Jasmine Tsai Tsen Chu
Factors in Second Language Acquisition
After reading the material we have been given about second language learning and learner variables, and discussing ideas we’ve brought to our potlucks, I’ve come to the conclusion that teaching a foreign language to learners of different ages, abilities, backgrounds, goals, and so forth is very complex. However, it’s clear that some factors and learner differences are more influential than others. I also realize that I can have an influence on some of them.
In my mind, the most important variable is learners’ identities. There are actually countries changing their national languages to show their identities and their differences between certain countries. For example: Pakistan and India, Ukraine and Russia. By seeing these two examples, it is not hard to tell the importance of the impact of identity in human languages, and how it can affect second language learning. According to Anwaruddin, people should pay attention to learners’ identities, for it is one of the keys to successful acquisition of foreign or second languages (Anwauddin, 2012). In Singapore, there are some people trying to learn authentic English, but at the same time, there are a lot of people who are not that willing to learn authentic English for they think that Singlish represents their identities, and it is part of their culture. In this example, we may draw a conclusion that identities do affect learners’ language acquisition. And by strengthening students’ identities will help to motivate students in their second language acquisition. Once students feel that their identities are respected and protected by their instructors, they will be more willing to take part in activities or learning the language. When students are motivated, they will have better possibility to acquire the language.
Another factor that is important to second language acquisition is personality. Different types of personalities affect the success in second language acquisition (Zafar & Meenakshi, 2012). According to the statement above, we could draw a conclusion that personality does affect language acquisition. Nakagawa states in his article that when students were put into class according to their proficiency and their personalities, it motivated students to learn the language, and gave students good experiences with learning languages (Nakagawa, 2004). When students are able to combine learning languages with their personalities, I believe that they will be more capable to express themselves, and show their identities by languages. As they do so, teachers would be able to tell that students are really getting the languages, and this will become a piece of evidence that personality does affect language acquisition.
In addition, attitude, aptitude, motivation, and learning styles are also important to second language acquisition. Attitudes determine everything. In Li Yang’s crazy English, one of the students has the attitude of changing China, and this attitude leads him to learn English. This is a good example to show how attitude can affect language learning.
Aptitude is one of other factors that influences language acquisition. According to Amy S. Thompson, Language aptitude can change (Thompson, 2013). This is such a good news for language learners! As language aptitude is dynamic, it means that people still have chances to pick up languages no matter how old they are or what ethnicity they are. Even though pronunciation may not be perfect, people are still able to reach near native speaker level.
Besides attitude and aptitude, motivation is another important factor to second language learning. According to Norris, integrative motivation is the key component in assisting the learners to develop language proficiency (Norris, 2001). Integrative motivation means that learners have the desire to communicate with people speaking the target language, or have love for that particular culture and have the desire to interact with people from that culture. One of my Chinese tutees is very motivated to learn Chinese because he is going to adopt a girl from China this December. Therefore, he tries every way to help him learn Chinese, and to pick up the language faster and better. In his case, it is not hard to see how integrative motivation works in him. Because he loves the little Chinese girl so much that he is willing to sacrifice his time and money to take the class, come to tutor session, and practice outside of the class. Gardner also states that integrative motivation promotes second language acquisition regardless of the age of the learner or whether the language is being learned as a second or foreign language (Gardner, 1985). I believe that motivation is one of the factors that teachers can help students with. It’s hard for us to change students’ attitudes or aptitudes, but we are able to motivate students in different ways to help them have more motivation in learning their target languages.
Another important factor in language acquisition is learning style. Cohen suggests that teachers should be aware of learners’ learning styles, and accommodate their teaching strategies to meet students’ learning style to help them progress as fast as possible (Cohen, 2000). As a result, it is important to first help learners understand their learning styles. When learners know their learning styles, they will have more possibilities to become more self-regulated, and according to Dornyei and Peters (2003), self-regulated learners are more likely to be successful in L2 acquisition. Consequently, learning style is an important component in learning languages.
Last but not the least, age and gender are also important elements in language acquisition. Payne and Lynn stated in their article that females are better at learning second language than males are (Payne & Lynn, 2011). Since females are more talkative than males are, they have more chances to use the language in their daily lives, and due to females’ talkativeness, their Broca’s areas are often stimulated. As a result, females’ Broca’s areas are more developed than males’. Since Broca’s area is the area that controls language and communication, and this results in a fact that females are better at learning languages than males are.
Age may be one of the essential factors that affect language acquisition. Age and cognitive development could have an important effect on people’s language acquisition (Pecenek, 2011). Two children moved to Italy, one is older, and the other one is younger. Both of them were under the same language environment, the older kid was able to keep his Turkish while learning Italian. However, the younger kid would code switch between Turkish and Italian. By seeing this example, we could draw a conclusion that age may be one of the important influences in second language acquisition.
To sum up, according to the research above, I’ve drawn to the conclusion that second language acquisition is a fairly complex process for there are many aspects of factors are included in it. Identity, personal belief, attitude, aptitude, motivation, learning styles, age, gender, and so forth are considered important factors of second language acquisition. As a result, as a teacher, it is essential to understand how to maximize the influential factors and help learners learn their target languages.
Anwaruddin, S. M. (2012). Learner Identity in Second Language Education. The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies , 18(2), 13-23. Retrieved from http://ejournals.ukm.my/3l/article/view/931/850.
Cohen, A.D. (2000, October). The learner’s side of ESL: Where do styles, strategies, and task meet? Paper presented at the Southeast TESOL Meeting, Miami, Florida.
Dornyei, Z. ,Peter, S.(2003) Individual Differences in Second Language Learning, Zoltan Dornyei. Retrieve from: http://www.zoltandornyei.co.uk/uploads/2003-dornyei-skehan-hsla.pdf.
Gardner, R. C. (1985). Social psychology and second language learning: The role of
attitude and motivation. London: Edward Arnold.
Nakagawa, J. (2004). Individual Differences and Teaching Style. TESL Reporter, 37(1), pp. 42-56.
Norris, J. (2001). Motivation as a Contributing Factor in Second Language Acquisition. The Internet TESL Journal, (7) Retrieved from http://iteslj.org/Articles/Norris-Motivation.html.
Payne, T. W., & Lynn, R. (2011). Sex differences in second language comprehension. ScienceDirect, 50 (3). Retrieved from http://sfx.lib.byu.edu/byuhawaii?genre=article&issn=0191-8869&date=2011&volume=50&issue=3&spage=434&aulast=Payne&aufirst=Tabitha&atitle=Sex%20differences%20in%20second%20language%20comprehension.
Pecenek, D. (2011). A longitudinal study of two boys' experiences of acquiring Italian as a second language: the influence of age. International Journal of Bilingualism, 15(3), 268+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA270149382&v=2.1&u=byuhawaii&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=be87a79d6ea37a69baad0b0a0dcf506f
Thompson, A.S. (2013). The Interface of Language Aptitude and Multilingualism: Reconsidering the Bilingual/Multilingual Dichotomy. The Modern Language Journal, 97(3), 685-689.
Zafar, S. & Meenakshi, K.(2012). A study on the relationship between extroversion-introversion and risk-taking in the context of second language acquisition. International Journal of Research Studies in Language Learning, 1(1), 33-40.