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UNIT 3 FACTORS AFFECTING SECOND/FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING . 3.1. Children and adults in L2 learning 3.2. Basic psychological factors affecting L2 learning 3.3. Social situations affecting L2 learning 3.4. Explanation for differential success among L2 learners 3.4.1. Age factor

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unit 3 factors affecting second foreign language learning


3.1. Children and adults in L2 learning

3.2. Basic psychological factors affecting L2 learning

3.3. Social situations affecting L2 learning

3.4. Explanation for differential success among L2 learners

3.4.1. Age factor

3.4.2. Community context

3.4.3. Motivation

3.4.4. Attitude

3 1 children and adults in l2 learning
3.1. Children and adults in L2 learning
  • Who is better? (discussion in small groups)
  • It’s difficult to state with certainty who is more privileged in L2 learning.
  • Children enjoy certain biological advantages for some aspects of language (young learners have over the adults in picking up language quickly- especially vocabulary and pronunciation and often just by exposure, without teaching), on the other hand, adults have an enormous cognitive advantage for others.
are the processes of l2 and l1 acquisitions the same
Are the processes of L2 and L1 acquisitions the same?
  • Read Text 1 (provided in class) and discuss in groups. Provide written summary of the group discussion and hand in to your teacher.
  • Until today, the researchers haven’t reached any consensus regarding either the utility of L1 research for L2 acquisition, or the general applicability of the L1 language paradigm to the issues of L2 language research.
neurolinguistic linguistic and psycholinguistic points of view
Neurolinguistic, linguistic, and psycholinguistic points of view
  • . The research that has addressed the problem of how learners learn a L2 has been conducted from different disciplinary points of view: neurolinguistic, linguistic, and psycholinguistic.
neurolinguistic approach in l2
Neurolinguistic approach in L2
  • Neurolinguistic approach in L2 concerns the localization of language functions and studies mostly how a bilingual brain functions. (In 5.3. we’ll talk about the issue in detail); it is also concerned with some biological constraints in both L1 and L2 acquisitions.
linguistic theories
Linguistic theories
  • Linguistic theories are not typically or necessarily theories of L1 or L2 acquisitions, but each linguistic theory has implications for the kind of cognitive or psychololinguistic acquisition theory that is compatible with it. (Example: the theory of Universal Grammar had implications on the structure of the language that is designed to fit within the given theory.) The main concern of this approach would be, for example, learnability theories, what linguistic input and processes would brought up the emergence of the target grammar, etc.
psycholinguistic approach
Psycholinguistic approach
  • Psycholinguistic approach is based on the premise that learner’s mental processes are responsible for acquisition of language. It concentrates on meaning and language and their relation, also how these meanings are learned (the cognitive aspect). Psycholinguistic approach also studies multilingual speakers and if they have separate or unified mental representations for each known language.

Although each approach contributes to an explanation of several aspects of language acquisition, each of them is suited to explain one in particular:

  • Neurolinguistic approach (explains the phonological components of the language acquisition).
  • Psycholinguistic approach (explains how lexical system is acquired).
  • Linguistic approach (explains how syntax is acquired).
to compare how the three approaches work more clearly we can use a computer analogy
To compare how the three approaches work more clearly, we can use a computer analogy:
  • “If one wanted a complete explanation of how a particular computer at program worked, it would be necessary to characterize at least three parts of the system. The explanation of how each of the three parts functioned would be based on a different type of theory or analysis. Principles of mechanics and electronics would be necessary to explain the functioning of the computer hardware (cf. neurolinguistic approach), structural and engineering principles would be needed to describe the nature of the data entered into the program (cf. linguistic approach), and logical and computational principles would guide the description of the software that ran it (cf. psycholinguistic approach). To take the analogy further, it would also be necessary to describe the environment in which the computer is functioning: what other kinds of devices it is connected to, and what kind of power supply it has. Descriptions of this sort would correspond to sociolinguistic analyses of second language learning” (Bialystok, 1994, p. 135).
psychological and social factors involved in l2 acquisition
Psychological and social factors involved in L2 acquisition
  • There is variety of factors involved in L2 acquisition. For the purpose of our study, we’ll divide them roughly into: psychological and social. In addition to these basic divisions (psychological/social), we’ll take into consideration also other individual variables.
3 2 basic psychological factors affecting l2 learning
3.2. Basic psychological factors affecting L2 learning
  • Intellectual processing,memory, and motor skills are the basic psychological factors affecting L2 learning.
intellectual processing
Intellectual processing
  • Explication
  • Induction
  • Usually in our common teacher practice, we observe that the rules and structures of L2 are explained to a learner. It is done either in his/her (learner’s) L1 or L2 and he/she has to apply these rules in the L2. The explanation in the target language (L2) is usually given to more advanced L2 learners.
  • It’s important to state that not all the language features can be learned entirely by explication. Language is always undergoing changes and not all the rules have been written down or have been completely explained in grammar books. (Also some common topics as English tenses or articles, prepositions, etc. are still topics for discussion in linguistic journals.)
  • When you are using the method of explication, you should be aware that it’s a method that is rarely applicable to young children. (Some of you, who are already parents, or teachers of small children, will probably know that.) Young children learn language (their L1) by the process of induction, mostly. Parents, who will try to use the method of explication, will probably fail, as in the following example:
  • “ Parents do not even attempt to explain a relatively simple rule morpheme rule, like that one of the plural. You do not hear a parent saying: ‘Now, Mary, to make the plural of “dog” you add a “z” sound to the end of the word, while with “duck” you add an “s” sound. You do this, Mary, because the last sound of “dog” has a voiced consonant and the last sound of “duck” has an unvoiced one!’” (Steinberg, 2001, p. 170).
do you find the previous example amusing
Do you find the previous example amusing?
  • There are many syntactic rules, some are simple, others complex. Some of them may be so complex and abstract that few people other than students of linguistics (and sometimes not even them) can understand them (or use them correctly). Studies done by various researchers (Hammerly, 1975; Robinson, 1996; both in Steinberg, 2001,p. 171) proved that explication seemed to work better for simple rules, whereas induction (implicit instruction) was better for complex rules. Learning rules by self-discovery is the essence of the process of induction.
  • What do you think?
what do you think
What do you think?
  • The learner remembers what he/she heard, must analyze the information and figures out the rule that underlines that speech. Once that person discovered “the rule”, he/she tries to see how or if this rule applies in other cases.
  • crucial for language learning
  • If the person has suffered from memory impairment, he/she won’t be able to learn his/her L1 (and much less L2) because learning of L2 words requires memory. The learner of L2 has to be able to link the sound /written representation of the word with its meaning. Such connection between the form and meaning is absolutely arbitrary (with the exception of onomatopoeic words); thus the word for the man’s best friend is “dog” in English, “perro” in Spanish, “Hund” in German, “chien” in French, “pes” in Czech, “sabaka” in Russian, etc.
  • Memory is crucial for learning grammatical structure and rules, and it is only through the memory that a learner can accumulate the vast amount of speech and relevant information.
  • For some of this linguistic information, the learner needs time to process it, and further on, to use it independently.
  • Young children display a phenomenal ability at rote memorizing.
  • Have you ever read a bedtime story to your child (nephew/niece)? You were reading the story that your child was familiar with because children like to watch, or to be told the same story many times. So, you were reading the story, tired, your head nodding off to sleep and thus you decided to skip some parts of the story. What happened?
when does the decline in memory start
When does the decline in memory start?
  • According to some researchers, around 8 years of age some decline in memory begins, and progressing with more decline from about 12 years of age. Thus we can say children under 7 have better memory than children 7-12. Young children (under 7) tend to rely more on memory than older children but older children began to apply their cognitive abilities in analyzing the syntactic rules of L2. One possible suggestion, or interpretation of the phenomenon could be the presumption that older children in L2 perform syntactic analyses relatively soon because they have realized that they have problems memorizing all the sentences they have heard; in that way their mental processing in L2 is being speeded.
short term memory some interesting investigations
Short term memory, some interesting investigations
  • Some interesting findings, results of the research on short-term memory, seem to prove that this type of memory increases up to the age of 15 (Hunter, in Steinberg, 2001, p. 174) Other interesting research (Cook, in Larsen-Freeman, 1992, p. 202) found that adults were able to apply their memory better than children in many classroom learning situations but this was not valid all the time.
adults children investigations
Adults/children (investigations)
  • They outperform children on language tasks because they can develop certain language learning strategies that children cannot.
  • Memory seems to begin its sharpest decline around the age of puberty (due to some changes in the brain). L2 learning becomes more difficult for 15-20-year-old than for 5-10-year-old (for the short-term memory). However, previously acquired long-term memories remain intact. It’s in the L2 (new learning) where a problem with older adult begins. Nevertheless, such problems cannot be attributed exclusively to the decline in memory ability, it goes together with the question whether the adults continue to engage in higher thinking and analysis or not. If they remain intellectually active, there is no reason to think they would not be able to master L2 structures. Yet, there are indicators that L2 learning in a classroom situation becomes more difficult with age.
motor skills
Motor Skills
  • Good pronunciation is clearly part of learning a foreign language.
  • The better our pronunciation, the better is our chance to communicate with others.
  • Motor skills is a term which psychologists use to describe the use of muscles in performing certain skills. It applies to more general skills, and for speech production, we utilize the articulators of speech. These include: the mouth, lips, tongue, vocal cords, hard and soft palates, etc., which are controlled by muscles (and they are subsequently controlled by the brain). The articulators of speech have to perform certain movements and positions so that the sound is produced correctly.
when does the general decline of our motor skills start
When does the general decline of our motor skills start?
  • Around the age of 12 years or so.
  • The reason for such decline in fine control of muscles of the body is yet unknown, but it could be caused by changes in the brain, mainly by the loss of its plasticity. A number of studies, and also our experience in teaching practice, confirm that the earlier the age at which acquisition of the L2 begins, the more native-like the accent will be.
3 3 social situations affecting l2 learning
3.3. Social situations affecting L2 learning
  • There are many situations in which L2 is learned. They can be divided into two main categories:
  • Natural situations (in which L2 is learned in similar way as L1).
  • Classroom situations (which involves the social situation of the school classroom).
  • Each of these types of social situations has its own advantages and disadvantages. If an adult is given the same conditions, i.e. the same amount of exposure to the given language, he/she would need more time and probably will not acquire true native-speaker like pronunciation. As one gets older, there is a decline in the kind of social interaction that promotes language learning. Children obviously have more good L2 interactions.
the natural situation
The Natural Situation
  • In those situations L2 is learned in events of everyday life.
  • Who benefits more, children or adults?
  • When parents of a 5-year-old child, for reasons of job, have to move temporarily to other country, their child will soon be translating for them (obviously if they did not know the foreign language beforehand).
social acceptance
Social acceptance
  • We have to take into consideration that almost all social interaction occurs through language, which is especially true with adults (children don’t need in many cases language interaction to be able to socialize), although adults seem to be in disadvantageous position in that respect, given the fact that very few native speakers are willing to spend time socializing with someone who does not speak their language.
  • The older the child gets, though, the greater the role of language in social interaction and also of the social acceptance resulting from the previous.
social acceptance1
Social acceptance
  • In puberty, peer acceptance becomes a great problem; even the children who speak the same language (sometimes with different accent because he/she is coming from the different part of the country, or with the same accent, coming from different town or even from the same town but from different school) have often difficulty in gaining acceptance. Without social acceptance, L2 learning in natural situation can hardly begin for a learner.
social acceptance2
Social Acceptance
  • Sometimes older L2 do not accept the social norms of a new community; they try to maintain their cultural identity and cultural beliefs by avoiding situations with necessary L2 interactions (people of the same L1 stick together in the new environment). The Acculturation Model Theory of language learning (Schumann, in Steinberg, 2001, p. 180) states that the more acculturated (=adapted to the new culture), the higher interaction in L2 and increasing opportunities of L2 acquisition.
parenthese the foreigner talk
“Parenthese”/ ‘The foreigner talk’
  • Many native speakers sometimes use a kind of simplified speech when they talk to foreigners (it’s similar to L1 acquisition situation when parents talk to children in simplified speech called sometimes “Parenthese” or “Baby talk”).
  • The ‘foreigner talk’ and “Parenthese” share many characteristics: well-formed utterances with fewer subordinate clauses and more common vocabulary, but with children the talk is more simplified (with foreign learners it can’t be so simplified because they could get offended).
  • We may say that the ability to learn in a classroom situation improves with age because older children and adults can adapt better to the classroom regimen and understand better when explications of L2 topics is provided. To be able to respond the question: who is better, children or adults, we must therefore consider whether we are dealing with natural situation or the classroom situation. Each situation must be considered separately in relation to the psychological factors which affect the learning of a language.
the classroom situation
The Classroom Situation
  • The classroom situation is isolated from other social life in a context of L2 language community. L2 learning is a planned situation. It’s a very different situation compared to community situation where L2 learner is performing different activities while learning and using L2.
  • In the classroom situation, language itself becomes the prime aspect, around which all revolves, while in the natural situation language is only one aspect of life accompanying other events.
  • In classroom situation, the teacher is the prime source of L2 and language planning occurs. In that situation, older L2 learners, and older children, seem to do better than young children.