Misconceptions About Language
McLaughlin (1992) cites five unfounded assumptions about language learning
that can give teachers unrealistic expectations of the language-acquisition
process in the classroom:
- "Myth 1: Children learn second languages quickly and easily." Current
research indicates that children have no biological advantage in learning
languages, although social factors may favor child learners. Unlike adults,
however, children do not have the command of vocabulary or memory techniques
to help them easily acquire proficiency in a second language.
- "Myth 2: The younger the child, the more skilled he or she will be in
acquiring a second language." Instead, each age group has its own advantages
and brings its own skills to the language-learning process. Research has found
that older children are better language learners in a school setting, but
younger child may have an advantage in learning correct pronunciation.
- "Myth 3: The more time students spend in a second language context, the
quicker they learn the language." On the contrary, studies of immersion
programs indicate that time on task provides no advantage in second-language
acquisition. Instead, McLaughlin (1992) notes that continued support in the
home language has proven beneficial to children:
"The use of the home language in bilingual classrooms enables children
to maintain grade-level school work, reinforces the bond between the home
and the school, and allows them to participate more effectively in school
activities. Furthermore, if the children acquire literacy skills in the
first language, as adults they may be functionally bilingual, with an advantage
in technical or professional careers."
- "Myth 4: Children have acquired a second language once they can speak
it." In reality, proficiency in face-to-face communication does not imply
the more complex cognitive proficiency that is required in classroom activities.
McLaughlin notes, "All teachers need to be aware that children who are learning
in a second language may have language problems in reading and writing that
are not apparent if their oral abilities are used to gauge their English proficiency."
- "Myth 5: All children learn a second language in the same way." Different
learning styles and cultural communication methods have an impact on language
learning, just as they do on other types of learning. McLaughlin says, "Effective
instruction for children from culturally diverse backgrounds requires varied
instructional activities that consider the children's diversity of experience."
For further information, refer to Myths
and Misconceptions About Second Language Learning (McLaughlin, 1992).
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