Second Language Acquisition

Participation Task for Second Language Acquisition

Submit this on your student ePortfolio by the end of Tuesday, November 3rd, 9am.

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To post, use the ELN 101 module and make sure to publish it so that I can have access to it.

The format of your posting is entirely up to you. You can use this document as a fillable document and embed it on your ePortfolio as is; you can also add the pages with readings and videos that we go over; you can build the page from scratch with the resources and your posts embedded more smoothly. You are completely in charge of how your student ePortfolio looks to the viewer.

Like everything else in life, the way you communicate your thoughts is subject to assessment by the readers. Use technology to your advantage – spelling checks exist for a reason. View your ePortfolio posts in the published mode so that you can assess what you present to the world.

Grading: Response tasks will be assessed based on accuracy and completeness of responses and intellectual curiosity of reflections.

Your Response Tasks

Response Task 1 10%

Free-write for five minutes in response to the following prompt:

How did you learn/acquire your second language? (Even if you feel you did not come close to fluency, your experience learning/acquiring a second language is valid.)

How old were you? What was your success with the second language? What failures did you experience?

Response Task 2 45%

2A. Transfer

· In your own words, what is transfer in second language acquisition?

· Give an example of (1) phonological and (2) grammatical transfer, either from the video or from your own experience when learning a second language. Identify which examples are positive transfer and which examples are negative transfer.

· Look at Table 1 below used by the US Department of State when training their personnel for overseas service. Use what you have learned about transfer to explain the relationship between the fact that an English speaker can have a basic command of Spanish in 600 hours, but to get the same level of ability in Chinese, the English speaker needs 2200 hours. What is your explanation for this?

Table 1.

2B. Exposure

Compare the information from the first 2.5 minutes of the video with the information in Table 2 and answers the questions below. [French immersion programs in the table below are programs in Canadian K-12 schools. They are considered the best L2 programs in the world. Recall that the research of both Dr. Ellen Bialystok and Dr. Laura Ann Pettito comes from the Canadian context.]

Table 2.

· Why is it not fair to compare child language learners with adolescent/adult learners, according to the information from the video and Table 2?

· According to the video and Table 2, what is the “fair” comparison between child and adult learners and who is better at language learning when exposure is kept constant?

· What are the three advantages that child language learners have over adults when learning a language?

· What is the one advantage that adult language learners have over children when learning a language?

2C. Age

· In your own words, what is the critical period in language learning?

· What is the ideal window for acquiring language?

· Based on the video, what would you add to the list of advantages that child learners have over adults and the advantages that adult language learners have over children?

· Combine what you have learned so far on the advantages and challenges of each age with the information presented by Carmen Muñoz in her article on the best age to learn a second language. Based on what you have heard and read, complete Table 3.

Table 3.

Early childhood

Ages 3-7

Late Childhood and Adolescence

Ages 8-17

Young adulthood

Ages 18-30+

Advantages of this age for second language learning

Challenges of this age for second language learning

Response Task 3 45%

After you read and listen to the NPR material, answer the following:

1. You learned that in subsequent (second) language acquisition three factors play a crucial role. They are first language (L1), age of arrival (the onset of acquisition), and time (intensity of exposure). From the point of view of these three psycholinguistic factors, the Philadelphia study findings about Chinese- and Spanish-speaking kindergartners’ achievement after 4 years of instruction should appear surprising and contradictory. Explain why by connecting the study findings to the class lecture.

2. Researchers have proposed three basic theories to explain the Philadelphia study findings. These three theories add important societal factors to our consideration of psycholinguistic factors (L1, age, time). What are the three societal factors? Explain (based on the NPR material). Would you add any other factors that were not mentioned?

3. Reflecting on your Case Study, which factors, psycholinguistic or societal, played the most important role in your participant’s second language learning and success/difficulty? Explain with relevant examples.

Response Task 4 10%

Go back to your initial freewrite (Response Task 1) and reflect on the following:

a. What did you learn this week?

b. How does it change your understanding of second language acquisition?

c. What questions do you still have?

d. How does this impact how you understand the experience of the bilingual you interviewed for your Case Study?

Second Language Acquisition

In this lecture, we will compare the learning of a first language (lecture on First Language Acquisition) with the learning of an additional language when the first is already in place. This process is called second language acquisition. In other words, we will consider sequential or additive bilingualism as well as late bilingualism (Wei, 2007).

Most of us have a good recollection of the experience with a second language and, in this week’s activities, you should rely on your personal familiarity with the learning of an additional language.

Trying to learn an additional language after acquiring the first language is the experience most adults share. Reflect on your own experience of learning a second language. Complete Response Task 1.

To understand and contextualize some of your experiences with the additional language, in this section you will learn about three important psycholinguistic factors that make second language acquisition fundamentally different from first language acquisition.

In second or subsequent language acquisition, three psycholinguistic factors play a crucial role. They are A. transfer from the first language (L1), B. intensity of exposure (time spent using/experiencing the L2), and C. age of exposure to the second language (the onset of acquisition).

A. Transfer
As second language learners, we are influenced by our first language (L1) in how we learn the second language (L2). We call this the psycholinguistic factor of transfer. Watch the video on the role of transfer in second language acquisition and, as you listen to the information presented there, compare the examples in the video with your own experiences of transfer when you were learning another language:
The linguist in the video explains that a second language learner initially transfers everything from their first language. Some of it is helpful and we call it positive transfer, but some of it slows the learning of the new language or results in errors and we call it negative transfer. In the video, the linguist illustrates this with the idea of “L1 baggage.” He also shares examples of transferred sounds, grammatical structures, and meanings between different languages. With these examples in mind, complete Response Task 2A.

B. Exposure
The way to overcome the influence of the first language (L1) and to start using the second language (L2) in the target-like way is by immersing oneself in the second language. We call this the psycholinguistic factor of exposure (or time). How important is exposure? To start answering this question, listen to the first 2.5 minutes of the video in which the speaker addresses the most common myth in second language acquisition, that is, that children are exceptionally better at learning languages compared to adolescents and adults. Then complete Response Task 2B. Note: You may watch the entire clip, but for the purpose of this lecture you only need to see the first 2.5 minutes.
C. Age
I am sure you all know or have heard of someone who acquired a second language as a child by living in the L2 community and speaks the language with native-like proficiency. And no doubt you know or have heard of someone else who entered the L2 community as an adult and, even after many years of exposure, is still clearly distinguishable from a native speaker. This phenomenon is particularly common in immigrant families, for example, here in New York City, where the majority of children ultimately achieve native-like mastery of English, while their parents often fail to acquire native-like fluency although they have used English as their main means of communication for decades.

This common observation that children are superior language learners serves as the basis for what has become known as the influence of age of exposure to the second language. We call this the psycholinguistic factor of age. This is related to what you learned about the Critical Period Hypothesis for language acquisition: remember Genie from the previous lecture? Watch the video below to review the critical period for language learning and learn how the critical period operates in second language acquisition:

The video introduces the concepts of “sensitive” periods for different areas of language, a term more reflective of what happens to most second language learners. There is reason for optimism in second language learning because, unlike Genie, who never mastered language, many late L2 learners and users do become highly competent and successful L2 speakers, despite the fact that they tend to retain accents and might commit occasional lexical and grammatical errors.

Since age has a profound effect on how second languages are learned, we need a more refined way of looking at age and L2 acquisition. Skim and scan a short article by Carmen Muñoz, another important researcher on bilingualism, on the best age to learn a second language. As you read it, focus on the explanation of the advantages and challenges to second language learning that each age presents. Then complete Response Task 2C.

Psycholinguistic factors such as transfer from the first language (L1), intensity of exposure (time spent using/experiencing the L2), and age of exposure to the second language (the onset of acquisition) explain a lot, but they do not provide a complete picture of all the influential factors in second language acquisition. We must consider societal factors as well.

To understand the power of societal factors in second language acquisition, we will use large urban public education system, K-12, in the United States as our learning labs. This week, we travel to Philadelphia.
Read (and listen to) the National Public Radio’s report on a 2017 study of English learners who entered the Philadelphia public school district as kindergartners in 2008 and whose language learning trajectory was assessed in 2012 (3rd grade), after four years of the similar exposure to English that started at the same age.

Here is what the study found:

8 in 10 L1 Chinese students tested as “English proficient” at the end of the 4th year (k-3);
while only 4 in 10 Spanish L1 students were found to be “English proficient” at the end of
the same four-year period.

This phenomenon is not specific to Philadelphia. In other words, we would find similar results in NYC public schools.

Taking into consideration the three psycholinguistic factors of L1, age, and exposure, the Philadelphia study findings about Chinese- and Spanish-speaking kindergartners’ achievement after 4 years of instruction should appear surprising and contradictory. Reflect on this contradiction by considering the home language of the school children in the study. If all things are considered equal, who should have performed better? The children whose home language is Spanish or the children whose home language is Chinese? Then complete Response Task 3.

Finally, reflect on what you have learned this week and complete Response Task 4.

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