The learning of language is a distinctively human trait that distinguishes them from other creatures. With the advent of time the trends of migration from one place to another have picked up pace. Men and families have moved across continents to seek livelihood and gainful employment. Towards this end it was necessary that they acquaint themselves with the lingua franca or language of the land. Thus the learning of a second language gradually has become a necessity for anyone seeking to make a successful niche for themselves in the world of today. The teachers of languages have had to evolve several strategies to facilitate such learners. To enable students to pick up the second language several strategies have been adapted in migrant intensive areas to help and coordinate the programs for imparting information and learning on the second language besides the vernacular or native tongue spoken by the learners (Paradis, & Crago, 2011).
Education is the corner stone of civilization. It is the only acquired ability that differentiates a civilized social being from a savage barbarian. The basic step of attaining literacy is through effective and efficient communication between those imparting the information and those gaining it. Hence it is important to know the medium of communication which is a vital part of this interchange. The communication mode is language. Language is an essential part of the behavioral and communicational framework of existence of every individual. The expression of language, however, may be wide and varied. The processes of socialization of a child from the early childhood onwards include the fundamentals of communication of which one of the essential parts is language. The languages may be of many types and variants. Body language, sign language and then the multi-variant spoken languages, all form the modes of communication found among the earliest tribes as well as the modern world (Duranti, 2003). There may be about 7000 languages known and available to mankind today. There may still be several more that have not as yet been uncharted.
The Need for Learning two Languages
The need to learn a second language generally emerges among populations that are living in cultures apart from their native culture, have either migrated from one place to another or are desirous of shifting to another region. There are also certain nations where more than one language is the lingua franca for example in some parts of Canada and Australia both French and English may be spoken equally well by an almost equal number of people. Similarly it is understandable that with the world becoming smaller and smaller due to better means of travel and communication it is increasingly felt that the learning of more than one language would be beneficial for and individual. In fact some of the lesser known languages are also being learnt these days to absorb the best practices of those nations into the mainstream. Two examples could be Singapore and New Zealand.
As the child grows in a closed environment he or she picks up the everyday sounds of people addressing each other. By the time the child is about two years of age he or she has a large vocabulary of spoken and understood words (Agha, 2006). All these are the words that the individual would ascribe to the mother tongue or the native tongue. It is also referred to as the vernacular language. The chief strategy at play here is proximity to an environment where certain words are repeated and the child picks them up. This is the very first mode and medium of instruction for the child (Foley, 1997).
The language a child picks up from the very beginning is said to be the form of conveying to the others what they have a desire to share or ask or even demand (Fitch, 2010). The very first words that the child picks up are almost universal all over the word. However, after the first monosyllabic, repetitive words the child goes on to pick up a number of other such words and expressions that enable him or her to let the others know that they have an opinion of their own (Agha, 2006).
In order to survive in the vast, globally evolving environment it is becoming increasingly necessary for the child to pick up the lingua franca or common language spoken in the region or country (Frask, 2007). For example, it may be the national language or the language of formal instruction that the child picks up as the second language (Duranti, 2003). With the migration of populations across the globe it has become necessary to know more than one language for purposes of successful and efficient communication. The past century has seen a spate of migratory movements across continents. The U.S, Europe and even the Asian continents have made homes for people from different ethnic backgrounds. These trends have necessitated the learning of two languages as mandatory form of behavioral input among all these populations.
There is a wide range of languages being picked up as a second language. Many of the academics in various countries were usually hired by various agencies for solving certain small issues but these days linguists are in great demand. Even countries like Japan, China and Korea which have large business concerns all over the world have people from the UK and the US learning the intricate nuances of these languages along with the idioms and metaphors.
Strategies Formulated For Promoting Ease of Learning of Two Languages
Language has been defined by various workers and dictionaries of the word with slightly variant meaning. Some like the tradition Oxford Dictionary of British English described language as, “the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way”, further detailing it as the “system of communication used by a particular country or community”. On the other hand the Free Mirriam-Webster Dictionary describes language as, “the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other”. On a more modern line the Free Online Dictionary describes language to be, the “Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols”. The eminent anthropologist, Edward Sapir (1884 –1939) in his book, ‘Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech’ published in 1921 defined language to be “a purely human and non instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions, and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols” (Sapir, 1921). He goes on to argue that, “We can profitably discuss the intention, the form, and the history of speech, precisely as we discuss the nature of any other phase of human culture—say art or religion—as an institutional or cultural entity, leaving the organic and psychological mechanisms back of it as something to be taken for granted. Accordingly, it must be clearly understood that this introduction to the study of speech is not concerned with those aspects of physiology and of physiological psychology that underlie speech. Our study of language is not to be one of the genesis and operation of a concrete mechanism; it is, rather, to be an inquiry into the function and form of the arbitrary systems of symbolism that we term languages”. He goes on to further express, “The elements of language, the symbols that ticket off experience, must therefore be associated with whole groups, delimited classes, of experience rather than with the single experiences themselves. Only so is communication possible, for the single experience lodges in an individual consciousness and is, strictly speaking, incommunicable. To be communicated it needs to be referred to a class which is tacitly accepted by the community as an identity”. Explaining further he says, “If the single significant elements of speech are the symbols of concepts, the actual flow of speech may be interpreted as a record of the setting of these concepts into mutual relations” (Sapir, 1921).
Several methodologies are proposed pertaining to the specific strategies available for teaching and learning second language learning skills (Foley, 1997). The strategies proposed are many and varied. Some of the major ones are:
- Learning in a formal school environment;
- Learning in a group study format;
- Learning singly through tutorial help aids;
- Self study through audio visual technical inputs.
- Special study classes and personalized tutorials are also utilized
Most of the students are undergoing either one or two of these strategic approaches to picking up a second or even a third language (Agha, 2006). The best approach is decided by the teacher or the student depending upon the receptivity of the learner (Duranti, 2003). Many a times the students and teachers are both tuned into a particular methodology. The methodologies are all result-oriented and focused on ease and comfort zones of the learners while facilitating them on all levels of the learning process.
Dual language learning or dual language education is also referred to as bilingual education. Dual language education can be defined as the basic learning program which helps in the enhancement of linguistic skills of an individual while helping him or her to also continue to maintain their cultural diversity. This is done by implementing language education in a formal programme. Here literacy is the objective and the satisfactory attainment of a foreign language through training and content in two languages the gain.
The dual language learning program was initiated in the United States. It was started for the Cuban citizens who were seeking refuge in Florida from the Castro regime with the belief that some or the other day the children would return back to their Cuban schools (Jin, & Cortazzi, 1998). Thus, a K-8 school in Florida was the first educational institution to impart dual language education in early 1963. Later there were several other spates of influx of migrants from other backgrounds like South East Asia, Middle Eastern countries and also certain African and European countries. Different linguistic backgrounds demanded various approaches to the learning of the second language. The dual language learning programs had to be initiated keeping in mind the various ethnicities that were converging into the US from various streams. The learning abilities of these learners differed because they were from different ethnic backgrounds, belonged to varying socio-economic backgrounds and were also at various planes of development (Quirk, 1981).
Thus, the programs were framed to ensure that all these different people obtained the best results in learning a second language in tailor made learning environments that supported their needs. The students of various ethnic backgrounds are steeped in their own cultures and practice their own language skills for communication but it is more the need of the learner to pick up the second language if he or she is to make a successful transition into a new locale.
Certain Basic Programs
There are few basic programs strategically planned and followed in the process of dual language education system formally adopted for imparting knowledge on a second language. These are namely:
1: Heritage language programs: Programs traditionally accepted by the ethnic groups.
2: Maintenance programs: Once a language has been learnt it needs to be used and only then can the learner become adept at its usage. These programs focus on maintaining the learners grasp on the language he has learnt and helping him or her utilize it to the best of his talents.
3: Transitional programs: These programs equip the learner with the essential hand-on skills for making a quick transition from one language environment to another through the aids provided in the programs. These are very useful for senior age level students who have already been utilizing one language framework and have to ensure their skills in another language.
4: Two-way enrichment programs: These are a remarkably planned interface as both the learner and the teacher gain by the two-way exchange of meaningful dialogue being entered into to understand and better facilitate the comprehension of the language being learnt.
Language immersion is the second language which is followed as the medium of classroom instruction. There are many models available of which there are but two basic models of dual language education programs that have been successfully and commonly utilized. These are demonstrated as follows:
1: Partial Immersion (50/50): In this model as the name suggests there is 50% preference given to each language between both the languages that are taught in the dual language program.
2: Full Immersion (90/10): Full Immersion model is a two way process also but the level of participation of the two languages is on a differential plane. One of the languages is being learnt at the 90% level while the other is being learnt at the 10% level.
According to the full Immersion or the “90/10” model for one way or foreign language immersion program the partner language is given cent per cent preference as a medium of instruction for the subjects. While in bilingual programs the second language is given 80-90% preference in the primary classes. In the higher classes both English and the second language are used equally (Jin, & Cortazzi, 1998). This is a model that has achieved greater success rates among the students from different ethnic backgrounds and the acceptability has been demonstrated by its success among many of the students who have cleared their necessary classroom learning under the aegis of these programs.
Evidently formal school learning strategy applied to school goers across various countries and regions has proved the most successful. The success rate of the various strategies adopted by the school and college authorities to help children from different ethnic groups to pick up the necessary language skills in English as a second language has been established. This is a special problem that has been dealt with programs at the national level. The home tutorials and guidance programmes have been very well received by the people who are working late and especially by the women who have health problems or are pregnant or are nursing mothers.
As discussed earlier there are several types of programs and hence there are multiple forms of implementation of the programs. There are guidelines about the features and the variety of ways in which schools execute them. The approach varies widely between schools. The features included are:
1: Culturally and linguistically relevant learning materials: they would pertain to the method of interpreting the language being studied in the vernacular to promote faster understanding.
2: Dual-language curriculum and instruction: this method would ensure that the entire course material that a student is to go through would be in two mediums of instruction - the vernacular as well as the language to be picked up.
3: Bilingual orientation and liaisons: This would ensure that the student is working successively in both the languages and is constantly in touch with both so that ther is no scope of laxity between either.
4: Dual-language evaluation: This is a significant method where the learner has the added advantage of expressing his or her learning abilities in both the languages being taught.
5: Bilingual teachers and instructional staff: This is the most essential part of the programme because it would entail that the student is constantly under the supervision and monitoring of teachers who understand both languages.
In certain regions there are stringent rules regarding the adoption of any particular strategy or combinations thereof to ensure that migrant populations are facilitated to learn the language of the land. These legal enactments can be enforced by law. All migrant populations are covered by them. However, they apply specifically to the children of these populations as second generation citizens of any particular geographical region. Even though there has been considerable amount of research done for more than two decades now and it has generated substantial amounts of data which have consistently showed that a firm and solid foundation in the home language yields higher achievement in English.
The success or failure of any program of dual language learning depends largely upon the ability of the teacher to impart the learning as also on the skill set of the student to pick up the second language which is unfamiliar to him or her. While language is a function of the inherent culture of any community and learning of language is an essential part of the cultural mores of a people, the learning of a second language has been developed as the imparting of a skill set to the individual or group under the supervision of the trainer who is adept at the transference of meaning to the second language (Quirk, 1981). The training process of the dual language learning has been constructed along traditional lines with inputs of modern techniques that make it easier for the learners to pick up the essential meaning and utilization of this second language (Paradis, & Crago, 2011).
The strategies adopted for the preparation, formulation of courseware as also the implementation of programs for the imparting of second language skills have been framed over a period of time. These had to be framed keeping in mind the cultural background as also the socio-economic ethos of the learners. All these conditions determined the ease and comfort level of the level in picking up the skills for learning a second language. The success rate of the learning status of the learners of the dual language was also dependant on the teaching aids and techniques pressed into service for facilitating the process of imparting the second language.
The ability of the learner to pick up certain learning skills in a language different from the one in which he had picked up his initial or childhood learning differs largely also on the age of the learner (Quirk, 1981). The younger children find it much easier to pick up a second or even a third language but the older the person the more difficult it is for them. However, it is the skill of the teacher who is responsible for giving lessons and explaining courseware for picking up the second language to the learner. The experienced and skilled teacher is a boon to the program of dual language learning because then the success rate of the student picking up the necessary skills is definite and assured.
Agha, Agha (2006). Language and Social Relations. Cambridge University Press.
Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Bigelow, M., & Schwarz, R. L. (2010). Adult English Language Learners with Limited Literacy. National Institute for Literacy. pp. 5, 13.
Duranti, Alessandro (2003). "Language as Culture in U.S. Anthropology: Three Paradigms".Current Anthropology 44 (3): 323–348.
Fitch, W. Tecumseh (2010). The Evolution of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Foley, William A. (1997). Anthropological Linguistics: An Introduction. Blackwell.
Grzega, Joachim (2005), "Reflection on Concepts of English for Europe: British English, American English, Euro-English, Global English", Journal for EuroLinguistiX 2: 44-64,
Grzega, Joachim (2005), “Towards Global English via Basic Global English (BGE): Socioeconomic and Pedagogic Ideas for a European and Global Language (with Didactic Examples for Native Speakers of German), Journal for EuroLinguistiX 2: 65-164
Hauser, Marc D.; Chomsky, Noam; Fitch, W. Tecumseh (2002). "The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?". Science 22 298 (5598): 1569–1579.
Hauser, Marc D.; Fitch, W. Tecumseh (2003). "What are the uniquely human components of the language faculty?". In M.H. Christiansen and S. Kirby. Language Evolution: The States of the Art. Oxford University Press.
Hoff, E. & Shatz, M. (2009). Blackwell Handbook of Language Development. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Jin, L., & Cortazzi, M. (1998). "The culture the learner brings: A bridge or a barrier? In M. Byram & M. Fleming (Eds.), Language learning in intercultural perspective: Approaches through drama and ethnography. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Check below the PDF sample