Well, I have a knack for languages, but attitudes towards the language/speakers do matter!

By Mansour Ahmed:

In school, Arabic, namely Arabic grammar, which constitutes a chronic headache for most students of Arabic, was my favorite subject. I especially looked forward to sentence parsing and assigning the proper cases and diacritical marks to lexical items. In grade 7, I started learning English. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it just as much, English grammar in particular. Motivated by some German friends, I once decided to learn German all by myself. In three months, I learned so much. My pronunciation was almost native-like, according to them. A few years ago, I decided to add French to the list. Initially, my knack did not fail me (but it began to falter, see below for whys). Perhaps, this is genetically determined because my kids do outstandingly well in languages (Arabic, English, and French) in school. Hence, it may be possible to say that some people have a knack for languages while others don’t. Besides this special gift for languages, which to date has not been fully accounted for and understood by SLA researchers (to the best of my knowledge), it is argued that how well and how fast a second language can be acquired depends on a number of factors/variables, such as motivation, L2 instruction, and attitudes (among others). I will endeavour to tersely illustrate the role of attitudes in L2 acquisition (NB: the attitudes I am talking about here is slightly different from those in VH chapter).

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Factors That Influence Language Acquisition

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.

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Sociolinguistic noticing for language learners

By Melissa J. Enns

Have you ever noticed how effortlessly you switch registers in your first language? Have you ever wondered why it’s easy for you to identify where a character in a story or movie is from based on the way she speaks? Probably not, because mostly, you just know.

It may be easy for you, but second language learners are often at a disadvantage in picking up on these subtleties, and this can be socially and academically problematic. Van Herk (2012) states that “although teachers are aware of the stylistic range that their students might need, their own language ideologies or limited teaching time lead them to focus on the standard end of language” (183). While I agree with his statement, I dislike the truth of it. As teachers, we (hopefully) strive to meet students’ linguistic needs to the very best of our abilities, but failing to give them the tools of sociolinguistic evaluation leaves them disadvantaged socially and academically. Please allow me to explain.

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A reflection of my learning experiences in my teaching approaches

Miss Education

As a teacher, I only wish that I can teach my second language students everything there is to know about English in the little time I have with them throughout the year. But, as Mougeon et al. (2010) research findings state, there is only so much that can be learned about a language (or a vernacular) in a controlled setting like a classroom, and that notions about a language are also taught in other settings such as public environments (the shopping mall, the park, etc.) (Van Herk, G., p. 183).

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