This paper explores the
different stages involved in second language acquisition and its significance
with reference to Pakistani context. In
Pakistan English has achieved an official status therefore it is a second
language of majority of the people whereas Chinese has the position of a
foreign language in the country. Linguists have been studying and proposing
different theories on how children acquire their first language but their focus
shifted to processes involved in second language acquisition when more than
half of world’s population became bilingual or multilingual. Only then linguists
began investigating the stages involved while learning a non-native language.
The purpose was to come up with teaching methodologies that will assist the
learners in acquiring their second languages effectively and efficiently. SLA
has emerged as a sub discipline of applied linguistics and receives attention
from various other disciplines including psychology and education. SLA is
defined as a process by which people learn a second language. This process
includes different stages and can be affected by different factors including
age, aptitude, even the first language of the speaker. Pakistan is a country
with multilingual speakers. Their first or native languages include Urdu,
Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Siraiki depending on the geographical regions where
they are born whereas English has the official status since the time of British
rule in sub-continent. It is the language of law, military, media, business and
enterprise. English is being taught as a subject to students from primary level
therefore majority of the people learn English as their second language. I,
hailing from Punjab learnt English as my second language and Urdu as my first
language. Despite learning English from primary level I failed to become a
proficient English speaker whereas I can read and write fairly well in English.
Now being a student of Linguists and an aspiring language teacher I find it significant
enough to have a deep understanding of the stages a learner goes through while
learning L2 so that a language teacher may design his syllabus and teaching
methodologies accordingly which promotes effective learning.
IN SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION:
There are many models of
the process of SLA, but one simple model based on the teaching approach called
the Natural Approach (Krashen, S.D.
& Terrell, T.D., 1983) has been very useful to content area teachers who
work with SLLs. The Natural Approach segments the complex process of SLA into four basic levels or stages and details
student and teacher behaviors at each one.
Knowing the characteristics of each level equips teachers to communicate
effectively with SLLs and to select appropriate teaching strategies. Before a
brief description of each stage, some points are to be considered:
Learners go through a fairly regular
sequence, regardless of their native languages.
For learners from certain first language backgrounds, there may be sub-stages
within the sequence.
This model varies according to learner
characteristics and that the stages are fluid and not discrete. Some learners
may progress at slower or faster rates based on a variety of factors, including
native language, age, affective issues, and so on.
The four stages with subsequent
student characteristics, time frame and teacher prompts are given below:
It is the foremost stage in SLA. Students at this
stage have anywhere from 10 hours to 6 months of exposure to second language
and are just beginning to learn the language. The most common student
characteristics in this stage includes: In class they may be shy and will
mainly listen and respond non-verbally. They have minimal comprehension
therefore it is very important for them to have time to listen and absorb the
language before they are required to speak it.
This is sometimes referred to as the “Silent Period”. As they move through this level, their vocabulary includes approximately 500 receptive words (word they can
understand but don’t use yet), and they are beginning to develop what SLA
theorist Jim Cummins (1979) terms Basic
Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS), which is language used for social
communication. The teacher prompts
at this stage according to experts is that the teacher should be doing about
90% or more of the talking, and the students should listen and respond
non-verbally. In order for the teacher’s
speech to be comprehensible, it should include lots of pantomime, body
language, facial expressions, and gestures.
In addition, the teacher should model rather than just verbally explain
tasks and skills, and use lots of pictures and real objects. The teacher’s speech should be simplified,
slow, and clear. Students at this level can be involved in lessons if the
teacher checks their comprehension through asking them to respond
non-verbally. For example, they can
point to an item, nod to answer simple yes/no questions, and carry out simple
commands (e.g., put the globe on the table).