Language Acquisition

Classroom-Based Research Project Aspects of Language Acquisition

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(8591 Words)

For this project, I have focused my inquiry on the way students acquire language. The question that I would like answered is: How do students acquire language in the classroom environment and what best techniques fit their style of learning? This includes styles that I think do/did not fit in the classroom environment and could actually hamper students’ learning and their acquisition of a language. The classroom data that I used for this essay comes from the teacher (me) and the students that I was teaching. To add to this data in the inquiry, I also observed another teacher, who for one period taught the same class of students. For this essay, I wanted to work out, through analysis, how certain commands such as asking the students to do tasks, either work or not. A few subset questions came to mind such as: how do the teacher’s concise instructions alter students’ concentration or understanding in the acquisition of their language? In what way does the lesson move ahead through controlled teaching? What gives students that drive to a better understanding? I would like, through analysis, to delve deeper into the teaching methods and come to realize for myself, that much more, how the students’ minds work. This better understanding means that my methods of teaching, hopefully, make those students speak more fluently, without hesitation, or worry about their mistakes and aids their learning. I have, through this essay, tried to equally use my thoughts as well as the students. I hope that this essay gives a clearer picture for the reader, as well as myself, on helping students acquire language.

I would just like to add that, apart from studying/researching the class, the most intriguing and challenging part of this classroom research for me, was the research that occurred in the privacy of the staff room. There was a lot of material to be sifted through and connections to be made. This made me make sure that the students provided me with the best possible information untainted by fears of evaluation and embarrassment. I had to analyze the information I received: “How were they thinking about this subject? Why? What shall I do next?” Classroom research for me was intellectually very demanding and at times, quite perplexing. Also, I had to take criticism from some of the tasks that maybe didn’t work in class. The advantages for me as a teacher of using self-evaluation for this research are hugely beneficial for my deeper understanding of the students’ acquisition of language. The scrutinizing of a teacher’s instructions and seeing their students’ reaction to extra instruction, where it is realized that the students don’t get the meaning, is enlightening in respect to the analysis of the teacher’s methods.  A teacher can often see their mistakes with a bit more thought. I found that it made me think more about my techniques.

I also think for many reasons my students benefited immensely from my research. Firstly in the act of self-assessment, I think the students developed some knowledge/abilities to see themselves more clearly as learners in relation to their course objectives. Secondly, students who were in small group discussions got to compare and contrast their experiences with others and through large group discussion they developed a sense of the whole class learning and where it’s moving. Thirdly, I not only got insights into how this group of students were doing, but it also opened up channels of collaboration for me to work with individual students on their progress in the course. I think for the students, in hearing what their peers thought, students were able to overcome the isolated, individual student/teacher relationship. They could see themselves as part of a group (including myself) that was marked not by competition, but by solidarity in a common enterprise of understanding and using the subject matter with competence and confidence. For me, I think the students were not used to evaluating their learning or the teacher’s teaching, so it was an enlightening experience, I think for us both. And a process I will continue with the same students as I feel we have a better understanding, now.

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The classroom, language acquisition and Stephen Krashen

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I think a few of you can recall I mentioned Stephen Krashen a few times and his theory on comprehensible input.  Of course, time is always with us over the two days, so I am always reticent to talk too long about certain theories, although I hope I do highlight it efficiently and effectively. So, I have written a few extra notes on language acquisition, the classroom and Krashen and his approach and theory that will hopefully make you think more about what goes on in the learning environment and the approach you take in teaching the students.

To begin with, an EFL instructor can be a fantastic teacher but how does he/she know if the students are ‘acquiring the language’ in the way they should be which is natural and not forced.  ‘Acquiring language’ is one of the salient points in children’s actual acquisition of a language. It is a fact that children, in a natural settings learn language rapidly and without formal instruction. Children are not given formal education when they are very young yet they acquire their language progressively to being fluent. It makes me think of some Thai schools I worked in where they barrage the students with grammar that is in such a formal setting that doesn’t leave any room for talking. The students can be very good at grammar but cannot speak and quite a few seem very shy also. Furthermore, if the students are not relaxed in the classroom (the setting) the teacher cannot expect them to learn. You would hope they learn their second language the same as their first language in a natural way where children never felt the language was demanding or never felt pressured and weren’t inhibited to use it.

The classroom as a setting I think should not be a place that is far from reality such that students can only speak in the classroom not outside where it is most important. I think that as a teacher the authenticity of the teacher’s teaching and the classroom has to be right so as to enlighten the learning experience. The issue here is students often learn their second language through constant grammar study so the similarity between it being similar to a natural, childhood, first language acquisition and later second language acquisition is not apparent. Thus creating a real classroom experience is a must for the students. The use of real objects, pictures, videos, roleplays, situations, even field trips (not forgetting the teacher/facilitator’s approach) to get the feeling that the students will use this language outside the classroom in numerous settings is a must.

Stephen Krashen whose ‘acquisition theory’ is used in teaching, states that ‘language learners need language ‘input’ which consists of new language along with clues as to what the language means’. As a teacher, you should follow this path that allows the students to speak in class while giving them that little bit more to expand their language. The teacher should build on what the students already know. I think this normal delivery of speech and with ‘hands-on’ language acquisition experience facilitates the natural learning process. If you remember when you were a child and your parents never really gave you a formal education in language acquisition, here lies comprehensible input that naturally supplies children: it is slower and simpler. Moreover, it focuses on the here and now, it focuses on meaning over form, and it extends and elaborates on the child’s language.

I think the students should not be treated like kids but you should allow the students to speak and acquire more language as they use their already known language such that the process will follow that the students will acquire more in your interesting natural approach classes.

 

Language Acquisition

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Language is a unique medium by which speakers, once it has been acquired, can communicate their thoughts and feelings to others. This powerful tool with which people can conduct their business or the government of millions of people, the vehicle by which science and philosophy have been transmitted, is truly remarkable. This sui generic verbal expression used by humankind is surely worth studying, I will try in this essay to put forward ideas about the study and mastery of the English language focusing on first language acquisition. The English language has in its time gone through many diversities of cultures. The expression is a reminder that the history of the English language is a story of cultures in contact during the past 1500 years of communication between people. This amalgamation of the English language must be considered through the mixed character of its vocabulary. This lexis is prominent among the assets of the English language. Most notably this modeling makes for a language that has been acquired through various means, including borrowing from other languages, the words that it needs. The English language is forever changing as the years go by. The English language we arrive at today is distinctly different from the days of Geoffrey Chaucer’s English and Latin is all but forgotten.

To begin with, scholars in the field of language acquisition, work on many theories in their theoretical basis, as being a child’s language acquisition process. Two notable theories are that language is just like any other behavior, the child acquires. The behavior, which is mostly under the control of, forces acting on external stimulations. The child’s personal character is molded with the language. Also, other scholars assume that language is innate and that no real learning situation is there. We can certainly take for granted that a child’s language acquisition appears to develop in mostly all children under normal circumstances, either as a unilingual or multilingual skill, crucially between the ages of one and five and a necessary interplay of innate and environmental factors. Their new language is acquired through no actual official training; any child can learn any language, under suitable conditions that allow the child to develop embracing voice and kinesthetic stimulation. The child will also follow facial movements. Certain innateness can be seen in a newborn baby’s character, for example, a baby will happily suckle the mum’s breast for milk on the first day, which shows that a child has a natural tendency to do specific behavioral tasks. The connection between the significant physiological and cognitive stages in the maturational history of a child leads several scholars to argue that there might be the biological ability in man that makes the human form of communication uniquely possible for our species and in this sense language is innate. From the moment they enter the world to eight weeks, babies start the process of language acquisition. They begin to cry and make little sounds; this exercises the vocal organs and gives them practice in controlling the flow of air through their mouth and nose. These movements are the preliminary steps towards speech. Right-minded parents will help their child with their initial language even though the child will spontaneously acquire language himself while progressively developing his motor coordination.

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Language Acquisition

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(Words 6353)

Language is a unique medium by which speakers, once it has been acquired, can communicate their thoughts and feelings to others. This powerful tool with which people can conduct their business or the government of millions of people, the vehicle by which science and philosophy have been transmitted, is truly remarkable. This sui generic verbal expression used by humankind is surely worth studying, I will try in this essay to put forward ideas, about the study and mastery of the English language focusing on first language acquisition. The English language has in its time gone through many diversities of cultures. The expression is a reminder that the history of the English language is a story of cultures in contact during the past 1500 years of communication between people. This amalgamation of the English language must be considered through the mixed character of its vocabulary. This lexis is prominent among the assets of the English language. Most notably this modeling makes for a language that has been acquired through various means, including borrowing from other languages, the words that it needs. The English language is forever changing as the years go by. The English language we arrive at today is distinctly different from the days of [1]Geoffrey Chaucer’s English and Latin is all but forgotten.

To begin with, scholars in the field of language acquisition, work on many theories in their theoretical basis, as being a child’s language acquisition process. Two notable theories are that language is just like any other behavior, the child acquires. The behavior, which is mostly under the control of, forces acting on external stimulations. The child’s personal character is molded with the language. Also, other scholars assume that language is innate and that no real learning situation is there. We can certainly take for granted that a child’s language acquisition appears to develop in mostly all children under normal circumstances, either as a unilingual or multilingual skill, crucially between the ages of one and five and a necessary interplay of innate and environmental factors. Their new language is acquired through no actual official training; any child can learn any language, under suitable conditions that allow the child to develop embracing voice and kinesthetic stimulation. The child will also follow facial movements. Certain innateness can be seen in a newborn baby’s character, for example, a baby will happily suckle the mum’s breast for milk on the first day, which shows that a child has a natural tendency to do specific behavioral tasks. The connection between the significant physiological and cognitive stages in the maturational history of a child leads several [2]scholars to argue that there might be the biological ability in man that makes the human form of communication uniquely possible for our species and in this sense language is innate. From the moment they enter the world to eight weeks, babies start the process of language acquisition. They begin to cry and make little sounds; this exercises the vocal organs and gives them practice in controlling the flow of air through their mouth and nose. These movements are the preliminary steps towards speech. Right-minded parents will help their child with their initial language even though the child will spontaneously acquire language himself while progressively developing his motor coordination.

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A look at teaching methodology over the last 30 years

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Second language teaching can be employed in many ways and is born from many theories hypothesizing how we acquire language through the process of first or second language acquisition. Central to these theories of language acquisition was the emergence of the concept of “methods” of language teaching. It is this language teaching coupled with its methodology I will discuss in this paper notwithstanding that teaching methods can not be applied if we do not understand how students gather all the information for their language acquisition. Methodology can be fundamentally sound but if we (the teachers) do not understand the minds of our students that much clearer, all the hard teaching work will be fruitless. Methodology in teaching in all it forms originates from questions the teacher asks himself about the students and learning environment such as: Who are the learners? What exactly do they do? For what purpose are the students learning the language? In what setting are the students learning?,  With what kinds of language?, In what patterns of social interaction? , and also what are the particular outcomes in terms of quantity/quality of language use, attitudes, and motivation? This is not forgetting the teacher who must consider the design features of his lesson that might include such points as: stated objectives, syllabus specifications, and type of activities, roles of teachers, learners, and materials. These are the sort of questions and ideas that are congruent with referring to a methodology for teaching and will help with answering the question for this paper; what is teaching methodology? I will also generally try to focus on teaching methodology over the last thirty years.

To begin with, teaching methodology in all its forms helps the students in their acquisition of language. Our knowledge of the student and his learning is fundamental with respect to a proficient teaching method. We only need to look at one of the most influential researchers in the language field of developmental psychology. [1]Jean Piaget (1896-1980) explains this point a bit more. He helped posit many theories (which are discussed later in this paper). Piaget became interested in how children think. He recognised that the children’s answers were qualitatively different from the older children’s. This, of course, he recognised, did not mean the younger ones were less smart. The children answered the questions differently because they thought differently. Influential research like Piaget’s is the kind of recognition of students’ learning and capabilities that a teaching methodology has to adapt to. It is a focus like this, that I hope to put across in this paper. Teaching methodology works in many ways and has to deal with a myriad of learning styles and ages.

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