By Jia Pu
Inspired by one of the class discussions, I’d like to share my first post with you about the factors that influence my acquisition of a foreign language. Before that, I’ll briefly introduce my language biography.
I was born in southeast China, with Mandarin my first language. As the official language, Mandarin is taught by teachers since I entered kindergarten. But in fact, I speak Chengdu dialect more often, especially in my daily life because both my parents are local Chengdunese and they have a deep affection for our dialect. Then later, when I was in elementary school, English became a compulsory course from grade 3. Ever since then, English has always been an important part in my life because under the influence of globalization, Chinese government is making increasingly more efforts to popularize English nationwide.
Therefore, from what is mentioned above, parents’ impact as well as governmental policy can be regarded as crucial factors that have great influence on my language learning. Although these aspects seem to make my language acquisition somewhat passive, personally I think they are both positive factors which can promote my desire to acquire a language. To begin with, speaking Chengdu dialect at home makes me closely connected to the local culture and history, thus further encourages me to learn more about the local dialect. From this perspective, I appreciate my parents’ influence on me. As for Chinese governmental policy to promote English, I believe it changes not only my attitude towards English and western culture, but also my life. I still remember the difficulty I had learning English grammar and memorizing words and phrases, which was absolutely not pleasant. However, because of the policy, English has became one of the most important courses for Chinese students, so everyone strives for mastering this language. It is due to this policy that I gradually developed my interest in English, to the extent that I chose English as my major when I was in college, which makes it possible for me to pursuit my further study now at McGill. That’s why I regard governmental policy as a positive factor for my language acquisition.
Then there comes the third factor that influences my study— communication. Before I set out from China, I heard that French is the dominant language in Quebec, but I didn’t realize how dominant it actually is until I arrived in Montreal. After a long-hour flight, the first thing I wanted to do was having a cup of coffee to refresh myself. I went into a chain cafe, stood in line, and started to think about what to order, only to find all the menu was written in French, which I could neither recognize nor pronounce. When it was my turn, I felt more embarrassed because “Bonjour” was the first word the staff said to me, to which I had no response since I don’t speak French. To my great relief, it turned out that the staff can speak English and I got the drink I wanted. But that made me realize the necessity of learning French in a place where I would stay for around two years. Later, I went through a lot more experiences like that. For example, many people in the region where I live only speak French. So it is common that I talked with them in English, while they just shook their heads and walked away, leaving me standing there, thinking seriously about my plan to study French. I think the way to fit in a new environment is to communicate with local people because they know the place and its culture so well. Also, meeting people from different background can provide a broader view for me. Now this third factor has inspired me to start learning French on my own and I’ve started to use some simple words like “merci” or “pardon” in my daily life.
We are all driven by a variety of factors on our way of language acquisition, which I believe are indeed motivations for us to keep learning.