Impact of Second Culture Acquisition for ESL Learners in Acquiring a Second Language Research Paper

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¶ … acquisition of language is a difficult endeavor that can be greatly affected by cultural differences (May). Cultural differences can be a significant impediment to the ability of individuals to learn a second language. At the same time once knowledge about the culture is acquired learning the language can become simpler. The purpose of this discussion is to Impact of Second Culture Acquisition for ESL learners in Acquiring a second language.

Second Culture Acquisition

Second Culture Acquisition is an aspect of language pedagogy which describes the importance of understanding and acquiring knowledge about the culture associated with the language that is being learned or taught (Risager). For instance, a student from China who has come to America and is learning English as a second language, must also learn American culture so that learning the language becomes an easier process.

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Second language acquisition has been emphasized in American schools for many years (Citron). However, many American still have not acquired the ability to speak a second language fluently when compared to their European counterparts (Citron). This failure to acquire another language is likely caused by several different issues, but cultural differences in communication seem to be at the forefront. Although America is a heterogeneous society in many ways the culture can be homogenous. That is the presence of many other cultures seems to be overshadowed by the presence and culture of the dominant culture. As such many Americans have difficulty acquiring a new language because other cultures are not as prominent in daily life and as such differences in communication patterns amongst different cultures are not understood (Bowlin).

Research Paper on Impact of Second Culture Acquisition for ESL Learners in Acquiring a Second Language Assignment

The reality of this can be seen in places around the world. For instance, Slovene Istria, there has been a major effort to understand culture in relation to language. Because this area is rather homogenous the learning of a new language without the proper cultural context has been difficult for some individuals. The author explains that "Bilingualism was also officially introduced into elementary and secondary schools with Slovene as medium of instruction and Italian as a mandatory school subject, as well as into elementary and secondary schools with just the reverse curriculum. Out of a total of eighteen elementary schools, fifteen have Slovene as medium of instruction and three have Italian (Mikolic, 638)."

An article entitled "Second Culture Acquisition: Ethnography in the Foreign Language Classroom" explains that there are many different theoretical ideas concerning the ways in which culture is acquired. Traditional methodologies assert that culture is an involuntary result of any type of language instruction. However other methodologies asserts that culture is determined in an intellectual manner as information is learned and remembered. The article also explains that "The notions of culture as knowledge, culture as skills, or culture as both may lead to notions of culture as static products or forms that may be objectified (Robinson-Stuart and Nocon, 432) ." However the author explains that in more recent years methodologies concerning the subject of culture have focused on the idea of second culture acquisition. Second culture acquisition asserts that culture is a process (Robinson-Stuart and Nocon). Furthermore it is believed that culture can be a way of observing, finding meaning, feeling, existing in the world, wanting to express emotions, loving, hating, and relating ones surroundings in a meaningful way (Robinson-Stuart and Nocon). This concept sees culture as a significant aspect of life and being in the world (Robinson-Stuart and Nocon).

There are a total of five models of second culture acquisitions ((LaFromboise et al.). These models include assimilation model, acculturation model, alternation model, multicultural model and fusion model. Assimilation and multicultural models are amongst the most popular ways that individual acquire a second culture. Assimilation involves the process of absorbing into the culture that dominates the culture or seems more desirable. The multicultural model encourages a heterogeneous approach to understanding the relationship between different cultural groups. In addition "The model addresses the feasibility of cultures maintaining distinct identities while individuals from one culture work with those of other cultures to serve common national or economic needs (LaFromboise et al., 401)." In most instances individuals will adopt one of these models or a combination of the models to acquire a second culture. As a result of the impact of second culture acquisition is then utilized for the purpose of acquiring a second language.

With these things understood, second culture acquisition becomes an intertwined aspect of second language acquisition. This connection exist because individuals understanding of the language is correlated to their understanding of the culture in which the language is spoken. Once educators and learners alike understand this connection there can be a greater emphasis placed on understanding the culture better while the language is learned.

The issue of second culture acquisition is particularly relevant as it pertains to second language acquisition in cases where the languages is particularly difficult to learn. For instance, it is difficult for an individual who speaks English as a first language to learn Japanese as a second language (Hidasi). In addition to the difficulty associated with the complexities of the language, there are stark cultural differences from America or Britain and Japan. An article entitled "The Impact of Culture on Second Language Acquisition" explains that

"the Japanese language is considerably more difficult to acquire for speakers of English than to acquire other foreign languages in the range of difficulty of Indo-

European languages (Spanish, French, German, etc.) So whereas Japanese natives struggle with the acquisition of English, English speaking learners struggle with the acquisition of Japanese to an extent that much surpasses the presumed difficulties arising from the typological difference of the two languages. The reasons for this are manifold, but one often-neglected aspect of the difficulties might be attributed to the cultural differences in communication strategies of the teaching and of the learning side. It is hypothesized that there is a strong interdependence of communication strategies and of teaching ~ learning strategies -- both acquired in childhood as part of the native culture

(Hidasi, 1)."

These cultural differences are evident in the manner in which people communicate and interpersonal relationships. In this type of environment understanding and acquiring the culture may be difficult. This difficulty may also impede upon the ability of the individual to learn the language.

Additionally second culture acquisition and individual identity are dependent upon one another. According to an article found in Canadian Modern Language Review culture as a great deal to do with identity. The authors explain that "Identity was, until relatively recently, conceptualized as a stable, fixed entity within a person which controls his or her actions and understanding of the world around him or her, but which remains (at least in adulthood) for the most part unaffected by the changing outer context. Indeed, a person's identity -- be it cultural or other -- often remains unexamined; it only then demands attention when it is threatened, when 'something assumed to be fixed, coherent and stable is displaced by the experience of doubt and uncertainty' (Mercer, 1990, qtd. In Pavlenko, 1998, p. 4). Above all, our fluctuating identities entail that a person must continuously renegotiate the self (Wenger, 1998, p. 151): because we do not possess just one, unified identity (see Norton, 2000), some work is required to maintain one's self across boundaries (Marx, 265)." The author further explains that identity is no longer believed to be a stable or fixed attribute but instead it is viewed as changeable -- it is likely to become a serious issue during the course of ones life. This is particularly true if an individual is confronted with the reality of living in a culture that is different from the one that initially formed the identity.

In this instance second culture acquisition impact second language learning because of identity issues that arise. Many second language learners may feel a sense of loss of their identities as a result of living within a different culture. This sense of loss may impede upon their ability to identify with another culture.

These issues of cultural differences and acquiring a second language are present in children as well as adults (Rasanen). In many instances, it is more difficult for adults to acquire a second culture and thus a second language. According to an article found in TESL Canada Journal cultural instruction is necessary for adult second language learners. The article asserts that many prevalent approaches to culture teaching seem to focus on the presentation of cultural

"facts" and discrete sets of behaviors and do not take into account the complexity and ambiguity of cultural experiences (Ilieva,2) . However, the author insists that cultural exploration is a more appropriate way of ensuring that an individual can a second language. The author asserts that cultural exploration has the breadth and depth needed to address the complexities associated with cultural expression and cultural nuances. The author explains that adults learning a second language must have access to this type of cultural instruction id acquiring a second language is what they… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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