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Second Languages - hgunn.uk
A second language is simply a first language that other people fluently speak as a native language. Although there will be common processes between languages which second language learners can adapt from their first language, most people do not appreciate how much work is involved in learning a new language and creating communicate fluency in it.
It takes around 6,000 of practice to develop a basic new language fluency and around 10,000 hours to reach native like one. Learners need to bring a new vocabulary of 15,000 to 20,000 words into fluency to have a fluent conversation with someone in a new language.
There is nothing special about any language or learning any language. There are 66,000 languages in the world. Certain languages have distinct characteristics like the dreaded mutations in the Welsh language. We all feel comfortable applying our native language, because we can apply it effortlessly with ease and flow.
There are distinct difference in certain families of languages across the world than others. Most European languages are similar and derive from similar, common roots and share a common alphabet. Arabic countries have a different alphabet, which is written from right to left, as opposed to the left to right as in western languages.
In the Far East they use symbolism for their written language notation. The Chinese language differs from South Korean type language despite both language using the same type of symbolic notation.
Most second languages are learnt through positive language transfer, where the native language is used as a scaffold to learn the second. In the Welsh language, for instance, 'red bus' literally translates into 'bus red', bws Coch. Positive transfer will be difficult to apply when there are distinct different forms of different languages.
The problem that children have in reading mathematical notation in western schools is that it was invented by Arabs living in India, numbers are written from right to left, as opposed to the left to right of western reading. This creates learning difficulties for children. It will be very difficult for western language speakers to learn Arabic and vice versa.
Learning a Second Language
There is a distinction made between modern foreign language and second languages. If an English speaker learns French in the United Kingdom, for instance, he will be learning a modern foreign language, but if he learners it in France, then he will be learning a second language. Cognitively both are acquired in very similar way.
The major distinction is that if a learners learn a majority language, which they need to learn to use to live their everyday lives in the country they are in, then it will be much easier for them to learn the language, because they must use it and it will be all around them.
The problem with learning a heritage language like Welsh, Scottish or Irish Gaelic is that they are minority languages, which on the whole learners do not need to use to live their
everyday lives and they are not all around them.
Although some languages are easier to learn than others, English and French are viewed as difficult languages to learn, for instance. When someone learners a new language they will be learning an equivalent language to their native one.
What people do often appreciate is that languages rise above the meanings of word and the sum of the word meanings. They are not codes. Native speakers have common ground understanding that is exchanged between those who speak any given language. Unless languages can be applied outside classrooms, then learners will not e able to develop anything resembling native language fluency.
Claims are made that people in the United Kingdom are lazy, unwilling to learn second languages, but the problem is that we live on an island and rarely are other European languages heard on the streets, possibly apart from London.
The problem that older learners confront is that unless they learn a language in childhood, their brains will filter out unfamiliar phonemes, the smallest units of sound in languages, which are mostly letters of the alphabet and pairs of letters representing distinct sounds. Unless learners can hear them, then will not be able to learn and pronounce, reproduce them their adulthood.
This why it is beneficial for people to be introduced to a new language in childhood, because they will be more conducive to leaning the phonology of new language, the language sounds. It will improve their understanding of their native language, especially grammar. It will prepare them to learn other language in later life.
Students, who learn second languages in universities, go on residency to improve their language skills. This illustrates how difficult new languages are to learn.
Teaching Second Languages
Second languages are difficult to teach and for learners to learn. Keith Field (2000) contended that every second language method had been tried in the school system before the introduction of the National curriculum was introduced in 1990. He referred to the communicate language teaching method that has been applied in schools as being a compromise. Kirsch (2006) contended that there was no simple answer to how to teach a second language effectively.
Second language teaching is an educational disaster area. It is not teachers fault. Second languages were not traditionally considered important. There was a tradition in foreign language teaching for it to be taught by foreign language assistants from oversees countries. They were unable to communicate with children in their native language.
An increasing number of children are opting out of learning them.
The problem with second language learning it that relies very heavily on working memory. This is why learners find them difficult to learn in common with mathematical learning. If children had a choice of whether to learn mathematics or not, many would probably chose not to learn it. Cockcroft (1982) contended that even intelligent learners find learning mathematics difficult.
Second languages are amongst the most difficult to teach effectively and for children to learn in the school curriculum. Children experience similar apprehension about learning them as learning mathematics.
The problem with second language teaching is that the research base is meagre. Although it may be possible for learners to pick up a new language if they move to a new country where the language is the majority one, they will always learn more effectively if they are formally taught the language. Children who emigrate to the United Kingdom, whose native language is not English, are formally taught it.
Hurd and Murphy (2006) of the Open University refer to the fact that there is a popular myth that second languages are easy to learn and that course providers are exploiting this myth. This undoubtedly arises because we all learn our native language at such a early age we have no appreciation of how difficult it was to learn and we are so fluent in our native language that they appear easy apply.
Many adult perception of new language learning is that all learners need to do to learn a new language is to memorise phrases like 'Parrots'. The Wlpan/Ulpan method that has been used to teach Welsh and Scottish Gaelic is/was based upon expecting learners to drill phrases like Parrots. This only gave them an empathy of what is like to be a parrot. It only at best an inefficiently way of introducing learners to the language sounds.
The significant difference between mathematics and a second language learning is that everything that is learnt in a language needs to made available to use, especially when it received, listen and read. Developing fluency in second language takes thousands of hours of practice. They are difficult to learn when the language is not all around them. They need to live through to develop native like fluency
References - Further Reading
Coleman and Klapper (2005)
Hurd and Murphy (2000)xx
Mitchell et al (2019)xxxx
Saville Troike (2006)