Can you believe that one day you wake up and the first word popping in your head is English?

by Haoqiu Zhang

In the first week after I arrived in Montreal, I found a place to stay through Airbnb. I lived in a locally owned accommodation. The neat, lovely apartment was managed by a young couple. The wife was from Alberta and the husband was from France. The wife was smart and pretty and the husband was handsome but a little bit shy. They were quite hospitable and we had great fun talking, in English, of course.

As far as I could remember, in the chatting I mentioned that my English was not very good, especially my oral English. Then the host said, “you know what, I could speak little English when I came to this city. I fell in love with this city first and then I found my wife. After many years of living with my wife here, one day I woke up, opening my eyes, and the first word in my head was English, not French any more.”

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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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A Case Study in Senior Citizens’ Education

Liting Liu

During our preparation for last presentation about social class and time, we have read many papers talking about adult education and senior citizen education, some of which are about senior citizen’s learning motivation. Such articles stroke a chord with me. I could not help recalling the days when I was working in an adult education institute back in China.

Most of the students there are office workers or businessmen. There are some well-off elderly students too and most of them are well educated. Otherwise they would not have the sense of studying at all, let alone torture themselves to study a new language at such an age. Speaking of their motivation, it varies from person to person. Some signed up merely for killing time and protecting themselves against Alzheimer’s, which makes perfect sense according to the findings of psychologist Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues at York University in Toronto – those who were bilingual had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about four years later, on average, than those who spoke just one language. Some signed up out of the zeal for travelling. Since they regard English as a useful tool which makes their travelling experience easier, they decided to come to the school and give it a try.

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