Here is my thesis. It's 20.000 words long and I certainly expect nobody to read it. But, nevertheless, here it is. I also think my formatting probably will have gotten a bit messed up with the transfer to the blog, so do forgive that! And if you do read it, and you find some typo... I don't think I want to know. Anyways...
1 June 2011
is a fully bilingual society and nation, with French and English as its two official languages. In all parts of Canada , official signage, product labels, and government business must be bilingual. In some parts of Canada , however, English is excluded in favor of French-only signage, while government services conducted in English can be difficult to obtain. This is especially true in small towns while bilingualism continues to be more common in large population centers. This affirmation of the Quebecois identity as a French-speaking nation within Quebec can be rather striking in its vehemence; nevertheless, referendums on the independence of the province from Canada have repeatedly met with failure on the part of the nationalists. (Clarke) Canada ’s system of official and well-supported bilingualism results in a system where non-immigrant students are rarely forced to study in a language other than their native tongue. There is the exception of students in truly rural, low-population enclaves, those these villages are normally single-language French or English and therefore the issue rarely arises. There is some economic pressure for students to study in English, even within Canada , but the law’s strict requirements that students study in the language of their parents generally prevents students from studying with a second-language as their vehicular language. Those that do represent such a small number that little empirical evidence can be found as to their academic success levels. One can assume, however, that as these students begin studying in a second-language at the start of primary school, they are very quickly integrated and experience few disadvantages. As such, the issue of non-native vehicular language education in Quebec is rendered virtually nonexistent through careful legislation; virtually all students are free to study in their native tongue. (Maheu) Canada India is the second most populous nation of the world, with approximately 1.2 billion citizens. It is also a very young nation, with a median age of only 26 years, compared with a median age in the high 30s for most European nations. The nation continues to be primarily rural, with only 30% of the population living in urban centers, and there is extensive poverty. European countries established colonies in many regions as early as the 16th century, though the India was dominant by the 19th century. It has been a federal republic since 1947 when it won its independence through nonviolent resistance. (CIA) United Kingdom has a literacy rate of 65%. There are two official languages recognized in the constitution of India , Hindi and English. 22 other languages enjoy a somewhat preferred status as “scheduled” languages. These languages may be taught in public schools in addition to Hindi and English, primarily in the region where they enjoy dominance. In total, there are 438 living languages in the country. (Ethnologue) 41% of the population speaks Hindi as its mother tongue, while 53.1% of the population speaks one of 13 other languages and only 5.9% speak one of the other 424 living languages or dialects. (CIA) The other “scheduled” languages enjoy some dominance in their particular region; for instance, the second-most spoken language, Bengali, may be taught in schools and is regularly used in business in western India . Despite the fact that there are few native speakers of English, English maintains a stronghold on the business and educational life of India in a unique dialect with its own vocabulary, accent, and style. (Ethnologue) India China is the most populous nation in the world, with a population of approximately 1.3 billion people. The median age of 35.5 years is similar to that of the western, developed world. The population is almost evenly split between rural and urban populations, with 47% of the population living in urban centers; this has changed drastically in the last century with forced urbanization and industrialization. The country underwent massive change and unrest in the 19th and early 20th centuries, due mainly to foreign occupation. After World War II, the communists under Mao Zedong established an autocratic socialist government that resulted in the loss of millions of lives during purges. This government remains in power today, limiting the political choice of its citizens, but has resulted in an improved standard of life for most. (CIA) China has a literacy rate of 91%. The official national, and only nationally recognized, language is Mandarin Chinese. There are several other widely-spoken regional languages, primarily in the regions of China and Mongolia , though only three of these languages enjoy official status in their region of dominance. Further, several dialects of Chinese are spoken, some quite different from the officially accepted Mandarin Chinese. In total, there are 292 living languages in the country. (Ethnologue) The standard Chinese, commonly referred to as Mandarin, is based on the dialect used in Tibet , and is the official language for the entire country, though it has only been formalized in the last 50 years. (CIA) Approximately 70% of the population speaks some dialect of Mandarin as their mother tongue and this percentage is rising, with many intellectuals striving even to obtain a standard Beijing accent. (Ethnologue) Additionally, Mongolian, Uighur, and Tibetan are official languages in their outlying regions of dominance. (CIA) Of these secondary languages, Mongolian and Tibetan are taught in school, though all three are used extensively in public and the press within the region; young people, intellectuals, and business people also speak Mandarin. English is the native language of a small minority group, primarily in Beijing Hong Kong, but it is a widely taught second or third language due to ’s emerging position as a world business leader. (Ethnologue) China remained highly decentralized until the period of British imperialism of the 19th and early 20th centuries. After declaring independence in the wake of World War II, the People’s Republic of China (hereafter PRC) began an intensive program of centralization and modernization through a series of brutal “five-year plans” modeled after Stalinist Russia. In 1984, there was a massive movement towards the creation of new educational laws, which were implemented in 1985. Under the new system of education, “although the humanities were considered important, vocational and technical skills were considered paramount for meeting China ’s modernization goals.” As such, language learning, particularly foreign language learning, was not a priority. (US Army) China has a population of approximately 81 million people, of which around 92% are ethnic Germans. Ethnic Turks make up the largest minority group of the region, with about 2.4% of the population or nearly two million citizens. (CIA) Further, there are over five million people living in Germany without German citizenship, many of which are believed to be of Turkish descent. These Turkish communities are especially large in urban areas, with several hundred thousand in Germany alone. (Ethnologue) Berlin
Teaching a Third Language from a Second:
Maximizing Acquisition of Both the Target and the Teaching Language
Lauren M. McCawley
Universidad de Alcalá de Henares
Masters in Bilingual and Multicultural Education
Table of Contents
Part One: The Current Situation in Multiple-Language Acquisition…………………… 7
Minority Language Areas………………………………………………………….. 8
Polylinguistic Societies………………………………………………………….... 14
Historic Languages……………………………………………………………….. 21
Immigrant Groups…………………………………………………………...……. 30
Part Two: Issues Unique to Third and Subsequent Languages……………………... 39
Adults versus Children and Adolescents………………………………….…… 39
Cognitive Processes …………………………………………………….……….. 46
Third and Subsequent Languages ………………………………………….….. 48
Part Three: Strategies of Language Acquisition………………….…………………… 51
Mother Tongue Instruction……………………………………………………..… 54
Non-Mother Tongue Instruction…………………………………………………. 56
Team Teaching……………………………………………………………………. 57
Part Four: Recommendations and Conclusions………………………………………. 61
Students have long learned third languages, though the need to do so through a non-native instructional language is less common than might be expected. For reasons both positive and negative, students are generally able to study third languages with their mother tongue as the vehicular language, if they do study a third language. Thus, third language learning through a second language is found to be an individual phenomenon. More study must be done on third language acquisition in general and third language acquisition through non-native language instruction in particular, in order to prepare for a future where more and more of these students will exist due to increased world migration. Further research will allow educators to develop a system of best strategies for the success of these students not only in the target language but also in their second and native languages.
“Multilingual acquisition is more complex than second language acquisition because it implicates all the factors and processes associated with second language acquisition as well as unique and potentially more complex factors and effects associated with the interactions that can take place among the multiple languages being learned, and the processes and effects of learning them.” (Cenoz 1997)
In today’s international world, knowledge of a foreign language is paramount to the success of anyone who wishes to compete in any industry or field with a national or international focus. While this focus on internationalism may be new, the need to speak foreign languages is anything but. People have learned foreign languages for as long as civilization has existed, perhaps due to the existence of empires or to international trade routes. Even in more modern times, minority languages have existed within large politically-created countries or due to shifting borders. Today, foreign languages are mainly learned due to immigration or for business.
Far beyond the acquisition of a single second language, many people today feel compelled to learn more than one language in addition to their native tongue. This manifests in many forms and as the result of many varieties of external pressures. Immigrants may learn the new language of their new country, and then learn another language to compete in business. People may grow up in a linguistic minority community, learn the majority language of their country, and then learn a foreign language. Many people now grow learning two or more languages as their mother tongue due to international marriages and migration, and then learn one or more foreign languages in school.
While much study has been done on the educational, cognitive, and social processes behind language acquisition, little has focused specifically on the acquisition of a third or subsequent language. Certainly, the process for learning an additional language, often at a later age than the first non-native language, is different. Especially interesting is the fact that additional languages are occasionally taught not in the students’ native language, but in the majority language of their country, and that this phenomenon is increasing in frequency.
This paper will first examine the various situations in which students come to study a third or subsequent language in a language that is not their native tongue. There are four main situations in which this may occur. The first is when a student grows up in a minority-language community within a country that has a different majority language, such as the Basque country in
or French-speakers in Spain . The second is when a country of different cultural and linguistic nations is united, often due to colonialism, under one national language that nevertheless does not enjoy a majority of speakers within the country, such as Canada or India . The third is when groups that have been historically part of a majority linguistic community become minority language groups due to changes in national borders, such as Hungarian speakers in modern-day China or the many linguistic and ethnic groups involved in the former Romania . The fourth, and final, situation is when large groups of immigrants establish themselves in a country, such as Spanish-speakers in the Republic of Yugoslavia or Turkish people in United States . Germany
Having established the environment in which students tend to learn a third language from a non-native instructional language, this paper will then investigate the strategies used to teach students in each of these situations. As such, a unified summary of the current world-wide situation in subsequent language acquisition will be established that is specified for different types of language learners.
The second section of this paper will focus on the difficulties and controversies associated with the acquisition of a third or subsequent language. One particular area of interest is the fact that subsequent languages are generally learnt at a significantly later age than second language, and thus carry with them a totally unique cognitive acquisition structure. Further, many believe that confusion can arise between languages; the belief that this confusion exists is mainly caused by the tendency of people fluent in multiple languages to code-switch between languages. This tendency will also be examined. A large controversy in the learning of multiple languages is the issue of linguistic subjugation. This is the fear that the existence of dominant local languages, combined with the need to learn foreign languages for economic reasons, results in the weakening and eventual disappearance of small, local languages and dialects as well as in the linguistic, and therefore cultural and political, hegemony of world languages, particularly English.
The third section of this paper will focus on the different theories and pedagogical strategies employed in the teaching of a third language. In particular, the theories of full immersion and use of the mother tongue as the vehicular language will be examined. These will be compared with the use of a non-native second language as the vehicular language. Further, the similarities and differences between the strategies required for the teaching of a second language and those required for the teaching of a subsequent language will be analyzed. Further, the different strategies used for teaching students of varied ages, grouped into the three main groups of children, adolescents, and adults, will be examined from the perspective of a third-language acquisition.
These strategies will be analyzed in relation to the previous summary of the methods used in each region, compared with the linguistic success of the students in the regions that favor each method. From this analysis, a recommendation will be created of the most efficient and worthwhile strategies to use in the teaching of different groups of subsequent language learners. Of special interest are the regions that teach using the second, non-native language of the students as the vehicular language of instruction, as I hope to create a theory of teaching techniques that will lead to the students’ improvement not only in the target language, but in the vehicular language as well.
The Current Situation in Multiple-Language Education
In today’s world, an emphasis on the ability to communicate and conduct business in multiple languages is obvious and strong. As the world becomes more internationally connected, not only in business but also through multi-country alliances and agreements, this need will only increase. Moreover, it is often insufficient for a person to speak only one language beyond their mother tongue; more and more it is becoming imperative to speak several non-native languages. While many students throughout the world learn these subsequent languages in much the same way as they learned their second language, that is, via traditional classroom instruction with their mother tongue as the vehicular language, a potentially quite large subset of language-learners are forced to learn all languages beyond their first non-native one with that second language as the vehicular language. This creates a situation with its own unique characteristics, pressures, and strategies. There are four main ways in which this situation develops: minority language areas within a larger country, polylinguistic societies within a linguistically and culturally diverse country, historic languages that were once the hegemonic language of the area in which they are still spoken, and as a result of immigrant groups that travel to a country with a different majority language.
Minority Language Areas
For the purposes of this paper, a distinction must be made between minority language areas in an otherwise at least mostly linguistically-unified country and minority language groups in polylinguistic societies where the country as a whole has no majority language. In this paper, minority language areas will be characterized as those within countries where at least 50% of the country speaks the same language, while those within countries where no language enjoys a majority status shall be discussed as polylinguistic societies.
The Basque Country in
The speakers of the Basque language, Euskara, form a cultural and linguistic minority in northern
. While there are also some Basque communities in southern Spain , this paper will focus exclusively on the situation of the Basque community in France . There are approximately 2,6 million people living in the Spanish Basque Countries, the majority of whom live in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, though large groups also live in neighboring Navarra. This region has historically been, and continues to be so today, a zone that enjoys high immigration due to its industry. As a result, only 64% of the people in this region consider themselves to be Basque. (Garmendia) Further, only 2% of Spain ’s population speaks Euskara, or around 935,000 speakers, which is only approximately one third of the population of this region. (CIA) Other estimates place the population of Euskara speakers even lower, as few as 580,000 within Spain . (Ethnologue) As such, we can assume that fifty percent or more of the population of this region that does consider itself to be culturally Basque are not fluent in Euskara. Nevertheless, there are many within the more militant community that consider someone to be Basque only if they speak Euskara. (Echeverria “Ideologies”) Spain
Nevertheless, the school system in the Basque Country serves to create a unique Basque identity. While students may choose to study during the obligatory education in one of various systems that impart lessons in either Castellano or Euskara, it is only through a rather elaborate system of qualifications that students are allowed to avoid studying the Basque language. While a slight majority of students choose to study with Spanish as the vehicular language, in some areas, particularly rural areas, a vast majority studies with Euskara as the vehicular language. (Gobierno Vasco) There is also a bilingual system where both Castellano and Euskara are the vehicular languages, though this option is not very widely chosen. In fact, this option is nonexistent in secondary education, which probably contributes to its unpopularity. (Echeverria “Schooling”) The ideal of the Basque educational system is that all students should be proficient in both Castellano and Euskara upon completion of obligatory education. (Gobierno Vasco) Nevertheless, it is only the students who choose the track that uses Euskara as the vehicular language that have a sufficient grasp on the language to use it effectively. (Echeverria “Ideologies”)
Due to the relatively low percentage of citizens proficient in Euskara in the Basque country, Spanish continues to be the hegemonic language in both government and in everyday interactions. “The Basque government has attempted to combat this by standardizing Euskara and making it instrumentally advantageous; many teaching and civil service positions require Basque proficiency.” Still, most private business is conducted in Castellano and most mass media uses it as its primary language. Moreover, Castellano is the language of choice among even Basque-educated students outside of school due to its increased prestige and supposed economic usefulness. (Echeverria “Ideologies”)
Those students educated with Euskara as their vehicular language were more likely to view the language as a necessary part of the cultural identity than those educated with Castellano as their vehicular language. These attempts at the reclaiming of the Basque language through governmental support and educational policy, particularly the standardization of the language, also have the unwanted side effect of stigmatizing those who speak a non-standard dialect. (Echeverria “Schooling”) It is with these pressures that the students who are native speakers of Euskara begin to study their third language. Unfortunately, little research exists which focuses exclusively upon the success or lack thereof of native speakers of Basque studying under the system which uses Castellano as its vehicular language.
The Basque country educational system is at least somewhat regulated by the central Spanish government, despite massive transference of the right to govern educational policy to the autonomous communities in recent years, and as such is required to teach all students a living foreign language during compulsory education; English is the most commonly taught foreign language in Spain though others, particularly French, are also taught. One particular point of difficulty in English language instruction in the Basque country is the availability of qualified teachers; as all teachers working in the public system are required to be proficient in Euskara as well as Castellano, the pool of qualified speakers of English is limited and native speakers of English, who are very unlikely to have a proficient level of Euskara, are virtually excluded from working in the region. (Cenoz 1998)
Despite these limitations, the students of the Basque autonomous communities have similar or even higher levels of achievement in English acquisition to those of the other regions of
. This could be due to the simple benefit afforded to bilingual students of having already learned a language and therefore formed the cognitive connections necessary to do so, but studies have shown that success is significantly more dependent on the social motivation of the students to learn English. That is, students who viewed English as important to their future success, or whose parents do so, were more likely to effectively learn it and be able to use it in communicative situations. ( Spain ) Younger students are able to communicate effectively in oral production and reception activities, perhaps due to the focus on communicative skills in the European Union; older students are less likely to be able to do so, due to adolescent shyness and also the university-admission exam’s sole focus on written, grammatical skills and lack of an oral component. (Jessner) Due to the economic pressures in favor of choosing the Castellano-based system, one can safely assume that many of the students experiencing these situations in their English learning are native speakers of Basque, though one cannot isolate exactly what their experiences are compared to their Spanish-language peers, particularly as they become older and have a less balanced bilingualism. Valencia
In the Basque country there is little social bias against the use of English, and actually a reasonable amount of support for its adoption as part of a greater integration into the European Union, despite some resistance to the new
system. Moreover, there is a new movement throughout Bologna University toward bilingual schools with English as a part-time instructional language; in the Basque country this manifests in trilingual education, with Euskara, Castellano, and English all being used as instructional languages. (Gobierno Vasco) As such, one can expect that more and more students will become proficient in English. Spain
in Province of Quebec Canada
of Canadian Province is similar to the Basque Country only in that it contains speakers of a language that is not the majority language throughout the country. In most other ways it is totally different. For one, the French speakers of Quebec do not exist as a result of centuries of residence, but, as in most dominant New-world languages, the language is actually an old-world language that came to power through colonization. It simply happens that, for various reasons, the former French colony became part of a country made up primarily of former English colonies. Further, French speakers make up a majority of the population within the Quebec , as many as 85% of the population having either French as their mother language or French-English bilingualism. Therefore, French is a minority language only in the country as a whole, with about 15% of the total population being composed of native speakers of French. (Ethnologue) province of Quebec
While stopping short of seeking independence, many citizens of
are more apt to identify themselves as Quebecois rather than Canadian. This identity cannot be only language-based, as more than a million Canadians outside of Quebec have French as their first language, but the language certainly plays a large role in this identification. “Language is their trump card in asserting rights and defining grievances, but a dispassionate assessment could question its role as an absolute definer.” (Gade) Quebec
All students in
have a right to study in either French or English, according to the language spoken by their parents or older siblings. In Canada , students can study in English only if their parents or older siblings were educated in English, and again only if there are a sufficient number of students to justify the creation of a school for them. Thus, the vast majority of students study in French, with some exceptions in large urban areas, and study English as a second language. English is thus taught to these students similarly to how it is taught as a foreign language in other countries, with students studying around five hours of English a week. Further, immigrants that arrive to Quebec have to study in French, even if they come from an English-speaking country, because only those born in Quebec have the right to an education with English as the vehicular language. Conversely, the situation in other parts of Canada is much more flexible, and students are much more easily able to study with French as the vehicular language or in bilingual programs. (Maheu) Canada
For the purposes of this paper, polylinguistic societies are defined as those where no one language or dialect has historically enjoyed a true majority of speakers. In the case of
, this continues to be true, while in India recent political developments have resulted in the unification of the state under a strong central government; as a result, many small dialects have disappeared and the hegemonic dialect has gained speakers so as to become the majority language. Both countries’ drastically different relationships toward language learning in general have a significant impact on the citizens of each in their tendency to learn and be successful in a third language. China
As previously mentioned,
has two official languages and several other “scheduled” languages. As long ago as 1956, the All India Council for Education has recommended a “Three Language Formula” or TLF. The National Policy on Education 1968 recommended the inclusion of the TLF India
“which includes the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the Southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi speaking states, and of Hindi along with the regional language and English in the non- Hindi speaking states, at the Secondary stage.” (Mallikarjun)
This policy was reinforced in educational policy in 1986 and again in 1992; however, education is left to the individual states rather than controlled by the federal government. As a result, the policy was unevenly implemented. (Mallikarjun) The Indian National Council of Educational Research and Training released a discussion document in 2000 which stated “the spirit of the formula had not been followed and the mother tongue of the people has been denied the status of the first language.” It further stated that many regions were only teaching the regional language and English, which had become more similar in status, or were teaching ancient indigenous languages such as Sanskrit or even European languages rather than a modern minority Indian language. (NCERT)
In a highly populous and diverse nation such as
, “the nature [of] subnational loyalties is such that democratic methods and measures are likely to encourage them.” (Gupta) As a result, India continues to struggle to find a method to increase national unity in language learning. Until they do so and also raise their national literacy levels, it is unlikely that India will truly be the polylinguistic society many perceive it to be. One place where India does excel, however, and at least in the upper, educated classes, is in the teaching of English. India
English started to be taught in
in 1792 as both a foreign language and as a means of instruction. During British colonialism, English became an official language in 1830. (Mallikarjun) Due to India ’s colonialist past, English continues to maintain a stronghold on business and education. “In economic imperialism, the imperialist language is necessary for international commerce and finance: a foreign language will become widely used because of the economic advantage associated with it.” Today, 99% of English speakers in India are non-native speakers. Further, it is the most widely spoken second language and functions as the effective lingua franca as, due to the failures in the implementation of a Three Language Program, most people speak no other Indian language outside of their mother tongue. (Hohenthal) India
There has been historical resistance to the learning of English in
because it was seen as an imperialist language. Some of this resistance has also been due to the traditional method in which it was taught, with a focus on the rote memorization of grammatical structures. (Canagarajah) However, more modern pedagogical methods, including more communicative and immersion based teaching methods, are beginning to be taught in India with high levels of success and this resistance is disappearing. Still, it is estimated that only around 5% of the population uses English as a foreign language, though this group holds a disproportionate level of the power and wealth of the country, especially in the most powerful economic urban centers. (Prabhu) For many educated Indians, in fact, English serves almost as a first language. (Hohenthal) India
It stands to reason that if only 5% of the nation uses English, and English is the mostly widely spoken second language of
, that Hindi does not enjoy high levels of fluency. In fact, it only enjoys dominance in the north. While Hindi is heavily recommended by the federal government as the third language in the Three Language Program in the southern parts of India (Mallikarjun), it is not frequently taught. India
One priority after the reforms was the standardization of Chinese under the
dialect of putonghua (known in the western world as Mandarin Chinese). Even today, however, only about 70% of Chinese people use a dialect of putonghua as their mother tongue, though this number is increasing as it is the only official language of the country. As such, it is the only language taught in schools in mainland Beijing and China , as well as being the language of instruction for all other subjects. (Ethnologue) Due to the PRC’s commitment to the country-wide adoption of the language, the language has also been simplified, especially in its written form, though thousands of characters still must be learned for a person to be considered fluent. (US Army) Taiwan
Modernization has not been viewed as a threat in the PRC so long as that modernization did not betray the main tenants of the party. Moreover, the PRC believed heavily in commercial expansion, especially into the global market. As a result, foreign language education, particularly in today’s lingua franca of English, was accepted, if not actively prioritized, from the 1980s onward. (US Army) In fact, “in the last quarter century, English language education has been a subject of paramount importance in
, and proficiency in English has been widely regarded as a national as well as a personal asset.” (Guangwei) China
In contrast to the reality of many countries, and perhaps due to the difficulty of becoming truly fluent in their own mother tongue, students tend not to learn English until later in life at the college age. (College here refers to the British system of post-secondary, pre-university education, similar to the Spanish system of Bachillerato.) It is only since the early 21st century that children in primary school, and this still only in urban centers, have been taught English in school. This education is so effective, however, that even “college students not majoring in English can read ordinary English newspapers and magazines and communicate in English.” This English, unfortunately, tends to focus exclusively on reading and writing. This is so extreme that several students who can read and write easily with extensive vocabularies cannot speak with any fluency or understand people who speak to them. Modern, communicative methods of teaching have not been widely accepted, and the heavily-emphasized grammar is taught primarily in Chinese. (Lin Lin)
Despite the limitations and restrictions, the teaching of English has become so widespread in
that several unique variations and dialects have been created. At the lower end of the continuum, there is a form of “pidgin” English or “Chinglish” where the words are strung together with little grammatical sense; pronunciation is also nonstandard and mutual understanding is almost nonexistent between other speakers of English. On the other end, there is a very standardized Chinese dialect with near standard pronunciation. It does have several unique variations due to the influence of Chinese. There are even some movements pushing for the acceptance of “China English” as a standard world dialect. (Hu) China
On the other hand, in recent years there has been somewhat of a backlash against the propensity of the population to speak English, specifically to use English words while speaking Chinese. In 2010, the government passed a law limiting the use of English in the press. This law has the end of protecting the “purity” of the Chinese language, particularly from the widespread use of English acronyms and modern English words such as “email.” These usages have become more common since the massive industrialization and globalization in
during the last decades. (BBC) China
In recent history, the borders of countries in some areas of the world have changed drastically through wars and treaties. One region in which this is particularly true is in the eastern half of
Europe, where collapsing empires have created new nations even in the last decade. One such example is found in Hungarian speakers that were left outside of their country when its territory was reduced after the First World War. Another is the dynamic mixture of languages, ethnicities, and cultures that made up the former , which has since split into new independent countries through a violent series of conflicts in the last two decades, leaving many people on the other side of the border from the majority of the other speakers of their native language. While the issues in the Balkans offer little in the realm of statistical data, perhaps due to the simple fact that these countries have been independent, at maximum, for two decades, they do offer a fascinating case study in the modern world of a historically common phenomenon, that of heavily fractured regions that have exploded into violence and left lingering resentments based on race, language, and ethnicity. Republic of Yugoslavia
Hungarian speakers in
At its height during its alliance with
, Austria possessed a territory far greater than its current size. As a punishment for supporting Hungary in the First World War, approximately 71% of the country’s territory and 62% of its population was removed as a provision of the Treaty of Versailles. About half of the removed population consisted of ethnic Hungarians and a vast majority lived in the region of western Germany currently known as Romania Transylvania. In fact, had Romania Europe’s largest postwar minority population, approximately 9%, which consisted mainly of Hungarians. ( ) Today, about 10% of the Roman population is of Hungarian descent; this number is even higher in Linden Transylvania, and in some regions Hungarians are a majority of the population. (Ethnologue) This region is quite rural and these Hungarian villages were generally allowed to govern themselves as they saw fit and to educate their children in Hungarian until the so-called Romanization policies of Nicolae Ceausescu in the 1970s and 1980s.
These policies were a great threat not only to Hungarian villages in the Romanian countryside, but to Romanian villages as well. Ceausescu sought a cultural revolution, where the population would be urbanized and modernized, while their former land would be turned into massive state-owned agricultural complexes. Some claim that he planned to destroy every second village, regardless of the nationality and linguistic traditions of its speakers; nevertheless, he did favor the razing of minority-group villages over those of ethnic Romanians. The historical feud between the two countries led to a particular severity in the limiting of the rights of ethnic Hungarians within
through “discriminating and sometimes brutal practices.” (Newall) Romania
These policies focused heavily on education. Universities and secondary schools which had Hungarian as their vehicular language were forcefully closed or merged with those which had Romanian as their vehicular language. Hungarian teachers were systematically dismissed; those whose university degrees were in Hungarian were unable to find work. Moreover, Hungarian publishing houses were shut down and it was made illegal to bring books in Hungarian into
. This was only a small part of the greater effort to subjugate the Hungarian language, which included the removal of bilingual signs and even the changing of Hungarian names on tombstones; citizens were also resettled to eliminate the existence of population centers with a Hungarian majority. These movements reached their apex in the late 1980s. (Newall) Romania
As these measures were being enacted in
, Romania declared itself independent from Soviet control. In their new constitution, Hungary claimed that they “consider[ed] Hungarians living beyond [the] borders as part of [the] nation.” In the new openness fostered between the countries due to participation in the European community, Hungary has made multiple efforts to increase the levels of Hungarian language education within the remaining Hungarian settlements in Hungary Transylvania. ( ) After the system change in the early 1990s, the issue of Hungarian language education was one of the most controversial, and Butler implemented a system of separated schools while they further examined how to facilitate minority-language classes. In some regions no action was taken at all while this further analysis took place, resulting in a continuation of the old anti-Hungarian policies. (McIntosh) Romania
The Council of Europe states in its Recommendation 1201 that all European citizens have the right to use their mother tongue in private and public, as well as in administrative actions in areas where there is a large minority group. It also states that all citizens have a right to education in their mother tongue. While these recommendations cannot be made mandatory, there are great incentives in the European Community for countries to comply. Further, in May 2001 the Romanian parliament approved an Ethnic Minorities Law, granting the Hungarian minorities in
Transylvania, along with other minority groups inside of , some educational freedoms. Today, Hungarians in areas of Romania with dense ethnic Hungarian populations can study with Hungarian as the vehicular language in primary school with little difficulty; secondary schools are rarer and often require students to travel relatively large distances if they wish to study in Hungarian. (Ram) The scarcity of Hungarian secondary schools and the near lack of Hungarian-language university education in Romania , coupled with the Hungarian government’s granting citizenship to all ethnic Hungarians, regardless of their place of birth, has led to a great flow of ethnic Hungarians out of Romania and other bordering countries back into Romania . Nevertheless, especially in some towns in western Hungary Transylvania, some Hungarians continue to hold onto their traditional lands and to fight for language rights within . (Kettley) Romania
Legally, university education can be obtained only if groups request departments or programs in a minority language but successfully doing so is very difficult and only one university currently has a significant percentage of its offerings in Hungarian. (Ram) The bright spot in Hungarian language instruction has been
in the city of Babes-Bolyai University , which offers 67 of its 105 specialities in Hungarian. ( Cluj-Napoca ) Other Hungarian speakers who wish to pursue higher education typically do so in Babes-Bolyai University . Hungary
Hungarians who are able to study in their mother tongue sometimes choose not to learn Romanian, focusing instead on English. Those who study in Romanian also study English, or sometimes French, in school, while they typically learn Hungarian through informal settings in their everyday life. Thus, an interesting situation arises in these areas of
, where the nation-wide ethnic minority actually has to learn fewer languages than the nation-wide ethnic majority. Since the 1990s, a modern foreign language has been an obligatory subject for all students from the third grade until the end of compulsory education. “Hungarian pupils begin to study Romanian in the second grade and the first foreign language in the third;” in addition, they also usually begin to study a second foreign language in fifth grade. (Iatcu) Romania
During the first courses, the Hungarian students appear to be at a disadvantage, learning English more slowly than their Romanian peers and maintaining more of their native accent. However, by secondary and further education, they overcome these difficulties and “show the same level of competence and proficiency for the same group of age and training.” One can logically assume that this initial benefit to the Romanian students is due to the similarities between English and Romanian, a romance language, compared to the complete disconnect between English and the unique Finno-Ugric Hungarian. The students can thus benefit from making connections between Romanian, which they usually know well, and English and later French. As a result, at least in regards English acquisition, the students actually benefited from having a non-Hungarian-speaking Romanian English teacher over one who did have some knowledge of Hungarian. (Iatcu) This could be seen as a form of immersion, where the students have no choice but to link the words taught to them to images or ideas rather than a translation into their own mother tongue.
of Former Republic Yugoslavia
The area referred to as the Balkans has a long and complicated history. It had been under the control of the Ottoman and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the early 1900s, at which point some nations attempted to gain their independence with a war that broke out in 1912, eventually resulting in World War I. After the war,
was formed as a kingdom for Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes; it was governed by an authoritarian Serbian hegemony. The borders changed during World War II as the Croats welcomed Hitler as a means of escaping Serbian control, with many different groups fighting for dominance within the region and war-time atrocities being committed on all sides. The Communist Republic of Yugoslavia was founded by Marshall Tito in 1945 and stability was maintained with the help of western loans and Soviet hegemony until 1992. By then, nationalist tendencies had grown again and wars broke out across the region as various groups declared their independence; thousands of ethnic refugees fled across borders and ethnic cleansing was carried out against different religious and ethnic groups. The armed conflict continued during a decade and the region continued to spawn new nations as recently as 2008, when Kosovo declared itself independent from Yugoslavia . Today, the former Yugoslavian nation has split into seven nations: Serbia , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Croatia , Kosovo, Macedonia , Montenegro , and Serbia . While UN and EU participation have resulted in some improvement in the relations between countries, tensions continue to run high and thousands of people remain displaced from their historical homes. (BBC News) Slovenia
The main issue in education today in the countries that formed the former
is that of the thousands of displaced peoples within each country. In some countries, the issue is an economic one, where countries must cope with large numbers of refugees that escaped from neighboring countries to the countries where their ethnicity was in the majority; this situation will not be examined in this paper as they are easily able to study in their mother tongue, provided they are able to access educational facilities. Rather, this paper will focus on those ethnic groups that continue to be a minority in these new countries, regardless of their status as refugees. This situation is quite unique as the amount of resentment held between minority groups is higher in this region than in many others; this is due to historical reasons as well as to the recent bloody history of the region. (Bekker) Yugoslavia
Of the former Yugoslavian countries, only
is today a member of the European Union, while Slovenia and Croatia are candidate nations. These countries, along with Macedonia , have the most liberal policies toward their minority groups. Serbia also hopes to join the EU in the next few years, as well as having been under particular surveillance by the UN since the conflicts in the region have ended; this may have resulted in their liberal policies. (CIA) In the northern part of the former Serbia , the language difficulties are lessened by the similarities between Croat, Bosniak, and Serbian, as the three languages are very similar and have only about 10% unique vocabulary; as such, it is relatively easy for speakers of any of the three languages to understand each other when speaking. Nevertheless, some issues may arise with the written language, as Croatians use exclusively Latin script with Bosnians use exclusively Cyrillic script and Yugoslavia is split between the two. (Ethnologue) Serbia
, the country that remains the most ethnically diverse of the region, most of the population is effectively trilingual in these three official languages. A large Romanian speaking minority group also exists. (Ethnologue) Nevertheless, the issue of which language is used in schools remains extremely polemical; the educational language is seen as a cultural tool, and resentment remains between the different groups. (US English) In Bosnia and Herzegovina , only Croat and Italian are official languages and many more minority ethnic groups exist. (Ethnologue) While relations with the Italian minority group are very cordial in the region of Croatia Istria, and other minority groups are generally afforded the rights of protest and education in accordance with EU policies, systematic discrimination against the ethnic Serbs in the region continues. Outside of the Danube region, it continues to be very difficult for Serbs to receive an education in their native language. (US English) Little information exists regarding the individual developments in Kosovo, which only declared itself an independent nation in 2008 and such independence, in fact, remains somewhat contested despite wide-spread diplomatic recognition by western nations. (BBC News)
, Macedonian and Gheg Albanian are the official languages while there is also a large minority of Greek speakers. (Ethnologue) Compulsory primary education is available in Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, and Serbian; non-compulsory secondary education is not offered in Serbian. These programs are offered wherever there are 24 students who are native speakers of minority language in a class. Moreover, some efforts have been made to include the Roma language in curriculum, though these efforts have only recently begun. In 1997, 13% of the students in secondary education were participating in one of the non-majority mother tongue programs; this number was expected to continue to rise. In higher education, the law states that all public universities must teach exclusively in Macedonian. While there is nothing preventing private universities from existing, only one university offering recognized accreditation in Albanian exists. (US English) Macedonia
, as in Kosovo, little information currently exists as it became independent from Montenegro only in 2006; in contrast to the situation in Kosovo, however, this independence is not disputed. It can be assumed that both countries have had an experience rather similar to that of Serbia , the country from which both declared their independence. (BBC News) Serbia recognizes only Serbian as an official language, despite its large regional minority groups. (Ethnologue) Hungarian populations in the north are generally allowed to educate their children in the municipalities where they are a majority; these students typically attend university in Serbia itself. The other major minority group, the Muslim population in the southern half of the country, uses Cyrillic Serbian and as such does not suffer many educational difficulties, despite widespread religious prejudice against them. (US English). Finally, in Hungary , the only EU member state, the national languages of Slovene, Hungarian, and Italian are recognized and typically receive full educational rights. (Ethnologue) The main criticism against the Slovenian educational system in the field of minority languages has been a lack of effort to include Roma languages and culture in official curriculum. (US English) It is important to remember, in the case of the former Slovenia , that the students who are forced to study in a non-native tongue do so as a unique exception to official policy and as part of a wide-reaching system of prejudice. Yugoslavia
In these countries, education is typically mandatory for eight years of primary school. Some of the countries have also made secondary school obligatory and thus free. (Ivic) The quality of this education, however, is in question, and one major obstacle to overcome in these countries is the simple improvement of the education system in general. With the exception of
and Croatia , the countries in this region enjoy only approximately 90% citizen literacy; this number is even lower in the very rural areas of these countries. (Ethnologue) In these countries, then, it is necessary to first ensure the literacy of its youth in the native language or languages of the country before a great emphasis can be placed on foreign language education. Most reforms seem to be imposed from the outside, particularly on the part of the European Union, and are therefore met with some resistance. The Slovenia plan, however, ensures that as these countries further integrate into the European community, they will place greater and greater emphasis on foreign language education. (Morgan) Some universities in the region have even begun to offer a few programs in English, particularly those focused on business and education, reinforcing their commitment to improving their future citizens’ foreign language capacities. Bologna
Groups of people have always migrated around the world for various reasons, the majority of them economic. Today’s situation is no different, where large numbers of citizens from economically disadvantaged nations migrate to nearby or otherwise hospitable nations that are in a better economic situation in the quest for a better life. This is certainly true in the case of the
, a country which has always been made of immigrants. Today, among other immigrant groups, Spanish-speaking minorities from the countries of Central and United States South America are settling in the at very high rates, particularly in the Southwest region of the country. However, this is no less true in United States Europe. While some of the migration in Europe can be accounted for by the European Union’s emphasis on mobility, which has increased the flow of citizens from one member nation to another, it is not this immigration which has caused a polemic in recent years. Rather, it is immigration from poor countries in Asia and North Africa to Europe that has been resisted. As a case study of this social movement, this paper will focus on the immigration of Turkish people to , as this immigration has been taking place over several years and has been extensively documented. Germany
Hispanic Immigrants in the
has a population of approximately 313 million inhabitants and no official language. Nevertheless, English has long been the operating language of the country, despite the fact that official government matters, in recent years, are available in a variety of languages. Today, approximately 82% of the population of the United States speaks English as its first language; Spanish is the most widely spoken minority language, with about 11% of the population, or approximately 30 million speakers. In fact, the United States holds the fifth-largest population of Spanish speakers in the world. (CIA) Spanish has existed in the territory that is now the United States for even longer than English and in some regions of the American southwest English and Spanish have coexisted for centuries. In recent decades, however, immigration from South and Central American countries to the United States has greatly increased, resulting in moderate resistance as some fear that Spanish poses a threat to the dominance of English. This is despite evidence that the children and especially grandchildren of immigrants actually have very little tendency to continue speaking Spanish. While this language shift is somewhat disguised by increasing immigration, it is nevertheless true, and Spanish speakers in the United States lose their Spanish almost entirely by the third generation. (Valdes) United States
In recent years, some efforts have been made to reduce or delay this language shift and help students to maintain or even improve upon the Spanish they learn at home. This is primarily done through so-called heritage language courses, where students who have a familiar connection to Spanish are enrolled in Spanish courses designed to improve their academic level in the subject. One challenge of such courses is the heterogeneous nature of heritage learners in their abilities to speak, understand, and write a language. Limited resources often require that these students be grouped together into the same heritage learner class, where such a class exists at all. (Edstrom) Moreover, these students are often descended from immigrants from different countries and therefore have different cultural and linguistic traditions; the challenge of creating and teaching a so-called standardized Spanish language to such varied students while still respecting their different linguistic differences is immense. (Ellison)
These heritage language courses are important to the subject of this paper because they often represent the only viable foreign-language option available to native Spanish speaking students in the
. The United States has historically placed scant emphasis on foreign language acquisition; most secondary schools and even universities offer little opportunity to study more than two or three modern languages. Spanish is the definite preferred foreign language in the United States of today, and generally enjoys the largest enrollment. “At the secondary level, Spanish accounts for 64.5% of all enrollments” in foreign language studies, a number that has only continued to grow. (Valdes) In places where heritage language programs do not exist for these native speakers or heritage learners, they are often left with little recourse but to attend a class designed for Anglophones seeking to learn Spanish as a foreign language in order to fulfill language requirements for graduation. These courses offer little to the heritage learner, as they are not designed to meet their needs. (Edstrom) United States
In the case of Hispanic immigrants to the
, then, a rather unique situation arises. While bilingual programs do exist in the United States , their focus has traditionally been exclusively to teach the students English as quickly as possible so that they are ready to mainstream into English-only classrooms. The need to preserve the students’ native or heritage languages has only recently come into focus. (Nieto) This is a direct result of the generational language shift which is currently greatly reducing the number of Spanish speakers within the country, though this decline is being somewhat diminished by ongoing immigration. In an effort to not only respect the cultural and linguistic heritage of these students but also to ensure their future economic success, these heritage language programs have arisen in some areas of the country. These programs create the unique situation of a minority group studying their native language as a subject while continuing to study the rest of their subjects in the majority language of the country, English. United States
Turkish Immigrants in
The first Turks were invited to
in the 1960s as guest workers; after the oil crisis of the 1970s this invitation was rescinded and many returned home. Those that did stay, however, had their families join them and their high birth rate kept the Turkish population in Germany high. While many maintained hopes of returning to Germany , many have now started retiring within Turkey in order to stay close to their children and grandchildren, the later generations which feel little connection to their historic homeland. As a result, the center of community has been transferred to German Turkish communities, which have developed their own cultural institutions. Nevertheless, they continue to remain separate from the mainstream German culture. (White) Nor are they totally unified as an immigrant group, with tensions remaining based on each neighborhood’s region of origin in Germany and the different groups of Turkish immigrants being somewhat distrustful of the others. Generational differences also exist and there can be high tension between older, more traditional immigrants and their more integrated children and grandchildren. (Ogelman) Turkey
Despite the fact that Turks in
statistically show the lowest rates of assimilation, they also have the highest rate of naturalization, which further shows that Turkish immigrants in Germany are today committed to remaining in Germany . While some of this could be due to the greater benefits Turkish immigrants stand to gain from naturalization compared to immigrants from other European Union countries, the benefits have generally been shown to be too small to counteract the loss of one’s original citizenship. Rather, it is thought to be the increased social status of being German that causes this high level of naturalization, a fact which can be extrapolated to describe the low social status and even prejudice towards the Turkish population by ethnic Germans. This tendency toward naturalization also implies that the Turkish population has a high level of proficiency in the German language. (Diehl) Germany
In the 1990s, Turkish children, even those born in
, had to struggle greatly to achieve an education. Less than 2% of the students in academic secondary schools were the children of immigrants; in the technical secondary schools, only one fifth of these children of immigrants managed to secure an internship in combination with entry to vocational school. The vast majority of Turkish students instead were forced into a general work-preparatory program that offered them few options after graduation. This led to many of them obtaining work as unskilled laborers even before reaching majority at age 18, and further maintained the Turkish in a lower social class than their German peers. (Smolicz) Germany
Much of this was due to the expectation that Turkish-origin students would eventually return to
, even if they had not been born there. In Turkey , for example, the Turkish language was taught in after school programs with the explicit end of encouraging these students to return to Bavaria when they and their parents were no longer needed in Turkey . Turkish language, however, was granted little respect as an academic foreign language, thus requiring school children to learn German fluently, as the language of instruction, as well as to obtain a high level of another academically-recognized foreign language, often English, to progress to higher education. (Smolicz) Germany
As a result of these educational policies, “Turks of the second and third generations engage in codeswitching as the unmarked norm… and many of them are becoming dominant in German.” (Queen) It is clear that
still has large improvements to make in the education of its immigrants. In recent studies, non-German students have been shown to perform at a level two academic years below that of their German peers. Since, in countries that have well-developed programs for the children of immigrants, immigrant children tend to perform as well as or at only slightly lower levels than their native peers, this is demonstrative of a failure on the part of the German education system to fully integrate these students. One reason for this failure is socio-economic, as students from immigrant backgrounds tend to be directed toward disadvantaged schools. (Deutsche Welle) Germany
Another major area of criticism is towards the German school system itself, where high-achieving students are placed in university track schools at the age of ten, after fourth grade. This effectively blocks students that perform poorly as children from ever attending university. (Spiegel) As most of the children of immigrants do not begin learning German until they reach school, they may well require a longer period of time to reach full fluency. This system is, therefore, inherently discriminatory toward students who do not have German as their native tongue, especially considering that the examinations for such university track programs can be completed only in German. It is only in these university track programs, in addition to a select few trade programs, where an emphasis is placed on foreign language acquisition. Since Turkish students in
are effectively denied entry into these programs, their incidence of learning foreign languages, beyond German and their native dialect, remains low. Germany
One step that has been taken to reduce this early disadvantage is early registration for school. Students must now register to begin school one year before they actually do so. At this time they are given an oral proficiency exam and if they are unable to pass, they are required to join a German-language course at the local Kindergarten. This course is taught by qualified teachers and generally accounts for six hours of language instruction per week. At later ages, if there is a large population of immigrant children, they can be put in a separate class with a special focus on the acquisition of German. Upon completion of the second year in such a special course, it is expected that all students will be able to fully participate in all subjects, including additional foreign language instruction, in German. Additionally, support courses are available in immigrant-dense areas designed to help with the acquisition of specialized vocabulary, such as that required for success in math or science. (Eurydice)
The situations in which one would come to study a third language that is not indigenous to one’s own country are, it seems, extremely limited, particularly in the case of doing so with a non-native language as the language of instruction. While many students in societies where more than one language are spoken may well learn several of these local languages, as in
, this situation tends to arise only in poor, underdeveloped nations. The more developed nations have become such through centralization and urbanization, a process which typically does away with less powerful local dialects in favor of a centralized dominant language. This can be seen in the case of India , which through its centralization has become more economically powerful at the cost of the disappearance of several local minority languages and dialects. In poorer societies, there is little incentive for the majority of the population to learn a foreign language; those that have enough wealth or influence to see a value in doing so generally come from the hegemonic class and already speak the dominant language of the country and as such do not learn the foreign language in a vehicular language other than their mother tongue. China
In the more industrialized western world, where there is viable incentive for many students to learn a foreign language, liberal policies generally allow for students to study in their mother tongue. This is especially true in cases where the minority language has a historical basis, whether as a historical minority language or a regional majority language, such as in the cases of the Basque country or
. While some languages have faced prejudice, such as Hungarian in Romania, or even continue to face prejudice today, such as in the case of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, modern integration into multi-national societies such as the European Union and the United Nations is rapidly forcing such countries to do away with prejudicial language policies in favor of programs designed to respect and maintain the cultural languages of their citizens. Quebec
Therefore, it becomes the case that the only occasion where students might regularly study a third language in a non-native vehicular language is in the case of immigration. Again, there are restrictions here as immigrant languages are generally suppressed by the third generation within a country in favor of assimilation to the majority language. This has happened with Spanish speaking immigrants in the
, which is today attempting to prevent this language shift with classes designed for heritage learners; ironically, these classes are often the only foreign language option available to these students. The first generations of immigrants, moreover, are unlikely to see the value in learning a foreign language as they are too invested in learning the national majority language of their new country in order to assimilate into their new home. Such is the case with Turkish immigrants to United States , but this assimilation has been slow in coming and many second- and third-generation Turks in Germany are still denied access to university-track education, and thus the need and opportunity to learn a foreign language. Germany
Indeed, it seems that the phenomenon of learning a foreign language with a non-native vehicular language is not a mass phenomenon. It is, however, a current individual phenomenon for single students, the children of expatriate or mixed nationality families, as well as for small groups that do manage to assimilate into a new culture. Further, international migration is only going to increase in the future. Decreased borders are also more likely to make this migration temporary as workers and their families travel to work in one location for a few years at a time. Fortunately, today’s world is at least somewhat committed to the maintenance of students’ mother tongues in favor of complete assimilation. These students of the future will speak their heritage language at home, the majority language of their country in school, and will also learn an international language, such as English. It is worthwhile to consider the unique advantages and disadvantages these students will face in doing so to better prepare for the future, when their instruction will be widespread. In doing so, we educators can prevent the failures of the past attempts to cope with new needs in education.
Issues Unique to Third and Subsequent Languages
Probably due to the relative lack of a mass tendency to study a third language, little research exists on the subject. This could also be due to the belief that the acquisition of a third or subsequent language is no different from that of a second language, which has been well studied. As a result, this section will focus on the processes involved in second language acquisition, with an analysis of how these processes would apply similarly or differently in the acquisition of a third language. Such little research as does exist uniquely regarding the acquisition of a third language will also be analyzed.
Adults versus Children and Adolescents
There are debating theories as to whether adults or children are at a greater advantage in the acquisition of a foreign language. Scientists have long disagreed on the matter, and certainly both adults and children have different mental, physiological, and cognitive characteristics that make them more or less likely to be successful in the acquisition of a second or subsequent language. As the acquisition of a third language, by definition, must take place at a later age than a second language, these considerations are tantamount to the understanding of such language development.
There is some evidence that biological constraints restrict the learning of languages after a certain age, particularly in the first language. Various developmental processes create so-called “windows of opportunity” that are currently little understood, but which nevertheless seem to be the only chance for students to learn to produce certain sounds or grammatical structures, at least in the first language. There is also evidence that younger students are at an advantage to older students in ultimate language achievement, particularly in pronunciation and grammatical syntax. For pronunciation, students are most likely to be considered to have native pronunciation if they arrive to a country or otherwise begin to study a language between the ages of one and six. The same is true of grammar, particularly in the case of word order. There are even studies that suggest that students who began to learn a second language at a younger age are better able to understand the speech patterns of native speakers of that language. (Stevens)
Students that learn a second language due to immigration at a young age are more likely to participate in schooling in that language. While the academic benefits of schooling are great, perhaps more important are the connections the students make during that schooling with native speakers of their second language. Indeed, students who are schooled in a second language are also more likely to marry and have children with a native speaker of that language, in addition to the formation of many other social connections with other native speakers, and therefore have much more opportunity and motivation to speak the second language. Therefore, it can be assumed that immigrants who arrive to a new country at a younger age have more success in the language not necessarily due to an inherent advantage in language learning, but rather “because the timing of immigration within the life-course sets immigrants onto certain life-course trajectories.” (Stevens)
Naturally, the major disadvantage to students who learn a language at a later age is their tendency to do so in a non-school setting. This, of course, leads to their having a lower academic level in the language, and may permanently impact their ability in the use of the written language and grammar. Further, those who learn a language at a later age are less likely to pass for native speakers, particularly in the realm of phonology and pronunciation. Still, these accents are less notable in spontaneous speech, which may allow older students to achieve effective conversational fluency and certainly would suggest that in everyday usage such speakers of a second language would be at little disadvantage. In the realm of grammar, students who began to study a language at an early age struggle only with some concepts, while performing better than younger learners in other areas. (Stevens) It can be assumed that these students are able to access their knowledge of their first language to assist them with the grammar of the second language.
Older students of a language, when immigrants, are more likely to have already wed a speaker of their own native language; they therefore lack this opportunity to practice their second language. They are, however, more likely to have emigrated from their country of origin for economic purposes and therefore are generally greatly motivated to learn the majority language of their new country to find work and economic advancement. (Stevens) In fact, the motivation behind learning a foreign language can generally be considered higher in adults than in children. While children generally have to learn a second or later language through no choice of their own, either through the decision of their parents to move to a new country or because it is mandatory for academic success, adults generally choose to learn a new language due to deep personal motivation. These reasons could stem from emigration to a new country to seek a better life, a desire to advance in one’s professional field, the wish to be able to communicate with a loved one, or a simple passion for a previously unexplored language. Regardless, adults are rarely made to learn a language as an abstract, academic concept, and can therefore be assumed to be highly motivated to do so in most cases.
Studies have also shown that teenagers and younger adults are able to learn a language more quickly than children. This is due to their larger cognitive bases in their mother tongue; because they have more developed cognitive systems, they can draw upon their knowledge of their first language to help in the acquisition of a new language in more complex and abstract ways than children are able to do. It is further widely accepted that vocabulary acquisition is not a matter of cognitive processes, but rather that of exposure and repetitive practice, and can therefore be learned at any age. On the other hand, older adults do have more difficulty retrieving vocabulary at the moment of usage, and also are generally less able to produce an alternate word for a piece of vocabulary they are unable to access at a particular moment. Moreover, adults can be frustrated by the need to retreat to a lower, seemingly childish linguistic level in a foreign language. (Schulz)
One of the most commonly misunderstood effects of second language acquisition is the phenomenon of code-switching, or the tendency of bilinguals to switch from one language to another in a single turn of speech. Bilingual students are apt to do so especially in contexts where both languages are commonly used or among peers whom they know to be equally bilingual. While many people believe that code-switching is used by students to compensate for a lack of knowledge or ability in one language, this is actually not the case. Rather, code-switching is a process carefully governed by rules, and is most commonly deployed in fully functional bilinguals. (Heredia)
Code-switching occurs for many reasons, one of the most interesting of which being a desire for preciseness. Oftentimes, a word or phrase in one language does not have an exact counterpart in the other language, so a bilingual will use this word with other bilinguals, even when speaking in the other language, in order to convey the exact idea they wish to communicate. Other times, bilinguals code switch due to the context of the word they wish to use. Vocabulary that is more closely linked in their cognitive centers to one linguistic context will be used in that language. (Heredia) Students also use code-switching to add emphasis to language, in much the same way that monolinguals use repetition. (Liebscher)
Nevertheless, phrases containing code-switching are more time-consuming to comprehend, particularly in the case of written language. This could be due to the extra energy required to switch from one mental lexicon to the other within the bilingual’s mind. Interestingly, this is true regardless of whether the bilingual switches from their first to their second language or vice versa. A case study in
found that Spanish-English bilinguals whose first language was Spanish experienced more interference of English when speaking Spanish than they experienced of Spanish when speaking English. Moreover, they were able to more quickly retrieve English words than Spanish words under virtually any conditions. The authors of this and other similar studies hypothesize that “after a certain level of fluency and frequency of use is attained in a second language, a language shift occurs and the second language behaves as if it were the bilingual’s first language,” thus becoming more readily accessible in their cognitive structures. This may, however, only be the case with immigrants, where their second language becomes their dominant language due to being the dominant language in their new country of residence. (Heredia) Texas
Many feel that code-switching should be allowed in the second language classroom. This is not to say that the teacher should make extensive use of the students’ mother tongue or code-switching herself. Rather, code-switching should be recognized as one recourse available to bilinguals. While many second language classrooms today restrict the students’ ability to use their first language in class, this could be counterproductive as it could hinder students from speaking, even when they are able to express the majority of an idea in the target language. Further, it can be disheartening for students, who will never become monolingual speakers of the target language. The goal of the students is to become bilinguals, using both their native tongue and the target language, and the classroom should reflect this reality. (Liebscher)
One of the great concerns in second language learning, particularly in the case of immigrants, is the need to respect the culture of the students’ first language. While past policies focused on eliminating the students’ dependence on their native language in favor of immersing them in the dominant language as quickly as possible, recent developments have caused countries to view the native language of its immigrants as a national resource. As such, steps have been taken to attempt to prevent the language shift typically present in second and third generation immigrants. These generally take place in the form of heritage language programs and classes for students who might have a large practical base in a language but lack an academic understanding of the language, which they have often never formally studied.
These courses are not without their problems. First, in many cases, native or heritage speakers must share a class with non-native speakers due to a lack of resources; however, traditional foreign language teaching methods offer little to these students who already have an effective base in the language. These classes often must function as a native-language language arts class would, but teachers are poorly prepared to offer such a course. There is also the difficulty that these students often come from a variety of backgrounds, despite speaking the same language. They may well have different cultural expectations and speak different dialects or registers of the same language. The challenge here, then, is to teach the students a standardized version of their language without discounting the value of their own cultures and dialects. The curriculum must further recognize the students’ unique culture as immigrants outside of their home country. This can often only be successfully undertaken by a teacher who is a native speaker of their own language; trained teachers familiar with the needs of heritage speakers who they themselves are heritage speakers may be unavailable. (Potowski) Finally, such programs must also have sufficient contact hours with their students, a need that is often difficult to address in the face of budget cuts and standardized exams. (Slavin)
There is some evidence of the theory that learning a second language makes a student more culturally sensitive. Surely, the process of learning a foreign language today often includes a cultural component, which would make students more likely to be aware of and empathetic towards other cultures. The process of learning a second language further increases a student’s flexibility and problem solving abilities. This is almost definitely due to the fact that languages do not express the same things in the same ways, and idioms and expressions must be understood culturally to be effectively used linguistically. The concept that some aspects of language cannot be directly translated, but rather must be done so via meaning, requires a cultural awareness that must be fostered in students. Recognizing the different ways, both in syntax and in semantics, that different languages express the same idea requires a sympathetic understanding of the different cultures; using structures different from one’s own native tongue in a second language implies the tacit recognition that neither structure is superior to the other. (Citron)
Many propose that the main difference between first language acquisition and second language acquisition as an adult lies mainly in the complex affective structures present in the brain of an adult. Krashen suggested that adults learn a second language through acquisition, an unconscious focus on communication, and through learning, a conscious focus on form and rules that results in metalinguistic knowledge. As such, adults are more likely to monitor their second language output which, given sufficient time, results in more precise and accurate target language output, but which can also be overused and result in hesitancy in the production of a second language. This explains one of the great limitations on adult language learners: the possible embarrassment that can be felt at misusing language; children rarely experience such hesitancy. (Nagle)
Bialystok, on the other hand, argued that these two processes, which she referred to as implicit and explicit learning, are fully connected in the cognitive center and that, through practice, knowledge and structures can be moved from the explicit to the implicit knowledge base, thus eliminating this hesitancy in the production of the target language. She maintained that this was achieved through the referencing of nonlinguistic knowledge against other knowledge already possessed by the learner. This theory is supported by Lamendella’s concept of cognitive hierarchy, a problem solving process found in the brains of adults which helps them to connect outside knowledge and experience to second language learning. In fact, the more base knowledge a student has, of any sort, the more likely they are to be able to effectively comprehend input activities in a foreign language. (Nagle)
Further researchers have stated that automatic processes in language reception and production can be obtained only through repetition which is designed to create a system of mental connections that will then function automatically. This will further free controlled processes to be used for other tasks. If these automatic processes are not developed in the student, the student is left having to focus on individual aspects of the language to be understood; if the input has to be broken down into too many steps, the result can be slow and laborious understanding. (Nagle) This theory lends itself to the theory that immersion is best for a student, as it forces them to repeatedly perform these linguistic tasks and thus build up a large number of synapses which are available to them in the future.
It has also been found that recall is most successful when students learn under stimulating circumstances. This stimulus could be due to something as basic as a noisy or colorful learning environment, but these forms of stimulus have been shown to assist only in rote memorization activities. (Nagle) It is possible, however, that students who are stimulated through a personal attachment to or interest in the activity at hand could receive the cognitive benefits of this stimulation in a more flexible manner.
Third and Subsequent Languages
While relatively little research exists on the acquisition of a third language, research does exist on the effects of polylingualism. This knowledge can be extrapolated from to make conclusions about the processes of learning a third language. For instance, people who speak three languages are found to be less likely to suffer from cognitive impairment and dementia later in life. Those that speak additional languages are found to be even less likely to suffer cognitive loss. (Smith) From this, it can be assumed that learning a third language creates further synapses in one’s mind, much the same way that learning a second language does, and does not simply make use of those already created in the acquisition of the second language.
It is generally accepted that having learned a second language makes learning a third language easier. This can be due to typographic similarities between the two languages in some cases. When two languages are similar, there can be cross-linguistic transfer which makes the acquisition of the similar language easier. It can also be the result of the brain having to simply repeat and expand upon processes it has already formed in the acquisition of the second language. While these processes are still not fully understood, it can be assumed that the brain is able to benefit from the experience of learning the first non-native language in the acquisition of a third non-native language. (Cenoz 1997)
It has been round that bilingualism and biliteracy results in more efficient language learning, even in the native langue. The reason for this is not entirely known, but may well be due to enhanced working memory and metalinguistic awareness, or the knowledge of how language is used, present in bilinguals. (Sanz) Thus, it can be assumed that learning multiple languages can only benefit the student. This goes directly against the theory that students that learn multiple languages, particularly at a young age, are likely to become confused or unable to distinguish between languages.
In direct contrast to this assumption, another interesting finding in third language research is the fact “that during L3 production, the language learner often unintentionally produces interlanguage forms that consist either partially or completely of L2 forms.” That is to say, students of a third language are more able to draw from their second language knowledge base while learning a third language than from their native language. As such, the third language learner must be viewed “not as a monolingual acquiring a second L2 but as a learner with a unique and specific linguistic configuration.” One such difference is in this tendency of second-language forms to invade third-language production while first-language forms do not interfere with either second- or third-language production. It seems that the first language is easier to “deactivate” than a second language, which may be intrinsically linked with the third and subsequent languages in the communication center of the brain. That is, that once a language learner makes the conscious decision to speak a foreign language, it can be hard to differentiate between the foreign languages they know. This results in the speaker unconsciously switching between non native languages, and is especially likely when the student has a low level of proficiency in one or both of their foreign languages. (Murphy)
In some ways, the issues related to the acquisition of a third language are similar to those related to the acquisition of a second language. For one, code-switching is likely to occur between the languages known by the student, particularly between the second and the third language. This must be understood differently from second language interference in the third language that is a result of a low level of proficiency in the third language. Code-switching is a process that is not yet fully understood, but studies have firmly shown that, when it follows the grammatical rules of the target language, it is not due to a lack of proficiency, but rather to interconnectedness between language structures in the communicative structure, nor is it the same as cross-language interference. While there are many reasons a student may choose to code-switch, the important thing is that code-switching is recognized as a bilingual tool and permitted in the foreign language classroom. This will allow students to not only have the confidence to communicate more freely, but it will also allow them to function as the future multilinguals they hope to be.
Learning a third language is also similar to learning a second language in that knowledge of culture is necessary to do so. In fact, students who are more culturally sensitive before learning a language have been found to be more successful in their learning and in their ability to successfully use the language once learned. This is a great benefit to the learners of a third language, who through their success in the acquisition of a second language have already obtained the cultural sensitivity and personal flexibility and resilience necessary to be successful learners of a language. This is one more possible reason for the fact that students typically learn a third language more quickly and easily than they learn the second.
Cognitive structures in the mind, once formed, can be used by many different processes. This allows students an advantage in learning a third language as they do not have to “reinvent the wheel” but can rather use the metalinguistic knowledge they already obtained to more effectively learn their third language. Moreover, learning a third language creates further synapses and connections in the brain, such as working memory, which can then be used in other linguistic activities, improving the students’ performance even within their native language. Further, as students learning a third language are more likely to do so at an older age, they are able to draw upon nonlinguistic knowledge and experiences to further assist them in their language learning.
Finally, it is important to remember the distinctions that have been found between second and subsequent language acquisition. First, third language acquisition is not the same as second language acquisition, repeated, but creates entirely new mental processes. Second, as it seems that non-native languages are more closely linked in the mind, students with low proficiency in either their second or third language might experience non-regulated interference with one into the other in production. This can be used to the students’ advantage, however, particularly when the second language’s typography is similar to that of the third language, such as when the two languages are from the same linguistic family.
Strategies of Language Acquisition
There are many competing strategies for the best method of language instruction and each has fierce defenders and retractors. Nevertheless, each strategy has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. The two most common strategies currently used in second language instruction today are immersion, where students are taught exclusively in the target language, and mother tongue instruction, where students are taught using their native language as the instructional language at least to some degree. A third method, non-mother tongue instruction, is much less common but is used in some areas of the world. These three methods will be discussed and then analyzed for their value to the subsequent language learner. Finally, the relatively new method of team or partner teaching will be examined as a means to combine more than one method into a single learning experience for the students.
Immersion teaching is certainly the most commonly accepted theory in second language education today; in fact, “if any single tenet has persisted throughout the Western language pedagogy revolutions of the 20th century and beyond, it is that the use of the [first language] is to be avoided in the [foreign language] classroom.” (Liebscher) In immersion teaching, students are expected to learn in the target language from the beginning of their instruction. This utilizes many strategies. One such strategy is the careful progression from a simplified form of the language to a more complex usage, which allows the students to gradually transition to a more authentic form of the target language. Another involves using mime, realia, and Total Physical Response in the teaching of vocabulary and structures. This method allows the students to connect the new vocabulary either with the corresponding word or phrase in their own language, or with a more abstract cognitive concept. Studies show that when immersion programs are well designed and allow the students to gradually adjust to instruction in the target language, they can be successful, but when immersion programs more resemble so-called submersion programs, which require the students to immediately attempt to cope with complex structures in the target language without additional support, the students generally flounder. (Slavin) It is also interesting to note that the benefits of immersion can be enjoyed by students even when the teacher does not have native-speaker like abilities in the target language. (Knell)
The proponents of immersion education typically offer one of two widely- accepted reasons for favoring this strategy. The first argues that immersion education most closely imitates the students’ acquisition of the first language, and can as such take advantage of the cognitive structures and experiences already created by the acquisition of that first language. In doing so, the students are likely to learn in a more natural way and thus more fully integrate the language into their cognitive structures. The second argument states that immersion instruction is more likely to create compartmentalized language centers in the students’ communicative structures, thus creating a sort of “coordinate bilingualism.” This process is seen as more realistic; when students hear a word or concept in their native tongue, they are able to attach it to a non-linguistic concept. (Liebscher) The hope of immersion education is that students would be able to do the same in the second language. Thus, when a native Spanish speaker hears the word “green,” as a result of the processes created by immersion education they would not think of the Spanish word “verde,” but would rather think of the same abstract concept of greenness inspired by “verde” in their mind.
Moreover, early immersion programs, targeted at the youngest students, create an advanced level of second language oral proficiency before introducing literacy, a process that has been shown to increase literacy, though not early word recognition skills, in the long term. This is particularly effective in phonology. The oral skills developed in an immersion program, both receptive and productive, also tend to be higher than those of students in non-immersion programs, though it is unclear whether this is due to an intrinsic benefit of immersion or to the increased hours of exposure students typically have to the target language in an immersion program. (Knell)
One could logically assume that an immersion classroom would also experience lower levels of deviance on the part of the teacher due to their dependence on the teacher. Stephen Richer and Florence Andrews undertook a study to examine this hypothesis in several kindergartens in
. This was not found to be the case, with students in immersion classes demonstrating more reckless behavior than their non-immersion counterparts, particularly demonstrated in mildly violent behavior against their classmates. Furthermore, because immersion students typically continue to communicate amongst each other in the majority language, the process of immersion served to isolate the teacher from the student community. However, immersion classrooms did demonstrate a higher degree of inter-child linguistic community. When one student needed assistance understanding the teacher, another student was quick to assist with a translation. As such, the peer group acted as a sort of “buffer zone” between the teacher and the students. Unfortunately, as the students were primarily communicating with each other in their first language, this community provided little linguistic value. (Richer) Canada
Mother Tongue Instruction
Mother tongue instruction is often referred to as bilingual education; for the purposes of this paper it is referred to as mother tongue instruction to differentiate it from the bilingual programs, typical in Europe, where students receive some of their daily instruction in their native tongue and some in a second local or a foreign language. There is strong evidence to suggest that a student’s level of success in their own language is highly indicative of their future success in a foreign language. There is further evidence to suggest that students are capable of learning the structures of two languages simultaneously without either language interfering with the other. (Slavin) Mother tongue instruction thus, particularly in the case of young language learners, provides an opportunity for students to continue to be exposed to their native language and thus become more proficient in it, increasing their chances of success in second and subsequent languages.
There are several types of mother tongue instruction focused almost exclusively on immigrants. In transitional bilingual programs, children are first taught to in their mother tongue and then later transition slowly to having instruction partially in their mother tongue and partially in the target language before transitioning entirely to complete instruction in the target language. These programs may last from two to several years. A model sometimes referred to as alternative immersion, or paired bilingual, also exists. Here, students are taught in their native tongue on alternating days or lessons and in the target language at the other times. (Slavin)
One powerful benefit to the use of the mother tongue in second language acquisition is the ability to foster purposeful code-switching and thus take advantage of the cognitive benefits offered by such. Through this process, which creates connections between the two language centers, the first language can be purposefully used to improve second language acquisition. Beyond this, however, code-switching can also be seen as a valuable bilingual communicative tool. As so many bilinguals take advantage of this structure, it is important that students best understand how to use it in varied contexts. If bilinguals generally use the strategy of code-switching, it stands to reason that teaching, or at least allowing, effective code-switching in the second language classroom will help to create bilinguals. (Liebscher)
Another area where mother tongue instruction is particularly useful is in addressing the needs of struggling students. Students with particular literacy difficulties in a second language, for example, who receive a targeted intervention in that target language generally improve greatly only in the ability to recognize words in the target language, while they experience slight gains in other aspects of literacy. Students who received a literacy intervention in their mother tongue, on the other hand, improved greatly in more areas related to literacy and to oral language. These findings are particularly true for younger students. (Vaughn)
Non-Mother Tongue Instruction
Non-mother tongue instruction, by definition, applies only in the case of third or subsequent language education. In this model, students are taught a third language using their second, non-native language as the vehicular language. This method is quite rare, due to the simple fact that students rarely learn a third language in a formal schooling situation while children for the reasons discussed in the conclusions section of part one. Nevertheless, this situation does occur. Some immigrants, for example, must learn a foreign language in the majority language of their country. This is especially true of immigrants to
Europe; the plan now requires an intermediate level of English from all university graduates, so students that immigrate to Bologna Europe from non-English speaking countries in theory must learn English from their second language.
Many adults also choose to learn a language from a non-native language due to typographical similarities between a second known language and the target language. For example, Americans who speak Spanish may choose to study Portuguese in Spanish due to the similarities the two languages share as Romance languages. Another example can be found in the case of Hungarian primary school aged children in
. It was found that the children’s knowledge of Romanian, a romance language, assisted them in their acquisition of English by providing similar structures and cognates to the target language that could not be found in the unique Hungarian language. (Iatcu) Native speakers of relatively obscure languages may also choose to study a third language using a well-known second language due to a greater availability of resources. Finally, as it has been found that all non-native languages are closely linked in the mind, learning a third language from a second can serve to activate that center of the mind and create more effective learning. Romania
Team teaching can take one of two forms, though both are similar in that they require extensive collaboration between the teachers involved. The first, and more common, form is where the teachers are not present in the classroom at the same time, rather choosing to alternate sections or lessons. I personally experienced this form of team teaching while working at
in Krúdy Gyula Primary School , from 2008 to 2010. Here, I worked with a Hungarian native English teacher in the instruction of primary school students. The students had English lessons once per day, and my partner teacher and I alternated lessons. Budapest, Hungary
Far from simply teaching the same lessons to the students, our sessions were designed to be completely unique. My partner allowed the students to speak limited Hungarian in class, and was responsible for teaching them abstract grammatical concepts and writing. As the native English teacher, I ran an immersion style classroom. The students were not chastised for speaking in Hungarian, but I only responded to the children when they spoke in English. I was also responsible for the more communicative activities and vocabulary instruction. In this manner, my partner and I could each teach to our strengths, and combine the benefits of an immersion classroom and one using the mother tongue of the students in instruction. It was also helpful because if a student did not understand one teacher’s explanation of a concept, she was able to clarify the next day with the other teacher. Further, through extensive communication with my partner teacher, we could arrange to repeat difficult concepts or move more quickly through concepts the students readily understood, thus making more efficient use of time. Finally, the students were able to experience two different teaching styles and personalities, which tended to reduce classroom deviance.
The other common form of team teaching is one where the two teachers are both in the classroom at the same time. Generally, the teachers alternate actively teaching the subject matter while the other circulates among the students. The benefits of this technique are that it provides the opportunity for instant feedback from the partner teacher, frees a teacher to provide individual attention to students, and can be useful in starting class discussions. The teachers are also able to feed off each others’ energy and enthusiasm; on the downside, they also generally are influenced by the other’s bad moods as well. (Vogler) This method of teaching was also used at
, in the bilingual immersion program during content area lessons. This provided the interesting dynamic of one teacher teaching in the students’ native language while the other teacher offered assistance in the target language. The teachers would trade roles often during lessons, assuring that the students received both instruction and individual attention in both their mother tongue and in the target language. Krúdy Gyula Primary School
Team teaching is also sometimes done as a long-term planning method, where teachers plan several classes as a “cluster” that are meant to complement each other. (Letterman) Regardless of the form of partner teaching used, partner teaching offers undeniable benefits to the teacher that are then passed on to the student. Working in such a close manner with another teacher, particularly if there is trust and mutual respect between the two teachers, provides each teacher with an invaluable sounding board off which to test ideas, strategies, and lesson components. It provides an immediate opportunity for feedback in order to refine lessons. Additionally, when faced with a difficulty or issue with the class, the two teachers can work together to find a solution that is often easier and more effective than one teacher would be able to implement. (Vogler) Finally, team teaching is by its very nature reflective, and reflective learning has shown to not only foster more permanent knowledge but also to aid in the development of analytical, judgement, and communicative skills. Watching two teachers work as a team also leads to improved team work skills in the students themselves. (Letterman)
Team teaching is not without its challenges, the greatest of which may be finding the time for the extensive collaboration between the two teachers involved that is necessary for the course to be successful. If the two teachers clash, this can also prove difficult, but such difficulties should be easily overcome by two professionals dedicated to the success of their students. Team teaching can also lead to a lack of flexibility as teachers must take pains to cover their material in the time provided to them; as the next teaching time will belong to their partner, they cannot cover leftover material during that time. (Letterman)
Students are generally also pleased with team teaching. For older students, team teaching offers them different points of view on the issues covered in class. With twice the teachers, students are also able to receive more independent help and attention; this can be particularly helpful as differentiation for both the more advanced and the struggling students. Finally, team teaching also breaks up the monotony of a course and the congeniality demonstrated between the partner teachers serves to make the course more enjoyable. (Vogler) Team teaching also provides greater consistency for students because if one teacher is ill or otherwise unable to give class, the other teacher can cover the class and there is no need to cancel the lesson or find a substitute, which interrupts the flow of the course.
All teaching methods have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. For this reason, it seems clear that for the purposes of language instruction, the ideal situation is one where two teachers team teach a course in such a manner that combines two of the strategies. In this way, the students are able to benefit from both strategies as well as from the benefits inherent in team teaching. While team teaching is not perfect, in a situation where two dedicated teachers are able to collaborate on a course together, the beneficial aspects of each method of teaching can be maximized and the negative aspects minimized. Which two strategies to choose depends on the situation of the class, but it seems clear that immersion should be one of the strategies utilized for its clear advantages in the teaching of oral skills, which prove fundamental to the later development of literacy both in the target language and in the students’ own native tongue.
The decision for the other teacher to then utilize either mother tongue instruction or non-mother tongue instruction will often become one of practicality. If the teacher is not able to speak the mother tongue of the students in question, by necessity they will choose non-mother tongue instruction; likewise if the teacher is only able to speak the students’ mother tongue and the target language, they will out of necessity choose mother-tongue instruction. In the ideal case where the teacher speaks both the students’ mother tongue and the target language, as well as another language, the language abilities of the students must be considered. In any situation where the students speak only their mother tongue with a decent level of proficiency, mother tongue instruction must be chosen for the acquisition of the students’ second language.
When teaching bilingual students, however, and in an ideal situation free of policy decisions, the two teachers will be able to choose freely which system to use as their second system. In the case of younger students, who lack metalinguistic knowledge regardless of their status as bilinguals, there may be a benefit to the use of mother tongue instruction, as it will allow the students to be more comfortable in their language learning and avoid some of the restlessness exhibited by students who are not able to utilize their mother tongue. In the case of older students, the teachers should choose whichever language, the mother tongue or the second language, that more closely matches the target language. This will allow students to make associations between the vehicular and the target language, thus increasing their levels of success in third language acquisition.
Recommendations and Conclusions
The initial hypothesis that students frequently learn third languages using a non-native tongue as the language of instruction was found to be mainly incorrect. While it is certainly true that such processes occur, this seems to be an individual phenomenon rather than one affecting large groups of students. Students do learn third languages, but they generally do so with their own native tongue as the language of instruction. There are various reasons for this. Some are positive, such as developed countries’ recognition of minority language rights that results in minority language instruction in public schools throughout most of the western world. Some reasons are simply a result of the sociopolitical situation from which they arise, such as the fact that polylinguistic societies are often poor and underdeveloped nations where literacy is low and most students have no need to learn a third, often foreign language. Some reasons are a negative reflection on our world, such as the fact that immigrant students, often the only large group to study the majority of their education in a second language, are generally victims of socioeconomic prejudices that keep them in a lower class with little incentive for higher education or foreign language education.
Nevertheless, individual students do learn third languages from a second language. They do this for a variety of reasons. Some are due to their life path, such as immigrants that do manage to integrate or the children of expatriate families. Others do so due to a lack of teachers or other resources; in the case of minority languages, students may have no other option for foreign language study than a teacher who does not speak their native tongue. Other students, particularly older ones, do so by choice to take advantage of the typographical similarities between a known second language and the third language they wish to learn. Further, the number of students with these characteristics is only likely to increase in the future as international migration becomes more and more common.
In teaching a third language to bilingual students, it is important that teachers remember that third language acquisition is not simply second language acquisition repeated. Rather, third language acquisition creates entirely new cognitive processes in the mind. Moreover, third language learning brings its own unique sets of challenges, such as second language interference into third language production. Because third language learners are typically older than second language learners, they may face more phonological difficulties but they are also able to have more reflective learning, which supports long-term language maintenance. Older language learners also have increased non-linguistic knowledge bases as well as more advanced metalinguistic knowledge which students are able to draw from to enhance their learning process. Through the process of previously learning a second language, third language learners are likely to have gained the cultural awareness and personal flexibility tantamount to success in a foreign language and as such have more success in their future language learning endeavors. However, not enough study has been performed on third language acquisition and not all of the processes involved are yet fully understood. More study must be done before third language acquisition can be fully understood as a unique learning process.
In the situation where teachers are creating a third language education program for bilingual students that will utilize their second language as a vehicular language, it is important to remember that this is mainly only valuable to students when the second language has more typographical similarities with the target language than the students’ native language. One hypothetical example would be Hungarian students who are proficient in English learning Spanish as a third language. Because English is much closer to Spanish, with approximately 40% of its words being of Latin origin, than the Finno-Ugric Hungarian language, which has only a very few loan words of Latin origin, this would justify the use of the second language as the vehicular language.
It is also important to not forget the benefits of immersion. The best situation possible would be one of partner teaching, where a native teacher of the target language creates an immersion-based classroom. The other teacher would then use the students’ second language as the vehicular language in their classroom. This teacher would be responsible for the grammatical concepts and more abstract topics while the immersion teacher would cover vocabulary, pronunciation, and communicative activities.
The non-immersion teacher would be able to expand upon the students’ knowledge of their second language in various ways while teaching the students the third language. One obvious way to do so would be through the use of synonyms. Many English words of Latin origin are quite formal in register and therefore are unlikely to be known by an intermediate student of English who is not from a Latin-language background. In a situation where students know the English word “show,” for example, the teacher could teach them “demonstrate,” which is a cognate of the Spanish word “demonstrar.” In this way, the students would be able to learn the third language vocabulary while also expanding their second language. The teacher could also use similar phonemes in the target and instructional language to teach third language pronunciation while reinforcing the second language pronunciation.
Further, grammar concepts could be reinforced in English while teaching new concepts in Spanish. As the students have always learned English with more abstract concepts explained to them in Hungarian, learning these terms in English will prove useful. Finally, comparing and contrasting such concepts as grammar forms and word order in the two more similar languages of English and Spanish will reinforce what students know in English, something that will prove particularly important to native speakers of Hungarian, which has very limited grammar forms and no established word order. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of the ways in which a second language can be reinforced through its role as a vehicular language in the acquisition of a third language. In my role next year as a Spanish teacher at
in Krúdy Gyula Primary School , I hope to expand my knowledge and understanding of this phenomenon. Budapest
In conclusion, the act of learning a third language is one that is becoming more and more common, or at least more evident, in today’s world of ever-decreasing borders. Nevertheless, insufficient data exists on the differences between second and third language acquisition and on the unique characteristics of third language acquisition. More study must be done on this phenomenon in order for teachers to be better prepared to serve their future students. Additional research is particularly necessary in the realm of third language teaching with a non-native vehicular language, as it is virtually nonexistent, despite the increasing need for such educational programs as a result of increased world migration. This is an exciting educational frontier ripe for exploration, and future language educators will make great strides in this field with these new students.
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