English Is A Funny Language English Language Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

During the mid-400s the country that we now call England was part of the Roman Empire. It was a land full of temporary settlers and immigrants. Among those residing in England were a group of Germanic settlers, made up of Jutes, Angles and Saxons. These settlers immigrated to England from various parts of mainland North Western Europe and with them they brought a language that provided the building blocks of English.

The mixing of the Germanic settlers' dialects with the languages of other immigrants led to the creation of Old English (the earliest form of English). This form of English was very different than any form of English that is spoken today and although it did consist of parts of speech that have some similarities to modern English. The language would be considered incomprehensible to the modern English speaker.

Over the next 600 years the language of English was grew by taking words and expressions from the languages of the surrounding cultures. This was mostly due to more groups of people immigrating to England or in some cases, some groups invading the country.

For example Roman missionaries who immigrated to England introduced many religious words such as minster and alter and the Vikings who invaded England introduced words such knife, take and root.

During the Middle Ages (c. 1000-1300) English started to significantly evolve. The Normans, who were the people of Normandy (a region in northern France) invaded England in 1066. This event led to the Latin and French languages heavily influencing the English speaking people and their language. Thousands and thousands of new words became incorporated into the English language. The language of English was constantly evolving, creating what we call today Middle English, a form of language that closer resembles what we speak today.

This period was also quite significant because during this time London become the legal and trade center of Britain. The language of London (Middle English) became the standard language. At the time there were other languages and dialects and people began to realize that in order to gain political or economic power a person had to be able to communicate in English. Many traders began to use this standard form of English. These same traders began to spread English all over the world.

In the mid-1500s, the United Kingdom became a colonial powerhouse and the British Empire began to set up colonies all over the world. As the British empire continued to significantly grown and colonize the English language would spread further and further away from its birthplace.

The growth of the British Empire, lead to English becoming a part of Europe, North America, India, Africa, Australia and many other parts of the world. As the empire branched out, new words were taken from the local languages and incorporated into English.

English served as the lingua franca for these colonies. The term 'lingua franca' refers to the language that is used as the means of communication among speakers of other languages.

Keep in mind that these places each had their own distinct indigenous languages, and in some cases multiple languages. However the different cultures within these colonies would communicate in English.

As this was happening, English continued to evolve into a closer version of Modern English. Also, around this time (1600's) some significant pieces of English literature were written. An author known as William Shakespeare was creating works that were gaining a lot of attention, these works were in English. Also, in 1611 the King James Bible was written in English. Unlike many other religious based books (not all) that were published in Latin and French, this bible was produced in English. This bible became the standard for the Church of England. English was becoming the language of religion.

From the 17th century on, English continued to spread through British colonization. As new areas were becoming British settlement, new pockets of the planet would begin to communicate in English.

The industrial revolution occurred throughout the 18th and 19th century. This was a time where major technological advancements occurred in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and transportation. Machines were making life easier and producing goods at much faster rate. The industrial revolution began in the United Kingdom and then spread throughout Europe, North America, and eventually the rest of the world. All of this newly developed technology was having an affect on the socioeconomic and cultural conditions of the time. A significant majority of the inventors during this period were English speakers.

Why English?

English is a global language.

English as a global language didn't happen overnight, it was a long process. Thinking about the history of the language of English, what are the major factors that lead to

English becoming the lingua franca?

It has nothing to do with how English looks or its structure. If you think about it, it is actually a very confusing language compared some of the other languages in the world.

Here are a few things to think about

82% of the entire world uses some form of English as means to communicate. There are only 35 countries where English is not the first foreign language.

Over two billion people partake in some form of English acquisition education.

Here's a question to ponder, which country currently has the largest amount of English langue leaners?

The answer is China.

The answer to 'Why English' has a lot to do with the same reasons why English was able to spread internationally in the first place.

English represents opportunity.

While peoples' native language helps them navigate through their daily lives within their geographic area (city, town or country). The language of English represents an opportunity to become part of a global conversation.

The four pillars to English's growth into a global language:

Politics, Economics, Technology and Social


Looking back at history, one can point to the political factors as first reason why English was able to spread from a small island to all over the world. In modern history the people who held the majority of the world's power were English speakers.

Also, looking back at the last century, world power has shifted from the hands of the British into the hands of the Americans, another English speaking country.


The economic influence on the English language is closely tied to the political factors. The 19th saw the growth of English speakers occur at much more rapid rate than the previous centuries. Much of this has to do with the fact that the most financially powerful countries in the world during the 19th and 20th century were English speaking countries, the United States and Britain. If money does talk, during this time period it was speaking in (or learning) English.

These days, practically every trade centre in the world uses English this includes countries that have a language other than English as the official language.


As mentioned before, the industrial revolution had an enormous impact on the English language. British inventors came up with ways to mass produce textiles metals and glass. As well they innovated mining and they created the steam engine. If you did a web search on the products that were born out of the industrial revolution, you will be amazed how many came from English speaking countries.

Here are some questions to think about:

What web search tool did you just use to find out more information?

What are the 'must have' technologies of this generation? Where did many of them originate?

How often do you see a product designed by Microsoft or Apple?


If you take a look at how media is delivered you can see English is absolutely everywhere. Through social media, the world is rapidly becoming more and more interconnected. People are now viewing themselves as global citizens. World issues are discussed in English and by having a working knowledge of the English language, people feel that they too can share their thoughts on common issues that are shared throughout the world. This includes such issues as poverty, the economy, climate change, political struggles and human rights.

Social and Technology Coming Together

English is widely used on the internet for the same reasons why English became so widespread during the industrial revolution. The internet began in English speaking countries. To add to it, think about the rapidly increasing interest in social networking through the internet. Think about the fact that Facebook was founded in the US in 2004 and since then has become one of the most visited websites in the world. Also, Google is the most widely used search engine in the world, also created by Americans.

Standard English (S.E.) is the form of English that is generally accepted as the linguistic norm of an Anglophone country. But is speaking English that easy of a concept to grasp?

We have learnt that English was created through a mixture of numerous different dialects. As it grew throughout the world it continued to expand encompassing more and more words from other languages. Countries such as Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all are English speaking countries and yet their form of English isn't identical. In fact with in these countries there are various forms of English.

Think about (and do a web search) on these terms:




These are just three of a huge number of dialects of the English language and within some of the dialects there are sub-dialects.

English goes well beyond 'standard English'.

Part 2

How language works

(and how confusing the English language really is)

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana

Think about this question:

How would you define the word language?

Language can be defined as any form of communication. Language can be verbal and physical, it can be learned through direct instruction and it can also be biologically innate.

The study of language is a very vast topic. Language is made up of numerous interconnected components and within each of those components there are many subcomponents (some of which have many subcomponents of their own).

When people chat on the phone or talk over dinner they do not generally think about how they are communicating (language, volume, speed, intonation, gestures, etc), they think about what they are communicating (what you are trying to explain to the person you are speaking to).


Phonology is the study of sounds in a language. The study of phonology offers us a better understanding of how speech sounds relate to pronunciation.

Languages are unique and each one has different a phonological system.

Think about this:

What is the English equivalent to this Hungarian phrase?

Sok szerencsét kivánok

The answer : good luck.

Languages have their own attributes in regards to word stress, rhythm, stresses and what sounds are used to produce specific meanings.

This is one of the reasons why learning a second language can be so difficult, what can be expressed in one syllable in one language may take many syllables in another.


Linguistic semantics is the study of the meaning of language. This involves how meaning is created by combining single words into larger forms of text. If you break down a passage and actually think about each word on its own, it can get quite confusing. When learning a new language an English language learner faces many linguistic semantic challenges that English speaks may not even take into consideration.

Think about these sentences:

The winds blew the door open. / The road winds quite a bit.

Or think about these sentences:

The answers on the exam were invalid. / The terrible injury left the man an invalid.

These are only some of the challenges an English language learner faces, think about these words and their meanings:


Words that have the same meanings

Example: happy and glad


Words that have opposites meanings

Example: hot and cold.


A word which has two or more related meanings

For example, wood could refer to a piece of a tree or a geographical area that is consists of many trees.


A word which has two or more meanings

For example, a plant could be a factory in which products are made or a living organism such as a tree


Different words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently

For example two, too and to


Different words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently

For example minute and minute


Pragmatics is the study of the use of language. Pragmatics analyses the context of words and how they contribute to the overall meaning of the text. A sentence on its own can be quite misleading. Think about this:

The fish are ready to eat.

Does this mean the fish are hungry or they have been cooked long enough that they are now edible?


Syntax is the study of the structure of language with a focus on how grammatically correct statements are formed.

There are many syntactic categories including nouns, verbs, adjectives , prepositions and adverbs


Orthography is the study of letters and how they are used to express sounds and form words. Orthography takes a close look at the writing systems of a language. For English language instructors, English in written form can be area in which many learners struggle with. Many of the things that we write without even thinking about can cause great confusion to an English language learner.

Take for example:

The words boot, book, blood and brooch.

All of these words use "oo" however each of them have different pronunciations for this vowel combination.

Now look at these three words:

check, machine, character

In each one the 'ch' is pronounced differently

Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that not every language follows the same pattern of pronunciations.



"same same but different"

-Tinglish saying

English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching refers to teaching English in a country where English is already an official language. For example, Canada, The United States, and Britain are countries that offer English language learners ESL programs.

English as a Foreign Language (EFL) refers to teaching English in a country where English is not the most predominant language that is spoken. Due to English's place in the global scheme, EFL schools are quickly becoming popular all over non-English speaking nations.

The biggest consideration an instructor must take into account is that EFL and ESL instruction does at times require different approaches to lesson planning. This is mostly due to the fact that English language learners living in an English speaking country are taking lessons as a means of linguistic survival. Although grammar is obviously an important part of English language learning, these students may feel pressed to first learn how to communicate in a way that the people within their community understand them - even if they are using 'broken English'. These students are taking English lessons to open up more opportunities both financially and socially to themselves and possibly members of their families. ESL students will also have the opportunity to continuously practice their English outside of the classroom setting. As a result the instructor should consider which topics are the most necessary.

EFL students may not feel the urgency to learn survival English right away. An EFL student may be partaking in English lessons for a future trip, to open up future social, academic and economic opportunities or for solely for enjoyment. There are a number of EFL academic institutions around the world that cater to students who are taking English simply because it is their hobby.

The distinction between second and foreign language learning is what is actually being learned, where it is being learned and how it is learned.

This course will dive deeper into what considerations should be taken into account when creating and delivering ESL and EFL lessons.


"brb, ttyl ok? wow, I saved a 'ton' of time with those acronyms."

― Stephen Colbert

There is a lot of terminology associated with English language instruction. English Speakers can fall under many different categories and there are many acronyms to describe the types of English speakers. The following section is a review of some of the most commonly used terms and acronyms.

The language in which a person is learning is commonly referred to as the student's target language while Native language is the term associated with a person's first language or sometimes referred to as their mother tongue.

L1 is the abbreviation for first language spoken by an individual, also referred to as a person's mother tongue


L1 English - refers to a person who uses English as their first language. L1 is a term that can be used for any language for example a person who uses French as their first language would be considered an L1 French speaker.

L2 is an abbreviation for a person's second language, or a language that is not their L1. Someone who is referred as L1 Japanese and L2 English is considered a Japanese speaker who has a working knowledge of English.

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is a form of ESL/EFL instruction that focuses on academia. This would include subject areas such as writing formal reports, presentations for school related purposes and reading academic works.

Some areas of the world may refer to EFL lessons as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL)( refers to the study of English for a particular (usually job related) purpose. For example a course that focuses solely on English for the tourism industry.

TOEFL is an official Test of English as a Foreign Language. This test focuses on English proficiency for international students who are interested in studying at an English speaking institution.

TOEIC is the Test of English for International Communication. Originally used in Japan but now a worldwide tool, TOEIC is a standardized test (multiple choice) that is used to assess one's proficiency in English.

Both TOEFL and TOEIC has become a recognized standard throughout the world.


Principles of Second Language Acquisition

Learn a new language and get a new soul.  - Czech Proverb

Over the last century, many linguists have researched and theorized on how people acquire a second language. As a result, a number of theoretical frameworks have been developed. There isn't 'one accepted theory' of language acquisition but rather a variety of theories each with a different focus and different limitations. This section will briefly explore different theories of second language acquisition.

Chomsky's Innate Cognitive Process Theory

Do you think an adult learns a second language the same way a child learns a first language? Why or why not?

Professor Noam Chomsky is one of the most well-known professors of linguistic studies. Chomsky 's works support a nativists theory that acquiring is actually in our genetic makeup and we are born with innate abilities known as an LAD (Language Acquisition Device). Language acquisition does not rely on formal instruction.

In its simplest form, Chomsky's theory is that we are born with the innate ability to learn basic language which include the rules of grammar. We develop our language skills by listening to the people who raise us. Infants and toddlers do not necessarily require someone to teach them language, as long as there is linguistic input around they will inevitably acquire language. The process of selecting the correct pattern of words is done unconsciously.

Chomsky refers to this as our universal grammar and supports this theory by pointing out that all human languages share similar patterns (for example present and past tense).

There is a difference between the acquisition of a first language and a second language. Those who have had experience teaching both adults and children may have noticed that children learn their first language in a more fluid fashion while adults' rate of acquisition varies from person to person.

Now, keep in mind Chomsky's theory. Children do not need to be taught their first language whereas adults require formal instruction.

With children it is a natural progression due to needs and environment.

With adults second language acquisition is dependent upon motivation, attitude, and ability

Even though Chomsky's theory appears to put adults at a disadvantage when it comes to acquiring language, adults do possess skills that enable them to learn another language.

Adults possess competency in a first language which could be used to further understand and retain a second language. For example, associating L2 words with L1 words, creating visual and audio clues.

Adults are able to problem solve and simplify complex concepts.

Adults understand inflection and tone.

Adult have the cognitive ability to review and reflect

Adults can draw on mnemonics devices - these are memory tools such as creating acronyms or simple rhymes

*try a web search on common mnemonic devices

Chomsky's concepts have been both highly accepted and criticized by his peers.

Krashen's Five Hypotheses

One of the most noted modern linguist and educational researcher is psychologist Dr. Stephen Krashen. Dr, Krashen is well known for his theories of language acquisition and development most of which were published in a series of books throughout the 1980s. Along with Tracey Terrell, Dr. Krashen also researched and authored works on the natural approach to language teaching.

Dr. Krashen's theory of second language acquisition explores how we learn language through five main hypotheses:

the natural order hypothesis

the acquisition-learning hypothesis

the monitor hypothesis

the input hypothesis

the affective filter hypothesis

The Natural Order Hypothesis

This hypothesis suggests that language acquisition follows a natural pattern of progress. Just like in movement, one first learns to crawl, stand, walk and then run, language acquisition in every language develops through a series of sequential steps that a person progresses through naturally.

By studying this natural progressing of language acquisition, researchers have uncovered a predictable pattern in language acquisition. By following this pattern teachers can develop a series of instructions that best suit the needs of older language learners.

This hypothesis coincides Noam Chomsky's theory that humans naturally have a built-in Language Acquisition Device (LAD), that enables humans to understand and acquire language from infancy.

Teachers need to take the natural order hypothesis when introducing language concepts. This can be done by ensuring first introducing models that are moderately easy for learners to acquire. As instructors should *scaffold difficult concepts.

Perform a web search and find a definition educational scaffolding:

Educational scaffolding refers to the idea that in order for students to properly achieve academic success, the instructor needs to ensure that instructional supports have been when students are first introduced to a new topic.

The Acquisition - Learning Hypothesis.

The Acquisition-Learning hypothesis is considered by many linguists as the most fundamental of all Krashen's hypothesizes .

The Acquisition - Learning hypothesis suggests that second language performance is a product of two separate systems that happen consciously and subconsciously in a person's brain.

The first system is the acquired system. Language acquisition occurs subconsciously through natural communication. In other words people acquire a second language when they are exposed to meaningful verbal interactions with speakers of the target language.

The second system focuses on formal instruction. Krashen believes that this system holds less importance than the acquired system however it is still a component of language acquisition. The 'learning' system occurs when people consciously focus on learning a language.

In its simplest form you can think of it this way, a person learns a language by studying it they acquire a language by immersing themselves in it.

Instructors need to create opportunities for students to use the target language in an authentic manor within their classrooms. This is especially important in the EFL classroom because students will not have the opportunity to use the target language outside of the classroom. How could and EFL instructor incorporate the acquisition-learning hypothesis into their teachings?

Role playing (creating simulated scenarios)

The Monitor Hypothesis

The Monitor Hypothesis corresponds directly with the Acquisition- Learning hypothesis. The Monitor Hypothesis focuses on the effects of direct language instruction. Krashen explained in the Acquisition- Learning hypothesis that language acquisition occurs during exposure to natural communication. In essence, the language we acquire through this process is fine-tuned and properly edited through grammar and language instruction. Instruction and traditional language learning activities monitor and correct language.

The Input Hypothesis.

Comprehensible input are the messages that a language learner understands. These messages can come in the form of written text (books, signs, subtitles) or oral language (conversations, radio).

The input hypothesis suggests that in order for language acquisition to occur, the learner must receive comprehensible input that is slightly above their level of language knowledge. This is often documented as Comprehensible Input +1. The +1 represents the next level in language.

EFL instructors need to ensure that they are constantly taking the input hypothesis into consideration when creating and implementing lessons. Instructors need to provide as much comprehensible input as possible, especially in the EFL class because learners are not exposed to the target language outside of the classroom setting.

The Affective Filter Hypothesis.

Affective Filter Hypothesis focuses on the theory that confidence and anxiety have a direct correlation to language learning. In order to properly acquire language, a person needs to be comfortable and feel confident in their surroundings. When a language learner is uncomfortable they tend to mentally build up barriers that prevent acquisition.

Keeping in mind the Affective Filter Hypothesis, list a few barriers in an academic environment that could directly hinder language acquisition.

How can an instructor ensure that a learner feels safe?

-begin lessons with ice breakers

-establish a classroom routine with a set of norms

-consider seating arrangements

-incorporate dual language resources

- use humour

-include teaching methods that allow for student interaction

-address students by name

-use eye contact

-use positive language

(*6) The Reading Hypothesis

It should also be noted that Krashen's more recent research has concluded that the more a person reads in a second language, the more vocabulary they will acquire.

Involving a variety of texts in a language classroom will increase the learner's knowledge of the target language and also offer the learner opportunities to view how the target language can be used in real-life contexts.

List some forms of texts that will offer students an opportunity to view language in real-life contexts.


-instructional signs




Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development theory

Having English language learners work in small groups is a recommend strategy. Why do you think students are more successfully when broken up into small groups?

Although he only lived to the age of 38, Lev Vygotsky was considered one of the founders of cultural historical psychology. Vygotsky lived through Russian Revolution of the early 1900s and his works were largely unknown to the West until it was published in 1962, more than 25 years after he died.

As a social constructivist he believed that social interaction was key to the cognitive and language development of children. He observed how higher level mental functions developed within particular cultural groups and individually through social interactions with significant people in most cases a child's primary caregivers.

Vygotsky developed the Zone of Proximal Development theory, which outlines the notion that a student's performance of certain tasks improve greatly when they are being guided by an adult or when working in a group of their peers.

Vygotsky referred to these peers as More Knowledgeable Other(s) (MKO). The MKO is anyone who has a better understanding or more knowledge in the area of study than the learner. The MKO could be a teacher, coach, or peers.

Vygotsky theorized that working alone is less constructive because when a student works with others, the gaps between what the student knows and what can be known is bridged.

Working in these groups is working within the Zone of Proximal Development.

Think of it this way:


(1)Student X has some understanding of some of the concepts but needs to learn other concepts for a greater understanding of the materials

(2)Student X is grouped with others who know these concepts but some of the members of the groups may not know some of the concepts Student X knows (they have all entered the zone)

(3) Everyone walks out of the group with new information

Think about this:

Why is the second language classroom a perfect environment to apply the Zone of Proximal Development theory?

Unlike a situation in which a teacher or lecturer delivers information to students, the ZPD theory promotes the notion that students need to play an active role in learning. ZPD theory offers an opportunity for everyone to learn from each other.

In an ESL/EFL classroom, the teacher can set up small groups in which students act as the MKOs and learn off each other.

Think about it:

How does the Zone of Proximal Development theory compliment Stephen Krashen's Input Hypothesis? Think about students working in groups.

-In essence both theories work on the notion that learning takes place when a learner is exposed to a person who has slightly more advanced knowledge in that subject area. Group work in the ESL/EFL classroom is very successful because you have put the students into a situation in which someone most likely will always have some useful new information for the group members.

Some more food for thought….

Vygotsky's work is a component of the sociocultural perspective on second language learning. This perspective states that all learning, including language learning, is based on social interaction with other individuals who are more proficient in the language. New learning is built on a student's prior knowledge, and learning a language is developmental. Teachers should work with a student's prior knowledge in order to engage new learning.

BF Skinner

Considered one of the most influential psychologist of the 20th century, Professor Burrhus Frederic (BF) Skinner authored numerous well received papers on behaviour and social philosophy.

The following is a very brief outline of Skinner's complex theory of language acquisition.

B.F Skinner supports the theory that the acquisition of language is a building process that results from positive and negative interactions with a person's environment. Skinner theorized that behavioural conditioning is the key to spoken language. Language is acquired through the process of stimulus and response, learning and reinforcement.

(1) Stimulus refers to what a person hears. A baby for example hears the voice of a caregiver. The baby takes this input tries respond.

"Where's daddy? Do you see daddy?"

(2) A correct response is rewarded. When a baby makes a sound that the caregiver approves of the care giver gives positive reinforcement.

"Did she just say da-da??? I think she did! She is calling me, you are such a good baby!"

Skinner explains that people learn through imitation, modelling and habitual experiences, this includes how we learn language.

Reviewing the theories

By this point, it has become clear that there is not one widely accepted theory on language acquisition, rather there are many different suggested hypothesis on how people learn first and second languages.

These theories of language development can be classified into a variety of different perspectives.

(1)The Learning Perspective

This perspective argues that children learn through imitation and receiving positive and negative reinforcement for their actions.

Which theorist's philosophy falls into this perspective?

-BF Skinner

(2) The Nativist Perspective

The nativist perspective argues that knowledge is innate and that people are wired to learn languages.

Which theorist's philosophy falls into this perspective?

-Noam Chomsky.

(3) Interactionist Theory

Those who support the interactionists theory argue that language development is based on biological and social components. As well, learning comes from collaboration.

Which theorist's philosophy falls into this perspective?

- Lev Vygotsky.Interactionists


Dr. Jim Cummins is one of the leading experts in language development and literacy development of learners of English as an additional language. His research has helped advance English instructors understanding of student's language ability.

Think about this question:

If ESL students can chat in English in the playground why do they sometimes struggle with English in the classroom?

Children who appear to be capable in social situations may not have the language skills to properly interact in an academic setting. As a result students who appear to have a good grasp of language in the playground but are struggling in the classroom may be improperly labeled as having a learning disability.

Cummins' explains that there are two types of language proficiency; Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP).

BICS refers to the social, conversational language that is needed for oral communication. Simply put, these are the language skills that are needed for social interactions.

-phone conversations

- text messages

-playing with students in the school yard

-at restaurants

BICS is sometimes referred to as social language. Cummins has documented that it takes ESL students two years to learn sufficient language skills to engage and interact in social communication.

CALP refers to the academic communication that takes place in the classroom. CALP involves acquiring complex linguistic concepts which enables language learners to problem-solve.

CALP is sometimes referred to as academic language. Students typically take 5-7 years to develop the CALP needed to be on par with their native speaking classroom peers.

How can a language learner acquire social language?

Language learners can acquire social language by:

observing non-verbal behavior such as gestures and facial expressions

mimic intonation

observing others' reactions in social situation

partaking is English conversation classes

The Interdependence Hypothesis

Cummins' Interdependence Hypothesis focuses on how languages are in fact interconnected to one another.

Cummins' interdependence hypothesis, which is also referred to as the iceberg hypothesis, explores the relationship between a person's knowledge of a first language and the acquisition of a second language.

To understand how L1 and L2 are interdependent, Cummins' suggests visualizing an iceberg that has two peaks, both of which lie just above the water line. One of the peaks represents social language in the first language and the other peak represents the social language in the target language.

Social language is the language of everyday communication. It is the language one needs to navigate through daily routines such as taking part in casual conversations or asking information on an item at a store while shopping. Social language is less rigid and can be include using slang or being grammatically incorrect.

Many of the components of social language can be acquired through numerous informal mediums such as social events, television and casual browsing on the internet

Academic language is the language one must acquire in order to navigate through academic and professional settings. It is the language of textbooks, assessments, evaluations and critical problem solving.

While social language tends to develop quicker due to its informal structure, academic language is more complex requires direct instruction and constant exposure to academic texts.

Lying underneath the waterline connecting the two peaks is one iceberg. The underwater portion consists of two equal halves, on one representing academic language proficiency in L1 and the other side representing academic language in L2.

L1 and L2 intersect in the middle of the body of the submerged iceberg. This overlapping section is referred to as Common Underlying Proficiency (CUP).

Do a web search on "Cummins' Iceberg Model' and answer the following questions.

What is the Common Underlying Proficiency?

The element of language ability to perform complex cognitive is shared among languages. This includes comprehending literature, problem solving and use abstract thinking.

Simply put….

With second language acquisition, each language does not function independently. Both languages require the same central processing system to operate properly. In essence, in order to be successful in a second language, the student must possess sufficient language abilities in their first language.

Think about these icebergs:

Student 1 is a ten year old refugee who arrived nine months ago from a war torn country. Due to the political conflict in his country of birth she received very limited formal education prior to her move. Her teachers feel that she is making very little progress in her academics. How deep under the water does her iceberg go?

-shallow, the student will have a difficult time with most concepts

Student 2 is seven years old and just arrived three months ago from Western European country where she was enrolled in a highly regarded private school. Her academic skills in her first language are at grade level. She has never received any English instruction and is unable to communicate in English whatsoever. What does her iceberg look like?

-deep, although the student may not have English literacy skills, she does possess literary skills

Part 5

The Stages of Language Acquisition

A little more terminology….

Simultaneous bilingualism refers to learning two languages from birth. In other words, a person speaks two languages because both languages were introduced to them at birth.

Successive or sequential bilingualism refers to acquiring a second language after a person has already properly acquired a first language, in other words someone who has learnt a second language later on in life.

Although there isn't one formally accepted theory of language acquisition, many linguistic theorists agree that there are common stages of acquisition that a language learner (sequential bilingualism) through. Each stage last for an approximate length of time however it should be remembered that all learners learn differently and there are many factors that can alter the length of a stage. For example, an ESL learner in an English speaking country is more exposed to the target language than an EFL learner.

The Silent and Receptive Stage or the Pre-Production stage:

During this stage learners may choose not speak and only respond with smiles or a head nod. At this stage learners are absorbing in the information and processing it in their minds. During this stage their vocabulary could grow to more than 500 words, but they still may feel unsure of their language ability.

The Early Production Stage

During this stage the learner may begin to start taking risks with their new language. At this point the most likely have a working knowledge of close to 1000 words however they still may choose to respond only when asked a question directly. The learner's response typically will be only a couple of words and generally they feel most comfortable with questions that require 'yes' or 'no' responses.

At this stage the learner should be able to follow some basic classroom commands and begin to social interact with other learners.

Teachers sometimes get frustrated with this stage due to the fact that it appears as if the learner knows more English then what they are demonstrating. Teachers need to understand that the learner is still navigating through understanding the language and may feel insecure with taking risks.

The Speech Emergence Stage

Once a learner has a working knowledge of approximately 3,000 they will begin to use simple sentences and short phrases to communicate. The learner will exhibit much more comfort in situations where social language can be used.

The Intermediate Fluency Stage

When a learner has developed close to 6,000 in their vocabulary, they typically will begin to form complex statements and offer opinions. As well once they have achieved this stage, they will feel confident asking for clarification and speaking at greater length.

The Advanced Fluency Stage

At this stage, the learner is able to use grammar and vocabulary comparable to that of same-aged native speaker. The learner has travelled a long linguistic road to achieve this stage and they still may need extra support with academic language. Typically is takes a student more than five years to reach this point.

Part 6

Common Misconceptions

Over the years, a great deal of research has been conducted the many misconceptions instructors have in regards language acquisition. The following are common misconception in the field of language instruction.

Misconception 1

All students learn English the same way and at the same rate of progress.

Every student is unique. There are many factors that contribute and hinder the language acquisition process. This includes prior experiences and knowledge, confidence and even attitude.

Misconception 2

A child will learn English at a faster rate than an adult.

Research has shown that adolescents and adults perform equal or better than young children in an academic language learning environment. Think about Jim Cummins' two peaked iceberg model.

It may appear that children learn quicker due to the fact that a child has a smaller vocabulary in their first language.

Research has suggests however that older learners may show greater gains in language acquisition and younger students will be more proficient in pronunciation.

Misconception 3

The best way for a learner to acquire language is to attempt to completely abandon their native language.

Studies have shown that students who maintain speaking in their L1 when outside of the academic setting demonstrate the same level of language proficiency as their fully immersed peers.

Also, these students end up being truly bilingual while their peers may actually lose their first language from lack of use.

Misconception 4

Once an English language learner is able to carry a conversation with their peers, they have mastered the language.

Remember that there are two types of English, social and academic. There is much more involved in second language acquisition than learning how to speak in English. Just because a person is able to have a face-to-face conversation does necessarily mean they have achieved proficiency in the more abstract components of the language.

Some activities require learners to separate language from the context of actual experience and to learn to deal with abstract meanings. For example, understanding the definition of synonym and antonym and being able to identify them.

McLaughlin, Barry.(1992) MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING: WHAT EVERY TEACHER NEEDS TO UNLEARN. National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning. Retrieved October 21, 2011 from http://www.cal.org/resources/digest/myths.html

Part 7

Approaches Language Instruction

Late 1800s

The Grammar-Translation Method

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, language learning was done through the grammar-translation method. The grammar-translation method requires learners to translate whole texts (word for word) and memorize numerous vocabulary lists and rules of grammar. This method was originally used to teach 'dead languages' which were are languages that are no longer in everyday spoken use, such as Latin. Much of the material that was studied were in the forms of classic literature which may be the reason why this method relies on the written component of language rather pronunciation.

The grammar-translation method consisted of instruction in the students' L1, the instruction consisted of numerous drills are exercises in which the learner was to translate disconnected sentences and word lists.

Reflecting on the Readings:

The grammar-translation method rarely offered contextualization of the text. Thinking about what you have learnt up to now, how could this hinder language acquisition?

Early 1900s

The Direct Method

In the late 1900s, language instruction began to evolve due to a new belief that in order to acquire a new language the learner must be integrated into a setting in which the target language is being used consistently. This would include all instructions being given in the targeted language. This method promoted activities in which the learner is actively involved in using the targeted language in realistic situations.

The direct method emphasizes a greater importance in learning how to speak the language over learning how to read and write the language. Written materials are introduced once the instructor believes the learner has an adequate grasp of the targeted language.

Lessons consist of question and answer sessions in which the teacher asks questions of any nature and the students answer. The lessons progress from naming common objects, activities and adjectives to back and forth discussions between the instructor and learners.

Reflecting on the Readings:

In some schools in which the direct method is the only form of instruction, students are not allowed to speak in their first language whatsoever.

Thinking about what you have learnt up to now, how could this hinder language acquisition?

1940s - Audio-lingual Method

In the 1940 , the American military developed the Audio-lingual Method of language instruction in hopes that it would enable military personnel to become proficient in the languages of their World War II allies and enemies.

Reflecting on the Readings:

One aspect of the Audio-lingual method is to offer immediate positive reinforcement of correct responses, which theorist's philosophy falls into this perspective?

Following the principles of behavior psychology, the Audio-lingual method of language instruction relies on constantly repeating phrases and language based drills. The approach offered little or no grammatical explanation and vocabulary is learnt through the use of dictations, tapes dialog memorization and visual aids such as flashcards and posters.

1960s - Communicative Language Teaching

During the late 1960s and early 1970s many language instructors and linguists began to feel that traditional language instruction methods were impractical and becoming quickly outdated. Instructors decided to shift the focus of language instruction to a realistic authentic approach in which end goal was for the learner to attain communicative competence. They felt knowing appropriate social terms, gestures and expressions were just as important as grammar and vocabulary. This new approach was coined Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). Shortly after its establishment, language instruction that focused on engaging in realistic communication became quite popular.

CLT Continued

Over the years, CLT has become an umbrella term for any form of language instruction that emphasises interaction (either student to student or teacher to student).

This includes activities where students interview each other, role play scenarios, play vocabulary games and work in partners or groups.

CLT works because it allows students to feel as if they are in situations that are likely to encounter in real life / outside of the classroom.

As well, CLT has a certain element of social interaction involved with it, this in turn puts the learner at ease which allows them to feel more inclined to take risks with their speaking.

Think about Krashen's affective filter hypothesis.

Instructors in a CLT classroom tends to talk less and listen more, this is unlike the traditional lecture style of language instruction.

With CLT it is of great importance that the students be given every opportunity to practise communicating. As a result, teacher talking time (TTT) needs to be kept to a minimum.

Teachers do not need to be 100% silent, but TTT should be controlled and appropriate.

Essentially, the instructor sets up the exercise outlining that the learners' interaction with each other is the goal. Then the instructor steps back and observes the interaction.

The Basic Principals of CLT

Language instruction for the means of communication

Classroom activities should include forms of authentic and meaningful communication

Fluency is an important dimension of communication

Learners will be using a variety of language skills with each activity

Learning will come from trial and error and students should feel comfortable making mistakes

Due to its experiential nature, the materials an instructor uses for CLT are as important as the activities themselves.