By Tarun Patel
By Tarun Patel
Social Networking Sites for Teaching English, Part-1
by Tarun Patel, Faculty of Technology – CHARUSAT, co-founder of ELTWeekly
According to a British Council research, 69% of learners around the world learnt most effectively when socializing informally.
Facebook, a popular social networking site ha more than 60 million active users. This site had an average of 250,000 new registrations per day since January 2007. Another social networking site MySpace has 85% of its users below 18 years of age.
In addition to Facebook and MySpace, sites like Reunion, Bebo and Twitter have attracted millions of Internet users worldwide.
Let us have a look at the key features of these ‘social networking’ websites:
- Publisher is the main feature to post information and messages which appear on the user’s own Wall
- News feed
- Wall – The Wall is a space on each user’s profile page that allows friends to post messages for the user to see while displaying the time and date the message was written
- One of the most popular applications on Facebook is the Photos application, where users can upload albums of photos, tag friends, and comment on photos
- A blogging feature that allowed tags and embeddable images
- The poke feature allows one user to virtually poke another
- Facebook has a micro-blogging feature called “status updates” which allows users to inform their friends of their current whereabouts, actions, or thoughts
- Facebook allows different networks and groups to which many users can join
- During the time that Facebook released its platform, it also released an application of its own for sharing videos on Facebook
- Allows its users to send messages / mails to multiple users
- Status and mood history
- Printing everywhere
- A contact network is built up consisting of their direct connections, the connections of each of their connections (termed second-degree connections) and also the connections of second-degree connections (termed third-degree connections). This can be used to gain an introduction to someone you wish to know through a mutual, trusted contact.
- It can then be used to find jobs, people and business opportunities recommended by someone in one’s contact network.
- Employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates.
- Job seekers can review the profile of hiring managers and discover which of their existing contacts can introduce them.
- You can add your friends from your email or simply search for them directly at Bebo
- On your Bebo’s profile page, you’d find different links there for Videos, Friends, Applications, Photos, White Board, Blog and “All” where you can view all of these contents in just one page!
- With Bebo, you can create several widgets under Bebo’s widget maker
- Bebo also has a White Board where you can either draw or write on the board
- Twitter allows you to send and read other users updates (known as tweets)
- Twitter messages(tweets) are limited to 140 characters (microblogging)
- You can send and receive updates via the Twitter website, SMS(text messages), RSS (receive only), emails or a third party application.
- You can restrict delivery to your circle of friends (delivery to everyone is the default).
- You can use third party application such as Tweetie, Twitterrific, and Feedalizr to send Twitter messages.
- You can search for people by name or user name, import friends from other networks, or invite friends via email.
In addition to the above four, there are several other popular social networking websites on the Internet. Looking at the features of these four sites the word comes to my mind is ‘interactive’.
We can say that the learning process gets initiated with the beginning of an interaction between the students and the teacher.
In this article series called ‘Social Networking Sites for Teaching English’, we are going to explore several ways to employ social networks for teaching English effectively with apt learner engagement.
In the second part of this article, I will focus on teaching of grammar with social networks and how to help learners practice later.
About Tarun Patel
Tarun Patel (http://tarunpatel.net/blog/) is an ELT and Communication skills teacher, working with Charotar University of Science & Technology (CHARUSAT - http://charusat.ac.in/). He has been dealing with the Language learning processes for last seven years. ‘Technology in Teaching English’ is his favorite game and has presented several papers in national and international conferences on the same theme. He is the founder editor ofELTWeekly(http://eltweekly.com/), India’s first weekly ELT eNewsletter which reaches in more than forty countries and benefits more than one thousand teachers of English and Communication Skills. Have a look at his personal blog http://tarunpatel.net/blog/.
By Tarun Patel
Making Multimedia work in the Digital Lab, University of Ulster, York Street, Belfast, September 18
Building on the success of our previous symposia in London (2007) and Nottingham (2008), the Centre for Excellence in Multimedia Language Learning is hosting a third symposium on the use of digital labs to be held in Belfast on Friday 18th September 2009.
This event aims to bring together digital lab practitioners to share examples of good practice in the use of digital labs for language teaching. With the focus on how labs are used in teaching and learning, rather than on the technology itself, delegates will have an opportunity to discuss their language teaching with peers and to share practice-based research.
Theme: Making Multimedia work in the Digital Lab
Venue: University of Ulster, York Street, Belfast
Date: September 18, 2009
Time: 09:15 – 16:00
Cost: There is no charge for attendance at this event
The deadline for registration for attendance at the symposium is Friday 11th September 2009. To register click here.
The full conference programme is now available here.
Presentations and workshops will be delivered by practitioners from:
- University of Ulster
- Queen Mary, University of London
- University of Portsmouth
- University of the West of England
- The University of Nottingham
Exhibition stands will be manned by representatives from:-
- Televic Education
- Accommodation & Travel
For further details and pre-registration, please visit: http://www.cemll.ulster.ac.uk/site/Symposium/index
IH Annual ELT Conference 2010, February 2010
2010 English Language Teaching Conference
for teachers of English to Adults, Children & Business students
Call for Speakers
Papers are invited for our February 2010 ELT conference.
As usual, we welcome proposals related to General English Teaching to adults and/or younger learners; Business English Teaching and Teacher Training.
We are interested in talks or workshops given by practising teachers and teacher trainers which include practical, classroom-based experience and activities. These should refer to principles and may refer to educational theory, but a theoretical perspective should not be the main content.
Do you have something to say? If you would like to lead a workshop at the International House ELT Conference, please complete and send us the form below.
Please note Talks will be selected on the basis of this information. If your session is selected, this information will be used in the publicity for the Conference.
Friday 5 and Saturday 6 February 2010
Friday: 17.00-20.00 & Saturday: 9.30-19.00
For further information, please contact:
Teacher Training Dept
C/ Trafalgar 14, 08010 Barcelona
Tel: 93 268 4511
Fax: 93 268 0239
For further details and pre-registration, please visit: http://www.ihes.com/bcn/tt/conference_call.html
6th CamTESOL Conference on English Language Teaching - “One World: World Englishes”, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, February 27-28, 2010
The 6th CamTESOL conference on English Language Teaching will be held on 27-28 February 2010 at the National Institute of Education (NIE).
The 6th CamTESOL conference will take place on 27-28 February 2010 at the National Institute of Education (NIE). The conference is designed to be practical and of direct benefit to practising teachers of English. The theme of the 2010 conference is “One World: World Englishes”.
We now invite all Cambodians and non-Cambodians who are working in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT) or related areas, or have an interest in this field to submit an abstract for the 2010 conference on 27-28 February. Practising teachers of English are especially invited to participate. Abstracts are for a paper, workshop or poster.
Deadline for Abstract Submission: 30 September 2009
Notification re. Abstract Selection: 24 October 2009
Deadline for Full Paper Submission to be Considered for Publication: 7 March 2010
Attached (see link below) is the template cover page that should be completed for all abstract submissions (four page document). All abstracts must be submitted electronically using this template Word document.
Abstracts must not exceed 150 words. All papers and workshops should relate to the twenty streams of this conference:
Abstracts will be selected and approved by an appointed committee. All successful presenters will be informed by 24 October. Full papers will then be required by 7 March 2010.
IDP Education is supporting this initiative and is working with Cambodian teachers of English from a broad range of institutions to develop this conference series. To submit your abstract or further enquiry, please contact Mr Bun Chamroeun at IDP on +855 23 212113 or +855 23215227 or e-mail: email@example.com. For enquiries related to the CamTESOL publication – CamTESOL Selected Papers, please contact Dr Richmond Stroupe, Assistant Editor-in-Chief firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click HERE to download the template for Call for Papers.
Click HERE for information about the CamTESOL publication.
You will receive an e-mail confirming receipt of your abstract within two days. If you do not receive a confirmation e-mail, please re-send your abstract to email@example.com and ensure you receive a confirming message.
Please note that presenters must confirm that they will present (upon notification of abstract selection) and register for the conference (before close of early registration) before they will be timetabled on the conference program. A draft conference program will be mounted on the website at least one week prior to the conference and presenters are advised to check that timetable to ensure that their previously submitted information is correctly represented.
For further details and pre-registration, please visit: http://www.camtesol.org/2010conference/Call_for_Papers_2010.html
By Tarun Patel
It is not God that is worshipped but the group or authority that claims to speak in His name. Sin becomes disobedience to authority not violation of integrity.
- Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
By Tarun Patel
This 54-page booklet comprises a collection of papers with contributions from leading researchers on global citizenship in language education in several corners of the globe. It provides not only sound theoretical frameworks for investigation but also practical findings for application in diverse segments of ELT, ranging from university environments to public schools and from EFL to ESL contexts.
Download ‘Global Citizenship in the English Language Classroom’ by clicking this link: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/try/resources
By Tarun Patel
“??Shaping the Way We Teach English, Successful Practices Around the World” materials are designed for English as a Foreign Language educators who share the following two goals: 1. Building an academic or “pedagogical”? foundation; and, 2. Improving classroom practices.
If you have these same goals, then these materials are for you!
An innovative offering from the Office of English Language Programs, Shaping the Way We Teach English, is a 14-module teacher training video
series developed and produced in cooperation with the University of Oregon.
By Tarun Patel
CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning. It refers to teaching subjects such as science, history and geography to students through a foreign language. This can be by the English teacher using cross-curricular content or the subject teacher using English as the language of instruction. Both methods result in the simultaneous learning of content and English.
The term CLIL was coined by David Marsh, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (1994):“CLIL refers to situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language.”
However, CLIL teaching has been practised for many years, from the Babylonian era to the early sixties when bi-lingual education was introduced in many schools around the world. Even if you are unaware of the term CLIL, you may already have been using CLIL methodology for many years.
Are you a CLIL teacher?
There are many ways of describing the characteristics attributed to CLIL. You may already be following and using many of its principles. If you are teaching on a programme or following a methodology listed below then onestopclil is for you.
- Bilingual Integration of Languages and Disciplines (BILD)
- Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)
- Content and Language Integration in Primary CLIP
- Content-based Instruction (CBI)
- Content-based Language Instruction (CBLI)
- Content-based Language Teaching (CBLT)
- English Across the Curriculum (EAC)
- English as an Academic Language (EAL)
- English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI)
- Foreign Language Immersion Program (FLIP)
- Foreign Languages as a Medium of Education (FLAME)
- Languages Across the Curriculum (LAC)
- Teaching Content Through English
- Teaching English Through Content
Find out more about CLIL in the informative article: What is CLIL? in the free CLIL Teacher Magazine. A more in-depth exploration about CLIL – what it is, what it is not and the challenges faced by CLIL teachers – can be found in the Methodologysection.
By Tarun Patel
Watch live talks from some of the biggest names in English language teaching, right in your web browser. All webinars are free to join - all you require is an internet connection and a computer.
(Please note: Registration for the webinars series is separate from the Macmillan Education resources email service. You will need to register to view the webinars even if you already receive Macmillan’s weekly resource emails.)
WEBINAR PROGRAMME – SEASON TWO
(Please note the change of speakers for September 9th.)
Speaker: Andy Roberts (Co-author of Aviation English)
Date: Wednesday 9th September
“Pronunciation in Communication: An Aviation Perspective”
Speaker: Roy Norris
Date: Wednesday 14th October
“Taking students from Upper Intermediate to Advanced”
Speaker: Keith Kelly
Date: Wednesday 11th November
“Integrating content and language – which language?”
Speaker: Carol Read
Date: Wednesday 2nd December
“Control or Chaos? Managing classes of primary children in a positive way”
By Tarun Patel
Sexism in Linguistics
by Murali Vemula (Ph.D), Research Scholar, Kakatiya University, Warangal.A.P.
It is difficult to separate linguistic features that are sexist from linguistic features that help to maintain sexual stereotypes. For example, the choice of ‘he’ as the sex-indefinite pronoun is sexist because it excludes women (femininity) but it also perpetuates the idea that women are of secondary importance. Some times language is used to make sexual divisions, nut simply as one aspect of a more general sexual discrimination. Several books/schools, for example use gender differences between pupils as a convenient way of dividing the class. Teachers list girls and boys separately in their registers; they may also play one gender off against the other, hoping to encourage the class to finish their work quickly. Language is involved here, but it is not the only way that a sexual division is enforced, girls and boys may be made to sit separately in assembly and even to enter school by separate doors (see Delamont, 1980). This is not sexual stereotyping but it prepares the way for it by encouraging children to strongly identify with their own sex and to view the opposite sex as completely distinct from them. Although language plays a part in this, it is not the language that needs to be changed, but the divisible practices of the schools.
Some times, however, language is more directly involved in making necessary gender distinctions. Some universities list surname and initials but list female students with their full name and marital status and most make the same distinctions in their lists of academic staff. There are several cases, though, where language clearly reflects stereotyped sex-roles. For example, some “pairs” of words like “to mother and to father” are parallel in form (both are verbs derived from nouns) but not in meaning. As Lakoff (1973) points out, the phrase “she mothered the child” implies a psychological as well as a biological relationship, reflecting the fact that traditionally it is the mother who is responsible for the upbringing of children. Whereas “he fathered the child” implies only a limited biological act. Some writers have made conscious efforts to dispel the stereotypes implied by pairs of this kind; Dodson (1975a) and Parke (1981) use “to father” as a Semantic parallel to the verb “to mother in their books” “How to father” and fathering”, and Dodson introduces a neutral term in a second book entitled “How to Parent” (Dodson, 1975b).
Dictionary definitions often reveal the existence of sexual stereotypes and, of course, perpetuate them. The concise Oxford Dictionary (1976), For example, defines manly in terms of virtues said to be possessed by men: “having a man’s virtues, courage, frankness, etc.But it mainly is used to describe woman qualities rather than virtues are involved “(of woman) having a man’s qualities. Womanly,is contrast, is defined not in terms of inherent virtues but in terms of unspecified qualities that are considered suitable for women; “(of woman or her feelings, conduct etc.) having or showing the qualities befitting a woman. The shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1973), which gives fuller definitions, adds independence and uprightness to the list of manly virtues, and gives gentleness and devotion as examples of qualities of women.
The use of examples that assign to women virtues that traditionally have been attributed to men (for example, “she has brains and courage”). Similarly, characteristics that are usually considered to be feminine are attributed to men, in sentences such as “tears welled up in his eyes or “striving to attain” “mastery” over his emotions. Job stereotyping is also corrected, by using sentences like “teaches kindergarten “and he studies typing at night” (Graham, 1975). The dictionary is designed to be used by school children. Which means that it will play an important role in educating the next generation towards a less sexually divisive society?
Work on sexual stereotyping in children’s books has led to attempts to correct it. Sex roles; they do not merely fail to prepare children for a more egalitarian society, but they even fail to depict life as it is at present. These days vast majority of children’s books portray stereotyped. Sex roles; the reading skills that are use to most commonly in British Schools have twice as many male characters as female characters. Where as in Indian context it differs, and shows the male characters taking part in wider variety of roles and activities than the female characters. In Britain the Equal Opportunities Commission (1979, 1980) and the National Council for Civil Liberties (1978) have published practical suggestions for avoiding inadvertent sex discrimination in Schools that includes a discussion of stereotyping in children’s books.
Now-a-days stereotyping tends to be more subtle and often results from the pictures rather than the working of the advertisements (for example, see, Goffman, 1979). Language is still sometimes involved, through as in the current advertisements for instance, ‘fcku’ letters are seen on either sides of the T-Shirts printed by unknown textile companies and they are worn by both the genders too. “This exploits women” or “This insults women”. Advertisements portray male stereotypes as well as female stereotypes. Language is still involved, though, as in the current advertisements for and Airlines, which has the words “Fly me” accompanying photographs of pretty airhostess. In both the USA and Britain, stickers can be obtained with messages, “This ad insults women” or Exploits women and spoiling the self-respect of the women in particular, and these have been used on advertisements in public places.
The advertisements portray male stereotypes as well as female stereotypes, of course. In the USA some advertising companies are beginning to reverse traditional stereotypes in an attempt to correct them “for example, see Komisar, 1971). The advertisements of course, reinforce traditional stereotypes by making fun of the issue, but they may nevertheless attract the attention of people who had not thought about stereotyping before. Sex-role stereotypes also exist in job descriptions with Sex Discrimination Act of 1975: Airhostess, to flight attendants. Changing the titles of jobs will help to avoid sex roles stereotyping but the language that is used in job descriptions needs to be changed also. The third person singular in mind. Language, as social phenomenon, inevitably reflects social attitudes towards women and men. But it also influences and to some extent moulds the views of its speakers. This means that the changes in languages use that have been outlined should lead to changes in the way that society treats men and women, which in turn, will lead to further changes in language. Language change and social change in other words, are mutually reinforcing.
Several religious bodies are also changing the language used in their publications. Although religious bodies in Britain are not renowned for equality in the treatment of the sexes, for example, the refusal until last year to admit women into the Ministry, and the persistence of all-male choirs in the churches also. The revised version of “the Methodist Hymn Book, omits some hymns that are considered to be blatantly sexist, and contains adopted versions of others. Children are particularly susceptible, of course, to discriminating language. Although the majority of the school Books used in some countries, not in Indian Context, still contains sexist language, some teachers and educators are now pointing out the social implications to their colleagues and their pupils. The 1980 Special Issue of the Journal “Women in Education”, for example, provides a checklist designed to be used by teachers for assessing the language used in school books. It warns that few books will be free of sexism, but gives suggestions for overcoming its effect, such as through class discussions or projects involving writing to publishers. There are also books designed for use in the class room that points how the way in which the position of women in society is reflected in language. Though most of these are primarily concerned with sexual stereotyping, some also deal with sexism in English (see for example, Adams & Laurikietis, 1976, 3, unit 1: 3).
Linguistics features can occur in both a Standard English and a non-Standard English form, the surveys have found that female speakers tend to use more of the Standard English forms than male speakers. One reason may be that women are more conscious of the social significance of different linguistic features, so that they sue more of the socially prestigious speech forms, another reason is, perhaps, that non-standard working – class speech has masculine connotations of “roughness” and ” toughness” in Western Society, so that men choose to use mire non-standard forms.(Trudgill,1974a).
The analysis of sec differences in language has been useful within linguistics by helping to explain some of the social mechanisms that are involved in language change. Children who speak non-Standard English are at a disadvantage at school, because their variety of English is not the same as the variety used by the teachers and in school reading books. They have to choose, perhaps at an unconscious level, whether to use the Standard English forms that are linked with mainstream culture and the school, or the non-standard English forms that symbolize solidarity with the vernacular culture.
Sex roles have been changing during the course of this century, and we would normally expect these social changes to be accompanied by gradual changes in language. The main application of work on the relationship between language and sex has, of course, been in attempts to change our use of discriminatory language in order to remove sexual inequality from society. It has wider applications also, however, that have been only briefly mentioned. It helps our general understanding of the way in which language reflects and maintains social divisions, and of the way in which our thinking is often unconsciously moulded by our language. An understanding of this will help to eliminate not only sexual inequality in all areas of social life.
Changes that take place in society are reflected in language, though language change tends to lag behind social change. Sex roles in the USA and in Britain have been changing gradually. The practical applications are accelerating the rate at which language is changing and this should, in turn, accelerate the rate at which society is changing. In the field of language pathology, for example, where it seems that sex-role stereotyping could account for some language disorders in male speakers (see, Kramer, 1974).
Language, as a social phenomenon, inevitably reflects social attitudes towards women and men. But it also influences and to some extent moulds the views of its speakers, as Kress and Hodge (1979) points out. This means that the changes in language use that have been outlined should lead to changes in the way that society treats men and women, which in turn, will lead to further changes in language. Language change and social change, in other words, are mutually reinforcing.
Adams and Laurikietis, R. (1976), “The Gender Trap”: a closer look at sex roles”. Virago, London.
Dodson, F.(1975a), “How To Parent”, Star books, London.
Dodson, F.(1975b), “How To Father”, New American Library, New York.
Delamont, S.(1980). “The Sociology of Women”, George Allen and Unwin. London.
Graham, A. (1975). The making of a nonsexist dictionary. In “Language and sex:
Difference and dominance”,(B.Thorne and N.Henley, eds), Newbury House Publishers, Rowley, Mass.
Lakoff, R.(1973). Language and woman’s place. Language in society,2(1), 45-79.
National Council for Civil Liberties. (1978). “Sex discrimination in schools: how to fight it”.
Peter Trudgill. P. (1974b). “The Social differentiation of English In Norwich”, Cambridge University press, London.
Peter Trudgill, P (1974a). “Sociolinguists”, Penguin, Harmondsworth.
Kramer. C. (1974). “Women’s Speech: separate but unequal.” “Quarterly Journal of Speech.” 60(February), 14-24. Reprinted in Thorne and Henley, 1975.
Graham. A. (1975) In “Language and Sex: difference and dominance”, (B. Thorne and N.Henley,eds)New Bury House Publishers, Rowley. Mass.
Goffman, E(19790, “Gender Advertisements”, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Parke.R.(1981). “Fathering”, Fontana, London.
Kress, G. and Hodge, R. (1979). “Language as Idealogy”, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.
** ELTWeekly would like to thank Murali Vemula for contributing this article.
By Tarun Patel
Individual Differences in First Language Acquisition
by Professor: Dr. Birjandi and M-Hashamdar, Islamic Azad University, Science & Research Branch
The present paper is intended to search for individual differences in first language
acquisition. It identifies differences in social, cognitive, cultural, and linguistic dimensions.
What the researcher has found out so far is that bulk of research on individual differences has been conducted in the realm of second language acquisition and few studies could be detected dealing with this topic in first language acquisition. Therefore, for the purpose of conducting research in this area, the researcher is partly to focus on individual differences in second language acquisition and see whether they can be seen in first language acquisition and partly to try to find the differences which are just influential in first language acquisition regardless of second language acquisition.
Keywords: motivation, input, intelligence, admiration, exposure, referential strategy, expressive strategy.
The origins of ID research in psychology go back to the end of the 19th century. Darwin’s cousin, Sir Galton, is usually considered to be the first to investigate individual differences scientifically. Later, Alfred Binet became interested in individual differences by looking at his daughter solving her problems. He coauthored with Victor Henri on ‘individual psychology’.
This article was the first systematic description of the goals, procedures, and methods of individual differences in psychology. In the process of studying individual differences, Binet devised an intelligence scale to separate slow and fast learners in French schools.
With ongoing developments in the study of personality, motivation, and other cognitive abilities, ID research is still considered a powerful area within psychology. However, it has not been that intriguing for researchers of First Language Acquisition. This might be due to different reasons. The most important one appears to be due to the fact that nearly all children acquire the language sooner or later. That’s why the researchers preferred not to put much emphasis on individual differences in FLA.
It was once thought that all children acquire language in pretty much the same way (Lenneberg, 1964). Although some children develop a little quicker than others, the stages of development and strategies used to acquire language are nearly similar. Research studies over 30 years have showed evidence for ID in language styles and strategies.
Nelson (1973) has mentioned two different strategies for acquiring first language; (1) referential strategy, and (2) expressive strategy. She asserts that most children approach language using a referential strategy. That is, they refer to aspects of their immediate environment. In contrast, some children use expressive strategy in which they emphasize social interaction.
Referential children seem to regard language as a process of naming objects whereas expressive children are believed to have more diverse vocabularies such as social routines which are learnt holistically as units. They can also utter whole sentences rather than putting words together one by one and then making sentences.
The differences might have linguistic, social, cognitive, and cultural dimensions.
Languages differ in what is easier and what harder to learn and master. Slobin (1985) distinguished two sources of complexity for learning: conceptual and formal complexity.
Conceptual complexity belongs to the complexity of the ideas being expressed in language. Formal complexity refers to the forms different concepts get. For example, the concept of plural may take different forms in different languages. In English, it takes -s ending for plural and in other languages the other forms. Although no one language appears to be easier to learn and master, there are some forms which are easier to learn than in other languages. Children growing up in that language find that aspect of language easier and therefore learn it much sooner than children of other languages the same form.
Many scholars believe that the way children learn language follows a specific pattern and is inherently systematic in its nature. It is definite that children must be exposed to some language in order to start acquisition, but how that exposure and later interaction occur is to some extent variable. The evidence made by feral children (those who have grown up in the wild) and isolated children (those who have grown up with extremely limited human contact) proved the importance of language input and child exposure to language. Exposure to language is out of the control of the child whereas the interaction made in following months and years of childhood is determined more or less by the child and the caretaker. His interest in experiencing and interaction with others give him an active role in the process of language acquisition. Clark (2003) stated that a stimulating and rich linguistic environment will support language development in children. How often and how well caregiver communicate with the child is a strong indicator of how rapidly children expand their language learning. McLaughlin (1984) asserted that engaging the children and encouraging them to express themselves interactively is an effective way to build language experience.
It seems that the amount and quality of the exposure to language experienced by the children of last generation is considerably different from children of new generation. This generation of children is experiencing more exposure to language. In past the source of exposure to language was limited to parents and caregivers’ language. That is, children could not experience a variety of vocabulary and grammar in the language used by people around. It is believed that each individual has got his or her style of speech. When the language exposure is experienced from a limited number of people around, then the language acquired cannot have variety. Child in this situation might acquire the language but the quality and even the rate of learning and mastering the language might be affected.
Goldfield (1987) found that children’s lexical preferences were influenced by both child and caregiver variables. He saw that children who more often used objects to elicit maternal attention and whose mothers more often labeled and described toys and surrounding objects were more likely to use referential language.
Language acquisition takes place while the child is involved in interaction and conversation with caregivers. Conversation demands that its participants attend to each other and to whatever is being talked about. Clark (2003) argues that both joint attention and the updating of common ground play a role in acquisition. By common ground, she means what others know at each point in the conversation. Through this language socialization, children learn the behaviors that are culturally and linguistically appropriate in their community. Interaction with a child by a caregiver can have two patterns: child-centered and situation-centered (Park & King, 2003).
In child-centered context, caretakers consider children as potential conversational partner. That’s why in these families children are involved in daily conversation of the family; sometimes as short as a greeting or question and answer from birth. In this context, family members are to lower their speech pace, and even use simple utterances in their interaction with the child.
In situation-centered context, caregivers tend not to simplify their speech in interaction with the child. Children are expected to understand adult-like utterances. In these families, children have to build up their own language construction, make themselves understood, and interpret other’s responses.
The social aspect of language acquisition was also emphasized by Vygotsky. He regarded language as a critical bridge between the socio-cultural world and individual mental functioning.
He viewed the acquisition of language as the most significant milestone in children’s cognitive development.
Motivation or admiration?
It is generally believed that motivation plays an important role in language learning. Wood (1998) believes that the child’s view of himself as a social being, as an object of other people’s regard, can be a crucial determinant of his motivation. And if you accept this, then you come up with thenotion that motivation and de-motivation for learning are not simply manifestations of individual cognition but they are of social ones. Heckhausen (1982) argues that young children do not entertain a very clear distinction between effort and ability. The fact that some children do things faster than others does not seem to overly concern them. In this regard, what is prominent and important to be considered is the fact that in FLA the child is too young to understand the notion of motivation. What stimulates or persuades the child to acquire the language seems to be due to the admiration he receives from parents or caregivers when he utters a word or phrase.
This admiration is sometimes accompanied with a prize given by others to the child. It might even be the smile of satisfaction the caretaker gives when the child opens his mouth and articulates the first sounds and words.
There has been a long debate regarding the question whether language acquisition is a process associated with a cognitive system derived from general human intelligence or whether it is a genetically determined system. The supporters of each idea give their own reasons for their support. The fact that the attempts to teach language to other primates failed emphasizes once again that the human brain seems to be suited for the acquisition of language in a way in which no other species can be. However, there is evidence that language is independent of general cognitive abilities and that it is an endowment to human beings.
Lust (2006) states that children’s behavior with language is also affected by a number of performance factors such as memory and ability to deal with length of linguistic utterances. He believes that the relation between these factors and linguistic knowledge is complex. No one denies the role of memory in the cognitive domain of individual differences. Some children have good memory and some not as well as the others. However, memory studies should be under the title of intelligence. That’s why it is discussed under that topic.
The importance of intelligence as a cognitive entity can never be ignored in studying issues related to mental activities. Nevertheless, its role in language acquisition is not fully appreciated by all researchers. Some consider either studies of individuals, who were intellectually handicapped but still show normal mastery of language or individuals whose cognitive abilities are normal but whose speech is impaired.
The children with Spina Bifida, a malformation of the vertebrae that leaves the spinal cord unprotected, and children suffering from Williams Syndrome show that language development does not depend on fully functioning general intelligence.
On the other hand, some scholars such as Gardner believe in linguistic intelligence as one of the eight intelligences in human beings. Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences which is based on eight different intelligences such as mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, visual, musical, and bodily intelligences. If we accept that linguistic intelligence exists, then we have to accept that some children are born with high level of linguistic intelligence and some with low linguistic intelligence. Therefore, those with high level can acquire the language much easier and better, and those with low level of linguistic intelligence can acquire language slower and with difficulty.
Gender and birth order
Throughout the last century psychologists have used a number of tests to see if there is any difference in the performance of males and females in different cognitive tasks. Language acquisition is considered to be a cognitive process and this made some psychologists search for the relationship between language acquisition and gender differences.
Teale (1996) claimed that families spend substantially more time in literacy-related activities with girls than with boys. However, this can be culture-bound as well. The common conclusion has been that females perform much better than males in a number of language skills (Kimura, 993). In tasks such as listing words that all begin with the same letter or which are all related semantically.
There is a number of research studies conducted to explain why sex differences exist in first language performance. Cattell (2000) stated that some psychologists believe that males are more strongly lateralized than females, both for language and spatial relationships. Those skills are processed by both hemispheres in females. This claim comes from the idea that the splenum (part of corpus callosum) is larger in females than males.
The birth order is the other criterion which was emphasized by some researchers. Hoff-Ginsberg (1998) identified first-born versus later-born children in high socioeconomic status (SES) versus middle SES families and studied the language addressed to them and their rates of language development. He found out that first-born children were more advanced in lexical and grammatical development than later-born children. However, later-born children were more developed in conversational skills. Wells (1985) stated that adults talk more to first-born than to later-born children, and high SES adults talk more to their children than middle SES adults do.
Hart & Risley (1995) examined the number of people living in a house and the amount of parent-to-child speech. They found out that adults in crowded homes spoke to their children in simpler, less sophisticated ways than adults in less crowded homes. And parents in the more crowded settings were less responsive verbally to their children.
The effect of cultural and ethnic diversity on first language acquisition can easily be detected when children start speaking their mother tongue with the friends. Children from low-income backgrounds lag behind their peers in language skills from early on, and have been shown to develop vocabularies up to four times more slowly than their peers from more economically advantaged backgrounds (Feldman, 2000).
Tamis-Lemonda and Rodriguez (2008) found out that three aspects of parenting have been highlighted as central to children’s early language and learning: (1) the frequency of children’s participation in routine learning activities such as shared book reading and storytelling; (2) the quality of caregiver-child engagements; and (3) the provision of age-appropriate learning materials.
However, it seems that these aspects of parenting are highly dependent on the parents’ educational status, parent’s age, and ethnicity. It cannot be ignored that parents who are highly educated spend more time with their babies in order to help and scaffold their children’s language learning. Highly-educated parents also use more vocabulary in their conversation and this diversity in word usage gives the child more opportunity to be exposed with more words.
That’s why the children in these families use more elaborate words in their conversation with the teachers and peers when they enter schools. On the other hand, parental education can affect on the household income. Parents living in poverty have children who are at risk for cognitive, academic, and social-emotional problems (McLoyd, 1998).
The other important aspect of parenting is the ethnic and cultural differences in families.
Evens (1999) stated that Hispanic and African American mothers are, on average, less likely to read their children than white non-Hispanic mothers and Spanish-speaking Hispanic families have fewer children’s books available in the home than their non-Hispanic counterparts.
The parent’s age is a determinant in the process of language acquisition. For example, compared to older mothers, teen mothers display lower levels of verbal stimulation and involvement, higher levels of intrusiveness, and material speech that is less varied and complex (Whiteside-Mansell & Pope, 1996).
There exists irrefutable evidence for the individual differences in First Language Acquisition. Children who display delays in language acquisition, those who never catch the standard and normal level of language proficiency, stammering and stuttering of some children, eloquence in speech of some children and lack of it in others, politeness in speech of some infants and lack of it in others, and some more reasons all show that there should be individual differences.
However, most of these variables cannot be easily measured. That’s why many researchers prefer not to search or talk about it. These researchers would rather search for individual differences in Second Language Acquisition.
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**ELTWeekly would like to thank Dr. Birjandi and M-Hashamdar for contributing this research paper.