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Language in Linguistic Learning Linguistics as defined by American
Linguistics as defined by American Heritage Dictionary is: The study of the nature and structure of human speech. Linguistics is an interesting branch of study that combines the objectivity of science by exploring language mechanics as well as the utility in language in culture. There are many exciting metaphysical aspects to linguistics inaccessible to early and intermediate ESL students. However, linguistics is a vital part of learning English as a second language. Just two branches of linguistics semantics and phonology exemplify the importance of subtle expression in language.
'Semantics is considered a subdivision of linguistics, the part that has to do with the meaning of words' (DeMaria 16). This definition, in layman's terms, means semantics builds vocabulary. Vocabulary for remedial students involves much repetition inside a context. With this understanding a teacher will use many visuals to build up an association in the mind. The teacher is putting noises to images that will stay with the learner's memory. In the same way, writing and listening to vocabulary help build semantics.
The teacher creates an environment in which vocabulary can be practiced. 'Linguistic environment' research indicates that the students should always be in a classroom situation where they are able to listen as well as be slightly below the language level (Rost 8). Teachers are a direct native link to the English vocabulary the students need to be ready to encounter in real life situation. This particular research adds the need for teachers to be sensitive to the input in the learning environment. Semantics, like linguistics itself is a fluid entity subject to change. While the early learner needs to grasp meaning in the most common usage, higher levels should get more information. Spanish teachers who have taught me vocabulary have always added relevant information about slang so language builds outside the classroom. Basically, language is as useful as it communicates and the students need to be privy to street talk. The student needs exposure in order to be attuned to the sound of the English language. 'Every language is made up of a basic set of phonemes' (DeMaria 13). Phonemes are sounds of language in verbal communication. Phonology goes much deeper to explore the mutations that speech makes over the centuries. The TESL teacher will be concerned with intonation, phonetic stress, word accent, and the rhythm of the English language coming across to students (Finocchiaro 59). A student starts out trying to grasp the rise-fall intonation in a question and hopefully builds to understand the music of Shakespeare.
Phonology is practical for the ESL student in that it explains sounds as basic structural units to be said. Learning the sound of the language involves at first a lot of mimic work, repetition. Music is a good way to bring the beauty of a language to the student. However, some students, especially older ones will have a hard time with some sounds. Teachers are advised to use organ descriptions, diagrams, and syllable breakdowns to hammer in phonemes for students (Finocchiario 56).
One intriguing idea in phonology is that of a socio-linguistic identity. Speech variation is in direct relation to the way a person identifies themselves in the world community of power (Siberstein 105). This idea accounts for the some of the reason that one language takes on such different accents around the world. It is a good idea to expose the higher level students to the variation of language out there to peak curiosity. The sound of a language such as English is wildly different around the world.
Learning a language is akin to gaining some cultural perspective. As a prospective teacher it would be great to expose learners to the English language. Underneath English language are centuries of history. In addition, everything in life is always in process of change. The years of language use and the mysterious functions of the brain make linguistics a never ending field of inquiry. It is useful to share some of the deeper implications of language in semantics and phonology with students who are learning English as a second language.
Bibliography DeMaria, Robert. The Language of Grammar. New York: Macmillan Company, 1963. Finocchiaro, Mary. English as a Second Language: From Theory to Practice. New York: Regents Publishing Company, 1974. Matthews, P.H. Linguistics: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Rost, Michael. 'Listening.' Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Ronald Carter and David Nunan Eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 7-13. Siberstein, Sandra. 'Sociolinguistics.' Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Ronald Carter and David Nunan Eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 100-106.