and writing in more complex sentences and are not afraid to express thoughts and ideas.

The advanced fluency phase may take as much as ten years to attain academic proficiency in the second language.


Peer interaction is helpful for students who are trying to learn English as a second language and teachers should foster and encourage this in and out of the classroom.
Teachers should offer as much support as possible.

Language Learning - The Culture Adaptation and Culture Shock Cycle

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

The Culture Adaptation and Culture Shock Cycle affect individuals who have come from another foreign country and are being introduced to a new cultural experience with the intention of returning to their own home culture. This means that they have to adapt to new language, new culture and new people.

These individuals have to go through seven different phases altogether with both the cultural adaptation and culture shock cycle combined. This will include:

1.    Pre-departure anxiety
2.    Honeymoon arrival
3.    Initial culture shock
4.    Adjustment period
5.    Mentally isolated
6.    Return anxiety
7.    Re-entry shock

There are some that will go through an acceptance phase where they feel welcomed and possibly will like some of the country’s customs and activities.

In the honeymoon arrival phase, there is some excitement of being in a new country, but also some anxiety and trepidation resulting from their pre-department anxiety and uncertainty.

If they are not satisfied with the culture of the new country, they will inherently reach a crisis period where the initial culture shock sets in. They are disappointed and feel mentally isolated. They may be experiencing problems with the adaptation process and start getting irritated, angry and sometimes outright rude.

If they are in a position to get their problems solved or feel like making the best of a bad situation, they will go into the adjustment phase and try to get rid of the negative thinking by accepting what they cannot change.

The time may come for them to return to their home country. Some will go through the return anxiety phase and the fear of what will happen once they get back home.

The re-entry shock phase follows as they return home to their country. In this phase, readjustment may be difficult and they may feel unaccepted.

Culture Shock

The five specific stages of culture shock are:

1.    Excitement at first
2.    Crisis
3.    Adjustment
4.    Acceptance and Adjustment
5.    Re-entry shock

There is limited communication for individuals that have to experience these five phases. This is why it is important for them to accept, adjust and adapt to their new surroundings.

Things that natives take for granted are very difficult for these individuals. Such things would include, meeting a new person on the street, shopping, or accepting an invitation to go somewhere.

A lot of them rely on facial expressions and gestures, which can be quite frustrating.

The different phases last as much time as the individual adapts to their new surroundings.

For example:

Honeymoon phase – will last about two weeks and up to six months
The crisis stage may last for up to three months


Some of the symptoms which individuals use or display as their coping mechanisms could be drinking, homesickness, crying, anger, anxious, impatient, over eating, or disgust. Making the best of an unusual situation in unfamiliar territory can be quite a challenge for most people.

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.


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.


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 - Mnemonic Devices

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Mnemonic devices are powerful tools for learning a foreign language. A mnemonic device is a word or sequence of words or images used as an aid to memory. The idea behind mnemonics is that meaningful information is easier to remember than arbitrary data. Words in a foreign language actually are not arbitrary, as they follow rules that are unique to that language. However, they can seem arbitrary to someone who is unfamiliar with the language system.
Word linking is one common mnemonic. This involves connecting words in your own language to words in the foreign language you are learning. For example, you could remember the Latin noun mensa, which means “table”, by picturing a table with a lot of men sitting around it. Or the Latin verb pugnare, which means “to fight”, could be associated with an image of a fighter with a pug nose in the boxing ring.

One ancient technique for remembering information is called The Roman Room. To use this mnemonic, imagine a room you know. Associate objects you visualize in the room with the information you want to remember. For example, to remember the French word for “boat”, bateau, associate bateau with a baseball bat learning in the corner of your room. To recall lumiere, the French noun meaning “light”, you could picture a weaver’s loom next to the lamp, beside the bat. Then you could imagine an elegantly dressed chap wearing a hat sitting at a table by the lamp to help you remember chapeau, the French word for “hat”.
Often the sounds of words you are learning can themselves remind you of similar words in English. These related words are called derivatives. Using derivatives as a mnemonic can be so easy, it almost feels like you are cheating! Illustrating with the same words from the example of the Roman Room technique, you could remember lumiere by thinking of the moon, shining with a luminous, golden light. And a chapeau is just a cap with a few extra letters added.

The practice of using of mnemonics is not without criticism. One drawback to mnemonics is that, if you can’t remember the device itself, it is useless. However, it is widely accepted that mnemonics are helpful tools for learning, because of the fact that mnemonics are not arbitrary data but are, instead, meaningful information.

When it comes to mnemonics, use whatever works for you! Any mental image you can conjure to help you remember a new word is fine, as long as it is vivid in your mind’s eye. The better you can visualize it, the easier it will be to remember.

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.


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.

Language Learning Methods - The Grammar Translation Method

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

The Grammar Translation Method was a traditional method used to teach Greek and Latin. It is also known as the classical method because it was developed centuries ago specifically to teach classical language.

This technique called for students to provide translation of an entire text on a word for word basis. They had to memorize a lot of grammatical rules and grammatical exceptions as well as a long list of vocabulary.

The main focus of using this method is:

•    Interpretation of words and phrases
•    Learning the structure of the second language by comparing it with the native language
•    Taking into account grammatical rules
•    Be able to read, write and translate a foreign language

The native language is used to conduct the class where a large vocabulary list was used that covered both languages; the second language as well as the first. Grammar points would be derived from the text and contextually presented in the textbook as it is explained by the teacher.

The Learning Process

Those grammar points were instrumental in giving the student a provisional rule of how to assemble words into appropriate sentences. The grammar drills and translations were incorporated into the learning process through practice and exercises. This helped to increase the knowledge of the student without them having to put too much emphasis on the content.

The student would break up different sentences as they were needed and translate them. By the time the student got through that process, they would have translated the entire text from the second language to the native language. In some cases, they would be asked to do the reverse (translate native language into second language) to make sure that they grasped the process.

There was hardly any emphasis placed on how words were pronounced or any type of verbal or nonverbal communication aspects of the language. Reading written text was essential to the learning process, but only to get the translation correct.


Conversational fluency is not important when it comes to grammar translation. You have to depend on your memory to be able to recall all the rules associated with the grammar of the second language you are trying to learn. The student who is learning using this technique will be able to read and write in the target language, but the spoken language is not a priority as well as emphasis on listening skills.