This research article aims to shed light on some of the points that must be considered for effective second language learning based on the process in which the first language has been acquired. Taking the chinese
people learning english
in their country as an example, this paper will attempt to analyze the important factors, which may be helpful for their second language learning.
First Language Acquisition
We generally acquire our first language at around the same age. It is worth noting that all children
around the world learn their own mother tongue with ease. Therefore, there is no such thing as a ‘difficult’ language.
First, the child must be exposed to the language. Someone must speak to them using their mother tongue. Language is purposeful (Clark). The desire to communicate with this ‘someone’ largely motivates the child to use the language. To put simply, the process of acquiring the language is listening and then speaking.
The ability to mimic is important in learning a language. children
learn through imitation and repetition. By repeating the words or phrases they have heard, they are also practicing. They were not taught how to speak their mother tongue formally by explaining the grammatical structure. They have an innate capability of figuring it out themselves. It is true, though, that at an early age, children
do not always use the ‘proper’ grammatical structure.
Second Language Acquisition
Many people around the world are bilingual, or even multilingual. In the philippines
, where there are plenty of chinese
migrants, some speak chinese
at home and Filipino and english
at school. According to Joseph Galasso, second language ‘learning’ relies more on cognitive mechanism in order for the learner to figure out how to use the second language. And yet, some of the people acquire their second language almost as naturally as they do their first language (e.g. Filipinos). For a monolingual country, such as china
, the population can only learn a second language in the classroom. They lack exposure to their target language.
Exposure to the language at an early age gives the learner an advantage. The critical period hypothesis claims that there is a biological timetable for acquiring a language. There is strong evidence that children
may never acquire a language if they have not been exposed to it before they reach the age of 6 or 7 (Clark). They get familiar with the sounds and the intonation and store it in their memories.
Alexander Guiora explained that one of the obstacles the adults have in learning a second language is called a language ego. It allows the learners to have inhibitions and a sense of defensiveness against the target language, something that children
Guidelines for Effective Second Language Learning
There are four other things to be considered by language learners and teachers
that could help make their learning experience more effective.
1. Exposure – The students need to be constantly exposed to the target language. If possible, they must be able to interact with native speakers. In china
, it has been a trend among the rich population to send their children
abroad to learn the language. It is, no doubt, a very effective way learning. Of course, this is not an option for everyone.
The learners could listen to songs or watch some movies and television series (without chinese
subtitles) that might interest them. The earlier they start to do this, the better.
2. Imitation and Repetition/Practice – Suggested activities from number one leads to this one. While watching, they could also try to imitate the words and sentences they hear. Repetition and practicing can go a long way if one persists.
3. Desire/Motivation – Whether it’s a desire to learn the language for a career or for communicating with a loved one, having a strong purpose for learning greatly affects the learning of a student. teachers
might have a difficult time trying to entice students that have no desire to learn. It is important that they like and enjoy the class. One of the few things that can be done in the classroom is playing a game. This is an opportunity for them to interact with others and hopefully, allow them to enjoy while learning.
4. Language Ego – Oftentimes, students feel embarrassed to try and fail to pronounce words correctly. They might also feel frustrated when they cannot use the second language to express what is on their minds. teachers
should, therefore, consider how they should treat their students (e.g. when and how to correct them). The atmosphere in the classroom should at least make them feel safe. It should be a place where they can express their thoughts however they can, knowing that they wouldn’t be made fun of or criticized.
Clark, Beverly A. First and Second Language Acquisition in Early Childhood. http://ceep.crc.uiuc.edu/pubs/katzsym/clark-b.pdf
Galasso, Joseph. First and Second Language Acquisition. http://www.csun.edu/~galasso/lang1.htm
Hadley, Hiromi. Reviewing First and Second Language Acquisition: A Comparison between Young and Adult Learners. http://www.nuis.ac.jp/~hadley/publication/languageacquisition_files/languageacquisition.htm
Comparing and Contrasting First Language and Second Language Acquisition. http://www.literature.freeservers.com/image_polat/ccfsla.html
The Language Ego (2009). The Education Blog