TEFL Pupukea Hawaii

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First Language versus Second Language Acquisition (15) It is common for efl and esl teachers to examine the differences between first language acquisition and second language acquisition. Many teachers see children pick up their native tongue so quickly, and yet children do not seem to defy the mysteries of language acquisition when it comes to a second language. Why is that? The nature of first language and second language acquisition is fundamentally different. In the following pages, a few of these stark differences will be highlighted. With first language acquisition, there is listening and association with the environment. children do not sit at desks and watch a parent introduce words such as fruits. Young children are interacting with the objects they encounter. They touch it and taste it. They hear the parent repeat a word or phrase. They mimic what they hear and then it becomes a part of their endless knowledge base. Little by little they understand and begin to utter sounds, words, and ultimately phrases. Their grammar is not perfect, but then again the parents are not looking for perfect grammar. The fact is, many adults are not consciously aware of grammar constructions and rules. If you were to ask an adult about the differences of articles or what modal auxiliary verbs are, most would be unable to answer. Parents are not dissecting the language to explain it to the child. They are using it to communicate and teach the child about what their surroundings and how that child plays a part in the environment. After listening and speaking, children learn the more advance stages of language acquisition: reading and writing. As the children have already made sense of their surroundings in the first language, they now approach the second language in a more pragmatic manner: What is different about this language? When do I use it? Who do I use it with? Why do I use it? What makes the difference is that children are continually in contact with the first language. They develop in this positive learning environment and come to rely on it for communication. The time spent in the classroom atmosphere for second language instruction is merely a fraction of time spent with family, so teachers compress the process and teach listening and speaking together. Older children will also begin to learn to read and write. Soon, children are tackling all four areas of language. Some children may find the challenge enjoyable, while others will feel lost and unable to produce language. This is not to say that second language acquisition is a lost cause, but review and practice must be a focal point in the teaching method so that children can develop confidence. The language development of bilingual children follows a similar pattern to that of monolingual children (Clark 183). Therefore, teachers of efl and esl should break down language into building blocks and put the pieces of language together in ways that reproduce native language scenarios. This discussion is valid between children acquiring their first language and children acquiring their second language—with age as a constant—before the critical period of language development. According to the critical-period argument, the human body provides a biological count-down for fluency. The critical period of language development occurs during puberty or shortly thereafter, typically ages 12-15. After this point, the individual is supposedly past the point of fluency and can have no hope of perfect pronunciation or understanding of grammar. Snow and Hoefnagel-Hohle state that “there are few reported cases of successful first language acquisition after the age of puberty” (1114). Yet for all the research that suggests a second language cannot be fluently acquired post-critical period, there are learners who succeed in doing so. While pronunciation is markedly harder for adult learners, it is still possible. More important than age difference is individual difference, and factors such as family, friends, and location feed into individual difference to create an endless number of possibilities for success.

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