Teach English in LAsengmiao Zhen - Wuhai Shi

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Almost every individual who is a normal healthy adult speaks at least one language. Early in a persons life, starting as a very young baby, we all are absorbing sounds from our environments and making meaning out of what we experience. As we age, we become more equipped through development to the point that we become communicable, and the first language we begin to use is referred to in linguistics as a person L1, or first language. After acquiring an L1, it is quite possible that a person might begin to learn another language, this is referred to as a second language, or L2. In almost every case, but not always, it is the case that a person establishes their L1 during a time in their early life, referred to as the 'critical period' of language acquisition. During the critical period, a child's mind is very much like a sponge, whereby they are able to learn and distinguish sounds as they relate to meaning very rapidly. As the critical period for language acquisition ends, it is not that a person becomes less equipped to learn a new language... rather it is the case that they start to develop something referred to as a critical factor, which acts like a filter to information. While many people hold to the belief that learning a language is much more difficult after the critical period, it is more accurate to suggest that the learning process changes, and learners lose the sponge like quality to their mind, but gain a sense of strategic understanding, which has its own boons in the learning process. Put more simply, while many people hold the the belief that adults have a harder time learning a language than young children, in reality it is simply that the learning process is just different. It is true that during the critical period, it is much easier for a young learner to distinguish among sounds, such as vowels or consonants, and to learn those sounds. When we consider what produces a native fluency vs. a non-native fluency, children in the critical period of language acquisition are much better at hearing and distinguishing novel sounds than those who are past the critical period, and in this way, if a child is acquiring an L2 which is radically different from their L1 during the critical period, they may have much greater ease in pronunciation and the distinguishing of sounds simply by learning through osmosis. However, this does not imply that an adult can not also achieve native fluency in an L2 if they are strategic in the way they approach the learning process. With this understanding of the critical period, as an important part of the development of an individual, it is appropriate to mention something called L1 interference, which is a term to describe how a person attempting to learn an L2 might run into particular problems because their L1 has aspects to it which make the learning process more challenging compared to a learner with a different L1. There are a lot of factors with L1 interference, such as consonants which are novel, or different ways that vowels in the mouth are distinguished. Also, grammatical rules and functions which were picked up unconsciously in the L1 may or may not necessarily apply to the L2, and thus may produce habits which make the learning process more difficult. A really simple example of this is word order. The good news is that an experienced teacher who has considered the phonology and grammar of the learners L1 and the target language may often be able to anticipate places where L1 interference may arise, and thus also be able to help the learner. Because it is very likely that an individual is not the first person with the L1 to try to learn the L2, there is probably a lot of precedent for what difficulties a particular L1 might have in the learning process, and what specific things are beneficial to spend more time on. In this way, the language classroom can be constructed to consider what challenges a particular group of speakers will have to deal with, and this method of teaching will provide the students with more tools to overcome L1 interference, as compared with a method of teaching which only displays English, but does not consider the unique challenges of the audience. In conclusion, while most people believe that it is easiest to learn a language during the critical period, and that adults cannot become fluent, this view is not accurate, or at least demands nuance. First of all, children in the critical period are spending their whole day trying to figure out how the world works, language acquisition is their 24/7 job and it is pretty much the only thing demanded of them, if anything at all. Compare this to an adult who spends a few hours a week in a classroom, and it becomes apparent that adults can actually use their time much more strategically, and can learn at a higher level as well. While there may be unique challenges from L1 interference which make it seem as if children have an easier time learning, if the classroom teacher has appropriately considered what kinds of interference are likely to occur, then these challenges can be overcome, and fluency can become achievable in adults.