Second Language Acquisition - Book Report/Review Example

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A lot of research has been done on how teaching of a new language to students should be done. The following paper focuses on views presented by Aida Walqui and Jim Cummins on this topic. While Walqui focuses mainly on students immigrating to English-speaking countries, Cummins focuses more on English-language being learnt in non-English speaking countries…
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Second Language Acquisition Book Report/Review
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Running head: FACTORS AFFECTING SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION Factors Affecting Second Language Acquisition By: GCU This paper presents the views of Aida Walqui and Jim Cummins on how should a second language be taught to students keeping in view the various social factors affecting it.

Factors Affecting Second Language Acquisition

A lot of research has been done on how teaching of a new language to students should be done. The following paper focuses on views presented by Aida Walqui and Jim Cummins on this topic. While Walqui focuses mainly on students immigrating to English-speaking countries, Cummins focuses more on English-language being learnt in non-English speaking countries. The various arguments put forth by them and the factors affecting second language acquisition are discussed in the following paper.
Walqui (2000) in her article on learning a second language emphasizes on "contextual factors - individual, social and societal - that effect students' learning" with a particular focus on adolescent learners of English as a second language. Her focus is more on the second language acquisition process and how larger social and cultural contexts affect it, especially for immigrant students.
The table below shows various contextual factors in second language acquisition put forth by Walqui. Following the table is a chart to summarize the table:

Several factors which relate to students' first and second languages shape their second language learning

Language Distance
How similar or different the new language is to the languages the learner already knows. 'Linguistic Distance'

Native Language Proficiency
The more academically sophisticated the student's native language knowledge and abilities, the easier it will be for that student to learn a second language.

Knowledge of the Second Language
The extent and type of prior knowledge is an essential consideration.

Dialect and Register
acquiring speech patterns that may differ significantly from those they are familiar with

Language Status
The relative prestige of different languages and dialects and of the cultures and ethnic groups associated with them.

Language Attitudes
Learning a second language does not mean giving up one's first language or dialect. Rather, it involves adding a new language or dialect to one's repertoire.

The Learner

Students have diverse backgrounds and have diverse needs and goals.

Diverse Needs
Diverse background of students requires a different conception of curricula and a different approach to materials. Differentiation and individualization are not a luxury in this context: They are a necessity.

Diverse Goals
Learners' goals can vary from wholly integrative-the desire to assimilate and become a full member of the English-speaking world-to primarily instrumental-oriented toward specific goals such as academic or professional success (Gardner, 1989).

Peer Groups
In second language learning, peer pressure often undermines the goals set by parents and teachers.

Role Models
Students need to have positive and realistic role models who demonstrate the value of being proficient in more than one language.

Home Support
It is very important for parents to show support for and interest in their children's progress.

The Learning Process

Different students have different learning styles. Also intrinsic motivation aids learning and the quality of classroom interaction matters a lot.

Learning Styles
Some learners are more analytically oriented, some are globally oriented, some are visually oriented while some are more geared to sound.

Learners should engage in various 'Intrinsically motivated activities' for their own sake because of their value, interest, and challenge.

Classroom Interaction
Learning is the result of opportunities for meaningful interaction with others in the target language. Instructional conversations and collaborative classroom work enhance this process.

Jim Cummins has written various works discussing 'bi-lingual education' with respect to various social factors like globalization, immigration and population mobility. He thinks that "Neo-fascist groups in a number of countries promote overtly racist policies in relation to immigrant and culturally diverse communities." (Cummins, par.3) They worry that linguistic, cultural, "racial" and religious diversity threaten the identity of the host society. On the other hand, more liberal groups in these countries advocate assimilation into the mainstream of society. However, these 'assimilationist' policies in education discourage students from maintaining their mother tongues. If students retain their culture and language, then they are viewed as less capable of identifying with the mainstream culture and learning the mainstream language of the society.
He thinks that it is a challenge for educators and policy-makers to respect the rights of all citizens (including school children), and the cultural, linguistic, and economic resources of the nation are maximized. He thus argues that 'bilingualism' has a positive effect on children's linguistic and educational development.

Cummins, J. (2003) Bilingual Children's Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education i teach i Retrieved Jan 17, 2009, from
Walqui, A. (2000). Contextual Factors in Second Language Acquisition. ERIC Clearinghouses on Languages and Linguistics. Retrieved Jan 17, 2009 from Read More
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