Teach English in Wutuhe Nongchang - Lianyungang Shi

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Introduction Language is a collection of linguistic, behavioral, and written cues that facilitate a response. Humans use language to communicate verbal and non-verbal messages to other humans. Communication is essential for humans to live. We use language to effectively deal with the world, others, and self (Brown, 2000). We use language to communicate to our families, friends, in the workplace, and as a part of our routine day-to-day tasks. The study of 1st and 2nd language acquisition offers diverse perspectives on how humans learn language. Behaviorism, Nativism, and Functionalism are three plausible theories for 1st language acquisition, each stipulating different influential factors. As 1st language acquisition occurs during childhood, 1st versus 2nd language acquisition examines the influence of age on language development. New approaches in 2nd language teaching aim to improve acquisition by implementing strategies to boost language comprehension, retention, and production processes (O'Malley, 1990). 1st Language Acquisition Language acquisition is the process of achieving fluency in a specific language. 1st language acquisition focuses on native language development during childhood. The nature versus nurture argument is often the beginning of the 1st language acquisition discussion. The distinctions between 1st language acquisition approaches are the governing factors underlying 1st language acquisition. Common 1st language acquisition theories are Behaviorism, Nativism, and Functionalism. Behaviorism theory insinuates language acquisition is a result of nurture. Behaviorism suggests language development is a result of experience. Children learn language through conditioned behaviors by means of imitation, repetition, and memory. Parent input is a significant part of a child’s development of conversational rules. Throughout childhood, children learn to communicate by observing and copying the verbal and non-verbal behaviors of their parents, other adults, and other children (Rowland, 2014). The child develops language as a result of the social environment through the maturation process (Hutauruk, 2015). The challenge with the behavioral approach is it neglects to account for a child’s ability to play with language to formulate unique sentences. The theory is based on language acquisition through conditioning and reinforcement which neglects the child’s ability to combine language creatively (Brown, 2000). The nativist reflects the nature position whereby children are born with innate ability to acquire language. Language learning is a systematic, ruled based process developed through language application. A child’s language acquisition is conditioned by genetic predisposition and competence is developed through social interaction (Hutauruk, 2015). The major limitation of the nativism is it assumes linguistic abilities are connected serially, where each pair of neurons is connected singularly. Spoisky’s research implies that humans process information simultaneously, suggesting linguistic performance is a result of neural interconnections rather than a serial process (Brown, 2000). Functionalism focuses on the functional levels constructed from social interaction. A functionalist may believe that languages are created and acquired in the service of communicative functions. Contrary to the nativism which focuses strictly on the acquisition of language-based rules, functionalism combines aspects of rules governing language structure and function of social interaction in achieving goals to describe 1st language acquisition (Bates, Thal, & MacWhinney, 1991). 2nd Language Acquisition 2nd language acquisition is the human capacity to learn other languages. The key distinction between 1st and 2nd language acquisition is the learner’s age. 1st language acquisition focuses on acquisition during early childhood where the child may develop one or multiple first languages. Multilingual children exposed to multiple languages from birth acquire the languages in parallel through 1st language acquisition. 2nd language acquisition is reserved for languages acquired post 1st language acquisition, which tends to focus on late-starting acquirers (Klein, 2003). Second languages are acquired through both naturalistic and instructed contents. Naturalistic learners acquire language through multicultural, school, and workplace exposure without formal language instruction. Instructed learners acquire language through formal study through academic courses or private lessons (Ortega, 2013). Some researchers argue there is an optimal age for second language acquisition. Studies of language acquisition suggest children are more adept learners of foreign languages than adults. Loss of brain plasticity after age 9 or the onset of puberty are thought to be the possible causes of slower language acquisition in adults. Strong evidence exists for the critical or sensitive language acquisition period hypothesis. Adolescents deprived of 1st language acquisition during childhood were unable to learn the native language to the level of their peers. Further, babies born deaf and given cochlear implants after the age of 2 exhibited slower progress and lower vocabulary and grammar skills (Ortega, 2013). Evidence to contradict the sensitive period theory was acquired by Georgette Ioup and her colleagues. Julie was a native speaker of British English and moved to Egypt at the age of 21 after marrying an Egyptian man. She settled in Cairo where she taught English as a foreign language and had two children. Without formal instruction in Arabic, Julie learned Egyptian Arabic naturalistically after 2.5 years of residence in Egypt. Another case Laura similarly married an Egyptian man however, acquired the language as an instructed learner (Ortega, 2013). Age may influence the human capacity for 2nd language acquisition, however social environment can aid 2nd language acquisition in adulthood. Conclusion New language learning strategies are evolving based on the understanding of 1st and 2nd language acquisition. Deeper knowledge of language acquisition processes is the basis for preparing content that improves learner’s comprehension and retention. Many studies suggest a strong influence of age on 2nd language acquisition. Most adolescent and adult learners exhibited slowed rates of 2nd language acquisition. The optimal time frame for language acquisition was in early childhood, when 1st language acquisition dictates language learning. 1st language acquisition theories suggest behavioral influences, genetic disposition, and purpose for communication are all factors influencing language acquisition. As our society becomes increasingly more diverse and dependent on international trade, the skill of acquiring multiple languages rises in demand. As a result, knowledge of 1st and 2nd language acquisition will continue to be a necessity for multilingual skill development in the home and workplace.