Second Language Acquisition in China and the US

Introduction

As a second language speaker of English, I believe that my experiences have played a tremendous role in my L2 proficiency. This is the reason why the research question revolves around this topic; that is, “How the language environment in China and the US has influenced my understanding of English as a second language.” In this analysis, it will be crucial to analyze my journey in second language acquisition using current theories on the relationship between the environment and a second language.

Summary of the four resources

Jordan (369) was a Black English instructor who took her teaching to another level when she challenged her students to take on the social injustices of their societies. This paper illustrates that to understand a language well, it is imperative to step outside the confines of the classroom and immerse oneself in the activities that go on in that society. The research will be useful in this analysis because it will shed some light on the importance of social/ cultural values in second language acquisition.

In one narrative, the author says, “Our language devolves from a culture that abhors all abstraction.” (Jordan 367) Like Jordan, it will also provide some insights into the controversial and political aspects of the concept of Standard English. This shall allow me to look at how the standards of English may have been different in China as compared to the US.

Cote (4) examines the relationship between second language acquisition and a negative environment. The author uses a series of language acquisition theories as well as case studies to analyze these relationships. He covered the Karshen Monitor model, which postulates that when the environment is negative, then second language acquisition is hampered enormously.

He says that “A comfortable, nurturing environment is of utmost importance for promoting communication.” (Cote 2) However, his analysis of case studies of people in extreme conditions, like imprisonment, illustrated that sometimes a negative environment had an opposite influence on language learners. He then uses theories to explain why. This paper will be relevant to my research question because I will know if my environment had the same influence as that of the learners in the case and if this impeded my progress in English.

Wang (23) wanted to explain attrition rates in Mandarin Chinese speakers who were learning English as a second language. He wanted to compare the English language and the Mandarin language and possibly determine if the ability of learners to remember their similarities led to less attrition after they left an English-speaking environment. He explained that “structures are more subject to attrition because they are less easily acquired or internalized.” (Wang 3)This paper will be critical to my analysis because it focuses on an environment that was similar to mine, that is, China, and looks at theories that influence second language English learners like me.

Du Plessis (70) wanted to look at the impediments to second language acquisition in his own environment, which constituted of South African schools. He found that the needs of non-native English speakers were not met in the school setting. Some children were unfamiliar with English, yet their teachers insisted on using their L2 to instruct them. Additionally, some English teachers were not as proficient in the language as they ought to be, so they could not teach those children effectively. He adds that: “Teachers are viewed to be the most important link in the education of preschool learners” (Du Plessis 67). This research will be important in looking at some of the challenges of second language acquisition in my own country-China. I will compare these two settings so that I can also learn from the subjects’ experiences.

Critical relationships among the references

Cote (5) discusses the immersion theory in his paper as one possible reason why second language learners gain proficiency in a second language. The immersion theory states that for someone to learn a language, he or she must be completely inundated by that language and ought to hear nothing else. It was explained that the context of the second language tends to provide readers with auditory and visual stimulations needed to master it.

Many foreign students find that they can learn a language in a much faster way when they live in the target country or location. Jordan (354) taught a class of predominantly black students. Most of them were already familiar with spoken Black English but had not written or read it before. It was quite easy for these students to pick up on these skills because they were black and had been immersed in the African American culture all their lives.

However, this author differs slightly from Cote (7) because she explains that sometimes the rules involved in reading and writing a certain language need to be learned and understood before one can effectively know the L2. Wang (20) claimed that the frequency of appearance of syntactic patterns in regular (preferably daily) interactions with members of the target language determined how well a person would remember the syntactic pattern in his second language. This implies that recurrent interactions or exposure to the language was critical in remembering certain components of a second language.

Jordan (366) shares the same sentiments by explaining that for someone to be completely confident in a language, then one ought to be spontaneous with it. This denotes being in a setting where one does not bother too much with the rules involved and is more concerned about what needs to be communicated. Duplessis (73) hints at this when he says that the preschool environment is an ideal place to learn a particular language because of all the free and significant interactions that children are engaged in. It is difficult to find this degree of spontaneity and freedom in adult classes because they are just naturally self-conscious.

Wang (19) explained that there are profound differences between a second language learner’s cultural background and the background in his or her target environment. Consequently, several of them will rely on their L1 values to express themselves in L2, and this may sometimes undermine their proficiency levels. Therefore the L1 environment has a substantial impact on second language acquisition because it denotes the cultural and social values of that L1 culture.

Similarly, Jordan (368) explains that Black English speakers have constantly worried about the possibility of the extinction of their language. They, therefore, apportion blame White people for doing so. These sentiments have spilled over into their language because Black English is person-centered. It focuses on the clarity and use of an active voice in all sentences. A second language learner of Black English would need to know this value system to learn the language properly.

Conclusion

As a child, I was not fully immersed in the English language, and this may have hampered my ability to speak it confidently. My frequency of interactions with English speakers has changed in the US, and I now have an opportunity to sharpen my language skills.

The concept of spontaneity will probably influence me in my environment in China because I started learning the language when it was already too late. I did not feel free to speak the language as often as I wanted. Lastly, I believe that the Chinese cultural value systems are at odds with English value systems. In China, we value the use of symbols, and we have a more holistic approach to things; this spilled over into my language acquisition. However, now that I am in the US, I am starting to learn a lot about the value systems in this culture. I can be a helpful case study on how all the above-mentioned factors influenced my abilities in English.

Works Cited

Cote, Robert. Adult second language acquisition in negative environments. Arizona State University. 2004. Web.

Du Plesis, S. Multilingual learners in the South African school context. University of Pretoria, 2006. Web.

Jordan, June. “Nobody mean more to me than you and the future life of Willie Jordan.” Harvard Educational review 58.3(1988): 363-376. Web.

Wang, Shu-Pei. Syntactic attrition in L2 Mandarin speakers. Brigham Young University. 2007. Web.