Learning a language is one of the most notable achievements of both children and adults. New language skills give us the opportunity to improve our social understanding, see history from the eyes of other countries and nations, and make new friends from across the globe.
We have seen that, within a few years, babies with no formal training start to move from cautious first words to fluent sentences. Watching children learn a language is very similar to seeing them swim in a pool for the first time in their lives.
On the other hand, language learning for adults can be the most demanding and challenging skill to acquire in a formal learning environment. Whilst we all learn our first language, most of us struggle to attain fluency in the second language.
There could be thousands of reasons for this behaviour, but at the core of the matter is the fact that we have been taught languages the wrong way using conventional methods.
Apparently language teaching courses around the world need to be remodelled to include more communication-based exercises and activities but that is a topic of another discussion.
So what are the factors affecting language acquisition and what can do to accelerate the process? in this article, we list the top 10 factors influencing language development.
Learning a new language is a self-directed activity. Reading texts about what and what not to do to learn a language usually doesn’t bring about the desired results because much of the information on learning a new language is outdated and flawed.
Most language students are unable to get past the ideas introduced in the books and become subservient to the instructions, thereby their ability to look for what can actually take them forward is greatly hampered.
The first step one must take for language acquisition is to become aware of the importance of self-direction and self-assessment. Only by evaluating the methods and techniques that work for us, we can chalk out the best possible way forward in the process of language learning.
Listening is a great skill to have in your armory to master another language. Over the last several years, many research studies have confirmed the importance of listening to understand the meanings of words and improve grammar and pronunciation.
This means that your personal characteristics can hinder your ability to learn a new language. For example, if you are not a good listener in your first language, you are less likely to be attentive to what others are saying, and so your ability to learn the second language will become severely impaired.
Balancing Conversation and Translation
Interacting with native speakers is essential if you really want to process in a foreign language. Books will only get you so far, getting help from Superprof will help you to understand the ins and outs of the language. Excessive use of translation when learning a new language can prevent the development of critical language learning skills such as reasoned guessing. While translation is an absolutely necessity for students, it is important to strike a balance between translation and conversation.
Being attentive and focused in a conversation helps us to be aware of what’s happening around us and make a calculated guess about reality. Translation, on the other hand, removes this need and may lead us to completely lose sight of the subject matter.
Language is not only about intellectual construct but it also involves expressing a perceived reality. If the reality is not clear then you are likely to struggle to express yourself particularly when it’s another language.
So all those grammar exercises may feel like completely fruitless because they had no foundation in the reality you were trying to express. An alternative way to learn to express yourself in a new language is to describe what you are doing as you work around your daily life and obligations.
For example, saying “I am going to sleep in my bedroom” is a great way of practicing the present continuous.
The Verbal Environment
If the people in your social circle and surroundings make up a verbal environment that exposes you to more new words of another language, you will be much more likely to improve your vocabulary, grammar and speaking abilities in that language.
This phenomenon has been confirmed by Judith Johnston of University of British Columbia in his research study of 2010.
Language students who hear an unusually high proportion of examples of a language form learn that form much faster than those who don’t. Experimental data suggest that frequency has significant effects on second language acquisition, as confirmed by Galip Kartal.
The vocabulary size greatly affects our ability to learn a new language. The rate of language acquisition drastically increases as the vocabulary size reaches about 200 words.
With increasing vocabulary size you can expect to “see with some consistency” how prepositions and articles appear in sentences. It is important to note that the vocabulary diversifies with the passage of time and students begin to include relations terms to express ideas of time, quantity, location, and size.
World knowledge refers to our knowledge of the objects around us. Students who know less about the objects they wish to refer to through a word in another language will also have difficulty recalling that word.
The personality of the student can greatly affect their ability to learn a second language. Introverts generally have trouble learning a new language because they are hesitant to make mistakes.
On the other hand, extroverted students do not fear using their newly learned vocabulary. It is vital to create a language learning environment that works well for both introverts and extroverts.
They say age is just a number but is it really true for language acquisition? While you can learn a new language regardless of your age, research has confirmed that the age of student does affect their ability to learn a second language. Once students have gone past their teen years, it will become harder for them to acquire native pronunciation.