Teach English in Yunhe Zhen - Yancheng Shi

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Learning Modes…Young Learners Versus Adult Learners I chose this as my summative task because this is something I can relate to as I personally debate whether I would prefer to teach children over adults. This essay discusses how age can play a factor in learning English as a second language. There are many studies and theories on the subject of young versus adult language learning. One thing experts can agree on, is there are differences between young learners and adult learners, however, depending upon which study you read you will get many conflicting opinions. Some research would lead you to believe that young learners have an easier time over their older counterparts such as one study by Richards & Schmidt which is discussed in the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH). CPH is defined as the “period in which a child can acquire language easily, rapidly, perfectly and without instruction” (2002/p. 145). Other studies such as from Snow and Hoefnagel-Hole in 1982, believed that the rate of second language learning was faster in adults than young learners. Young Learners With respect to young learners, there are many theories and studies relative to second language learners. The CPH as noted above believes that one such reason is that young learners don’t have the stress of peer pressure and lack the maturity to worry about mistakes. It is believed that young learners will generally start to learn a language by imitating or forming habits from interaction with others such as parents and siblings. Young learners also have the capacity to learn proper dialects. Younger learners also tend to show higher correlations with memory components than older learners which have higher analytical components (Dekeyser 2000; Harley and Hart, 1997 & 2002) Adult Learners Many studies believe that adults learn at a slower pace and have varying reasons as to why. Some theories believe adults can sometimes feel the need to understand the language at a more complex level which can complicate the learning process. Adults can often put self-imposed pressure on themselves to have perfect pronunciation and grammar instead of enjoying the learning process. These things can cause undue anxieties which can lead to a more difficult learning experience. It is also noted that it is more difficult for the adult student to acquire a native or proper accent when learning English but do have complex learning patterns. It is also believed that children and adults do not always get the same quality and quantity of language input in both formal and informal learning settings (Lightbown & Spada, 2008). Regardless of these potential roadblocks, adults can push thru these because they generally have more definitive reasons for learning a foreign language. These can range from professional to personal reasons such as a work requirement or upcoming travel. Language learning commonalities between Young and Adult Learners No matter the age there is still commonality when learning a secondary language. The three primary learning types are forming habits, learning by heart and acquiring rules. The latter two seemingly more prevalent with adults rather than young learners but all are used in some capacity no matter the age. • Forming Habits is learning by imitating others until it becomes exactly that a habit. It is thought that children initially learn thru this type of pattern, but this does not mean this is the only way they learn. • Learning by Heart is useful, no matter the age, especially in the early stages, to memorize the many rules or standard phrases associated with the English language. Repetition is key here and it is generally thought that teachers need to repeat at least three times for a student to retain the information. Unfortunately, as we are all aware there are many exceptions to the rules. As learning progresses this will not benefit as much as a student expands and begin to understand and use the language in their daily lives. • In my opinion the third type, Acquiring Rules is closely related to Learning by Heart as you are memorizing the language as a set of rules in which the student will apply whether speaking or writing the language. There are many more commonalities in teaching and how students learn a second language. Teachers should strive to make students, no matter the age, feel comfortable and secure in the classroom. Teachers should always understand the culture of the students they are teaching. Things that might be okay in one culture can be offensive in others. Teachers should always address students by name, show respect, be fair among all students and most importantly practice patience. Conclusion In conclusion, I have learned from my research that there are definite differences in how the age of individuals can impact the speed of learning a second language. It is understood that memory, the conditions in which the student is learning and the speed in which a person processes a secondary language are all contributing factors. Age is not the only factor in secondary language development but plays a key factor in how fast fluency is achieved, not whether it can be achieved. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, learning anything new requires patience, persistence and the desire to learn.