A person's second language, or L2, is a language that is not the native language (first language or L1) of the speaker, but is learned later (usually as a foreign language, but it can be another language used in the speaker's home country). For example, there are two official languages of Canada (English and French) and some people use both.
A speaker's dominant language, which is the language a speaker uses most or is most comfortable with, is not necessarily the speaker's first language. The second language can also be the dominant one. For example, the Canadian census defines first language for its purposes as "the first language learned in childhood and still spoken", recognizing that for some, the earliest language may be lost, a process known as language attrition. This can happen when young children move to a new language environment.
The distinction between acquiring and learning was made by Stephen Krashen (1982) as part of his Monitor Theory. According to Krashen, the acquisition of a language is a natural process; whereas learning a language is a conscious one. In the former, the student needs to partake in natural communicative situations. In the latter, error correction is present, as is the study of grammatical rules isolated from natural language. Not all educators in second language agree to this distinction; however, the study of how a second language is learned/acquired is referred to as second-language acquisition (SLA).
Research in SLA "...focuses on the developing knowledge and use of a language by children and adults who already know at least one other language... [and] a knowledge of second-language acquisition may help educational policy makers set more realistic goals for programmes for both foreign language courses and the learning of the majority language by minority language children and adults." (Spada & Lightbown, p. 115).
SLA has been influenced by both linguistic and psychological theories. One of the dominant linguistic theories hypothesizes that a device or module of sorts in the brain contains innate knowledge. Many psychological theories, on the other hand, hypothesize that cognitive mechanisms, responsible for much of human learning, process language.
Other dominant theories and points of research include 2nd language acquisition studies (which examine if L1 findings can be transferred to L2 learning), verbal behaviour (the view that constructed linguistic stimuli can create a desired speech response), morpheme studies, behaviourism, error analysis, stages and order of acquisition, structuralism (approach that looks at how the basic units of language relate to each other according to their common characteristics), 1st language acquisition studies, contrastive analysis (approach where languages were examined in terms of differences and similarities) and inter-language (which describes L2 learners’ language as a rule-governed, dynamic system) (Mitchell, Myles, 2004).
These theories have all influenced second-language teaching and pedagogy. There are many different methods of second-language teaching, many of which stem directly from a particular theory. Common methods are the grammar-translation method, the direct method, the audio-lingual method (clearly influenced by audio-lingual research and the behaviourist approach), the Silent Way, Suggestopedia, community language learning, the Total Physical Response method, and the communicative approach (highly influenced by Krashen’s theories) (Doggett, 1994). Some of these approaches are more popular than others, and are viewed to be more effective. Most language teachers do not use one singular style, but will use a mix in their teaching. This provides a more balanced approach to teaching and helps students of a variety of learning styles succeed.
The defining difference between a first language (L1) and a second language (L2) is the age the person learned the language. For example, linguist Eric Lenneberg used second language to mean a language consciously acquired or used by its speaker after puberty. In most cases, people never achieve the same level of fluency and comprehension in their second languages as in their first language. These views are closely associated with the critical period hypothesis.
In acquiring an L2, Hyltenstam (1992) found that around the age of six or seven seemed to be a cut-off point for bilinguals to achieve native-like proficiency. After that age, L2 learners could get near-native-like-ness but their language would, while consisting of few actual errors, have enough errors to set them apart from the L1 group. The inability of some subjects to achieve native-like proficiency must be seen in relation to the age of onset (AO). Later, Hyltenstam & Abrahamsson (2003) modified their age cut-offs to argue that after childhood, in general, it becomes more and more difficult to acquire native-like-ness, but that there is no cut-off point in particular.
As we are learning more and more about the brain, there is a hypothesis that when a child is going through puberty, that is the time that accents start. Before a child goes through puberty, the chemical processes in the brain are more geared towards language and social communication. Whereas after puberty, the ability for learning a language without an accent has been rerouted to function in another area of the brain—most likely in the frontal lobe area promoting cognitive functions, or in the neural system of hormone allocated for reproduction and sexual organ growth.
As far as the relationship between age and eventual attainment in SLA is concerned, Krashen, Long, and Scarcella, say that people who encounter foreign language in early age, begin natural exposure to second languages and obtain better proficiency than those who learn the second language as an adult. However, when it comes to the relationship between age and rate SLA, “Adults proceed through early stages of syntactic and morphological development faster than children (where time and exposure are held constant)” (Krashen, Long, Scarcella 573). Also, “older children acquire faster than younger children do (again, in early stages of morphological and syntactic development where time and exposure are held constant)” (573). In other words, adults and older children are fast learners when it comes to the initial stage of foreign language education.
Gauthier and Genesee (2011) have done a research which mainly focuses on the second language acquisition of internationally adopted children and results show that early experiences of one language of children can affect their ability to acquire a second language, and usually children learn their second language slower and weaker even during the critical period.
As for the fluency, it is better to do foreign language education at an early age, but being exposed to a foreign language since an early age causes a “weak identification” (Billiet, Maddens and Beerten 241). Such issue leads to a "double sense of national belonging," that makes one not sure of where he or she belongs to because according to Brian A. Jacob, multicultural education affects students' "relations, attitudes, and behaviors" (Jacob 364). And as children learn more and more foreign languages, children start to adapt, and get absorbed into the foreign culture that they “undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made” (Pratt 35). Due to such factors, learning foreign languages at an early age may incur one’s perspective of his or her native country.
Acquiring a second language can be a lifelong learning process for many. Despite persistent efforts, most learners of a second language will never become fully native-like in it, although with practice considerable fluency can be achieved.
In the first language, children do not respond to systematic correction. Furthermore, children who have limited input still acquire the first language, which is a significant difference between input and output. Children are exposed to a language environment of errors and lack of correction but they end up having the capacity to figure out the grammatical rules. Error correction does not seem to have a direct influence on learning a second language. Instruction may affect the rate of learning, but the stages remain the same. Adolescents and adults who know the rule are faster than those who do not.
In the learning of a second language the correction of errors remains a controversial topic with many differing schools of thought. Throughout the last century much advancement has been made in research on the correction of students’ errors. In the 1950s and 60s the viewpoint of the day was that all errors must be corrected at all costs. Little thought went to students’ feelings or self-esteem in regards to this constant correction (Russell, 2009).
In the 1970s Dulay and Burt’s studies showed that learners acquire grammar forms and structures in a pre-determined, inalterable order, and that teaching or correcting styles would not change this (Russell, 2009).
In this same decade Terrell (1977) did studies that showed that there were more factors to be considered in the classroom than the cognitive processing of the students (Russell, 2009). He contested that the affective side of students and their self-esteem were equally important to the teaching process (Russell, 2009).
A few years later in the 1980s, the strict grammar and corrective approach of the 1950s became obsolete. Researchers asserted that correction was often unnecessary and that instead of furthering students’ learning it was hindering them (Russell, 2009). The main concern at this time was relieving student stress and creating a warm environment for them. Stephen Krashen was a big proponent in this hands-off approach to error correction (Russell, 2009).
The 1990s brought back the familiar idea that explicit grammar instruction and error correction was indeed useful for the SLA process. At this time, more research started to be undertaken to determine exactly which kinds of corrections are the most useful for students. In 1998, Lyster concluded that “recasts” (when the teacher repeats a student’s incorrect utterance with the correct version) are not always the most useful because students do not notice the correction (Russell, 2009). His studies in 2002 showed that students learn better when teachers help students recognize and correct their own errors (Russell, 2009). Mackey, Gas and McDonough had similar findings in 2000 and attributed the success of this method to the student’s active participation in the corrective processes.
According to Noam Chomsky, children will bridge the gap between input and output by their innate grammar because the input (utterances they hear) is so poor but all children end up having complete knowledge of grammar. Chomsky calls it the Poverty of Stimulus. And second language learners can do this by applying the rules they learn to the sentence-construction, for example. So learners in both their native and second language have knowledge that goes beyond what they have received, so that people can make correct utterances (phrases, sentences, questions, etc) that they have never learned or heard before.
Bilingualism has been an advantage to today's world and being bilingual gives the opportunity to understand and communicate with people with different cultural backgrounds. However, a study done by Optiz and Degner in 2012 shows that sequential bilinguals (i.e. learn their L2 after L1) often relate themselves to the emotions more when they perceive these emotions by their first language/native language/L1, but feel less emotional when by their second language even though they know the meaning of words clearly.
Success in language learning can be measured in two ways: likelihood and quality. First language learners will be successful in both measurements. It is inevitable that all people will learn a first language and with few exceptions, they will be fully successful. For second language learners, success is not guaranteed. For one, learners may become fossilized or stuck as it were with ungrammatical items. (Fossilization occurs when language errors become a permanent feature. See Canale & Swain(1980), Johnson (1992), Selinker (1972), and Selinker and Lamendella (1978).) The difference between learners may be significant. As noted elsewhere, L2 learners rarely achieve complete native-like control of the second language.
For L2 pronunciation, there are two principles that haven been put forth by Levis (2005). The first is nativeness which means the speaker's ability to approximately reach the speaking pattern of the second language of speakers; and the second, understanding, refers to the speaker's ability to make themselves understood.
|Speed||slower than acquisition of L1||acquisition is rapid|
|Stages||systematic stages of development||systematic stages of development|
|Error correction||not directly influential||not involved|
|Depth of knowledge||beyond the level of input||beyond the level of input|
|Emotionality||less emotional when perceiving words by L2||more emotional when perceiving words by L1|
|Success (1)||not inevitable (possible fossilization*)||inevitable|
|Success (2)||rarely fully successful (if learning starts after Critical Period)||successful|
Being successful in learning a second language is often found to be challenging for some individuals. Research has been done to look into why some students are more successful than others. Stern (1975), Rubin (1975) and Reiss (1985) are just a few of the researchers who have dedicated time to this subject. They have worked to determine what qualities make a "good language learner" (Mollica, Neussel, 1997). Some of their common findings are that a good language learner uses positive learning strategies, is an active learner who is constantly searching for meaning. Also a good language learner demonstrates a willingness to practice and use the language in real communication. He also monitors himself and his learning, has a strong drive to communicate, and has a good ear and good listening skills (Mollica, Neussel, 1997).
Özgür and Griffiths have designed an experiment in 2013 about the relationship between different motivations and second language acquisition.
In pedagogy and sociolinguistics, a distinction is made between second language and foreign language, the latter is being learned for use in an area where that language is originally from another country and not spoken in the native country of the speakers. And in other words, foreign language is used from the perspective of countries; the second language is used from the perspective of individuals.
For example, English in countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Philippines, the Nordic countries and the Netherlands is considered a second language by many of its speakers, because they learn it young and use it regularly; indeed in parts of southern Asia it is the official language of the courts, government and business. The same can be said for French in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, although French is not an official language in any of them. In practice, French is widely used in a variety of contexts in these countries, and signs are normally printed in both Arabic and French. A similar phenomenon exists in post-Soviet states such as Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, where Russian can be considered a second language, and there are large Russophone communities.
However, in China (with the possible exception of Hong Kong), English must be considered a foreign language due to the lack of opportunities for use, such as historical links, media, conversation between people, and common vocabulary. Likewise, French would be considered a foreign language in Romania and Moldova, even though both French and Romanian are Romance languages, Romania's historical links to France, and all being members of la Francophonie.
Psychological studies have found that speaking two or more languages is beneficial for people's cognitive process and the differences between brains of bilinguals and single language speakers usually provides some mental benefits, according to an article in the Daily Telegraph in 2013.Including but not limited to these:
George H. J. Weber, a Swiss businessman and independent scholar, founder of the Andaman Association and creator of the encyclopedic andaman.org Web site, made a report in December 1997 about the number of secondary speakers of the world's leading languages.Weber used the Fischer Weltalmanach of 1986 as his primary and only source for the L2-speakers data, in preparing the data in the following table. These numbers are here compared with those referred to by Ethnologue, a popular source in the linguistics field. See below Table 1.
|Language||L2 speakers (Weltalmanach 1986)||L2 speakers (Ethnologue.com)|
|1. French||190 million||208 million|
|2. English||150 million||>430 million|
|3. Russian||125 million||110 million|
|4. Portuguese||28 million||15 million|
|5. Arabic||21 million||246 million|
|6. Mandarin||20 million||178 million|
|7. Spanish||20 million||71 million|
|8. German||9 million||28 million|
|9. Japanese ||8 million||1 million|
Collecting the number of second language speakers of every language is extremely difficult and even the best estimates contain guess work. The data below are from ethnologue.com as of June 2013. [ not specific enough to verify ]
Bilingual education involves teaching academic content in two languages, in a native and secondary language with varying amounts of each language used in accordance with the program model. Bilingual education refers to the utilization of two languages as means of instruction for students and considered part of or the entire school curriculum.
Language education – the process and practice of teaching a second or foreign language – is primarily a branch of applied linguistics, but can be an interdisciplinary field. There are four main learning categories for language education: communicative competencies, proficiencies, cross-cultural experiences, and multiple literacies.
Language transfer is the application of linguistic features from one language to another by a bilingual or multilingual speaker. Language transfer may occur across both languages in the acquisition of a simultaneous bilingual, from a mature speaker's first language (L1) to a second (L2) or third (L3) language they are acquiring, or from an L2 back to the L1. Language transfer is most commonly discussed in the context of English language learning and teaching, but it can occur in any situation when someone does not have a native-level command of a language, as when translating into a second language. Language transfer is also a common topic in bilingual child language acquisition as it occurs frequently in bilingual children especially when one language is dominant.
A foreign language is a language originally from another country than the speaker. However, there must be a defined distinction between foreign and second language. It is also a language not spoken in the native country of the person referred to, i.e., an English speaker living in Spain can say that Spanish is a foreign language to them, or a Japanese speaker living in the United States can say that English is a foreign language to them. These two characterisations do not exhaust the possible definitions, however, and the label is occasionally applied in ways that are variously misleading or factually inaccurate.
Second-language acquisition (SLA), second-language learning or L2acquisition, is the process by which people learn a second language. Second-language acquisition is also the scientific discipline devoted to studying that process. The field of second-language acquisition is a subdiscipline of applied linguistics, but also receives research attention from a variety of other disciplines, such as psychology and education.
Sequential bilingualism occurs when a person becomes bilingual by first learning one language and then another. The process is contrasted with simultaneous bilingualism, in which both languages are learned at the same time.
A foreign language writing aid is a computer program or any other instrument that assists a non-native language user in writing decently in their target language. Assistive operations can be classified into two categories: on-the-fly prompts and post-writing checks. Assisted aspects of writing include: lexical, syntactic, lexical semantic and idiomatic expression transfer, etc. Different types of foreign language writing aids include automated proofreading applications, text corpora, dictionaries, translation aids and orthography aids.
The generative approach to second language (L2) acquisition (SLA) is a cognitive based theory of SLA that applies theoretical insights developed from within generative linguistics to investigate how second languages and dialects are acquired and lost by individuals learning naturalistically or with formal instruction in foreign, second language and lingua franca settings. Central to generative linguistics is the concept of Universal Grammar (UG), a part of an innate, biologically endowed language faculty which refers to knowledge alleged to be common to all human languages. UG includes both invariant principles as well as parameters that allow for variation which place limitations on the form and operations of grammar. Subsequently, research within the Generative Second-Language Acquisition (GenSLA) tradition describes and explains SLA by probing the interplay between Universal Grammar, knowledge of one's native language and input from the target language. Research is conducted in syntax, phonology, morphology, phonetics, semantics, and has some relevant applications to pragmatics.
The critical period hypothesis is the subject of a long-standing debate in linguistics and language acquisition over the extent to which the ability to acquire language is biologically linked to age. The hypothesis claims that there is an ideal time window to acquire language in a linguistically rich environment, after which further language acquisition becomes much more difficult and effortful.
Interlanguage fossilization is a phenomenon of second language acquisition (SLA) in which second language learners turn linguistic features that are correct in their first language into permanent errors in the way they speak and write the new language. In other words, they develop and retain their own, personal linguistic system that is self-contained and different from both their first language and the target language. Such a linguistic system has been variously called an interlanguage, approximative system, idiosyncratic dialect, or transitional dialect.
Fluency is the property of a person or of a system that delivers information quickly and with expertise.
In the field of second language acquisition, there are many theories about the most effective way for language learners to acquire new language forms. One theory of language acquisition is the comprehensible output hypothesis.
The input hypothesis, also known as the monitor model, is a group of five hypotheses of second-language acquisition developed by the linguist Stephen Krashen in the 1970s and 1980s. Krashen originally formulated the input hypothesis as just one of the five hypotheses, but over time the term has come to refer to the five hypotheses as a group. The hypotheses are the input hypothesis, the acquisition–learning hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis, the natural order hypothesis and the affective filter hypothesis. The input hypothesis was first published in 1977.
Heritage language learning or heritage language acquisition is the act of learning a heritage language from an ethnolinguistic group that traditionally speaks the language, or from those whose family historically spoke the language. According to a commonly accepted definition by Valdés, heritage languages are generally minority languages in society and are typically learned at home during childhood. When a heritage language learner grows up in an environment with a dominant language that is different from their heritage language, the learner appears to be more competent in the dominant language and often feels more comfortable speaking in that language. "Heritage language" may also be referred to as "community language," "home language," and "ancestral language".
In linguistics, according to J. Richard et al., (2002), an error is the use of a word, speech act or grammatical items in such a way it seems imperfect and significant of an incomplete learning (184). It is considered by Norrish as a systematic deviation that happens when a learner has not learnt something, and consistently gets it wrong. However, the attempts made to put the error into context have always gone hand in hand with either language learning and second-language acquisition processes, Hendrickson (1987:357) mentioned that errors are ‘signals’ that indicate an actual learning process taking place and that the learner has not yet mastered or shown a well-structured competence in the target language.
The main purpose of theories of second-language acquisition (SLA) is to shed light on how people who already know one language learn a second language. The field of second-language acquisition involves various contributions, such as linguistics, sociolinguistics, psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and education. These multiple fields in second-language acquisition can be grouped as four major research strands: (a) linguistic dimensions of SLA, (b) cognitive dimensions of SLA, (c) socio-cultural dimensions of SLA, and (d) instructional dimensions of SLA. While the orientation of each research strand is distinct, they are in common in that they can guide us to find helpful condition to facilitate successful language learning. Acknowledging the contributions of each perspective and the interdisciplinarity between each field, more and more second language researchers are now trying to have a bigger lens on examining the complexities of second language acquisition.
Individual variation in second-language acquisition is the study of why some people learn a second language better than others. Unlike children who acquire a language, adults learning a second language rarely reach the same level of competence as native speakers of that language. Some may stop studying a language before they have fully internalized it, and others may stop improving despite living in a foreign country for many years. It also appears that children are more likely than adults to reach native-like competence in a second language. There have been many studies that have attempted to explain these phenomena.
Multi-competence is a concept in second language acquisition formulated by Vivian Cook that refers to the knowledge of more than one language in one person's mind. From the multicompetence perspective, the different languages a person speaks are seen as one connected system, rather than each language being a separate system. People who speak a second language are seen as unique multilingual individuals, rather than people who have merely attached another language to their repertoire.
The natural approach is a method of language teaching developed by Stephen Krashen and Tracy Terrell in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It aims to foster naturalistic language acquisition in a classroom setting, and to this end it emphasises communication, and places decreased importance on conscious grammar study and explicit correction of student errors. Efforts are also made to make the learning environment as stress-free as possible. In the natural approach, language output is not forced, but allowed to emerge spontaneously after students have attended to large amounts of comprehensible language input.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to second-language acquisition: