Learning this intensive course, Second Language Acquisition (SLA), is a very good opportunity. It gives me a chance to deeper understanding the field and process of SLA though it is a bit short, just four weeks. In this final course reflection, I am going to recap the questionnaires, weekly reflections, language learning history, reading responses, class discussions and activities, presentation and some research interests in SLA.
Of course, before starting the course we are required to complete two lists of questionnaires, so now I want to look back at two questions. Q1: Reason(s) why you are taking this course; my answer was that I decided to take this course because I want to gain more knowledge about it. As expected, I am familiar with major theories, perspectives, discussions, methods, and findings of the field of SLA through reading some books by Ortega, L. (2009), Brown, H. D. (2014).Brown, H. D. (2014) and others. Q2: What kind of classroom environment and activities you prefer; actually, I preferred to mix-method, student-Centered and Teacher-Centered. But luckily, it is beyond my expectation, teacher comes up with a variety of instructional strategies which allowed students and lecturer discusses the readings in class and analyzes examples and problems. All the activities were carried out in a variety of formats: individual, small group, whole class work, and formal presentations.
Of course, for the first week I read all three books such as Ortega (2009), de Bot et al. (2005), and Brown (2014). They are useful for me as well as my classmates. In Ortega, It tried to define the SLA as the scholarly field of inquiry that investigates the human capacity to learn languages other than the first, during late childhood, adolescence or adulthood, and once the first language or languages have been acquired, and much more. Similarly, de Bot et al also described basic issue in SLA, and focus on some key terms such as Monolinguals, bilingualism and multilingualism etc. In addition, Brown concentrated on languages, learning and teaching. With reading through these books and explaining from teacher as well as group discussion made me clearer about SLA.
Ortega (2009) and Brown (2014) are the main reading for the second weekend class. Ortega focused on Age while Brown preferred to First Language Acquisition. We also have discussed some points with classmates.
According to Ortega (2009), age emerges as a remarkable site of difference between L2 and L1 acquisition. The possibility that a biological schedule may operate, and the possibility that there may be a ceiling to L2 learning is controversial in SLA. I understood some key terms such as Critical and Sensitive Periods, and Ultimate Attainment. There are also two main questions were asked:
According to Catherine Snow and Marian Hoefnagel-Höhle (1977, 1978) found that adults and adolescents were better than children in terms of what they could learn in a 25-minute instruction session or up to a year. Although the advantage of the older learners began diminishing after ten months or so, the findings were surprising because they flatly contradicted assumed critical period effects. Similarly, Stephen Krashen, Michael Long and Robin Scarcella (1979) concluded that older is better initially, but that younger is better in the long run.
Ultimate attainment refers to the potential or possibility of a L2 learner to acquire native-like competence. Julies was an example of Ultimate attainment. I also did a fruitful discussion with classmates on these two questions.
In Brown (2014), I knew some theories of first language acquisition, issues in first language acquisition and some challenges.
*Foreign Language Learning History
Talking about learning history, it is a big chance for me to review my English language learning memory. I will tell you when and why I started learning English?, how my learning about this subject from the start till now, working experiences, brief summary of learning and teaching strategies.
Of course, when I was in primary school, I only focused on the required subjects in my level such as Khmer, Mathematics etc. At that time, English was not included in primary school’s program, so I did not even plan to learn this language, though I knew that it is one of those subjects in secondary school. In 2006, I was in sixth grade; I have a friend who started learning English before me. From day to day, he persuaded me to study a free English-class with him at one local pagoda. Because of his convincing, finally I decided to go to study with him by saying that “ yes, I will try to go to study with you a day. If it is easy, I will continue learning with you. He said yes, OK. ”On that day we went to learn English together with a monk who was our teacher. In my first day of learning English, I couldn’t even know and read letters A, B and C. Anyway, I felt that I was really interested in learning this language.
One year later, it was time to move to secondary school. I was happy when I started learning in my seventh grade, because I could read around thirty per cent of the English book, Bok One, and speak a few sentences of English, classroom language. Although I studied hard in my secondary and high school, English was still my problem because I could not speak it out. Learning English almost seven years, from sixth grade to twelfth grade, I observed that it was slightly increased, but it was the main capital for me to pursue my Bachelor Degree.
In 2013, I started continuing my Bachelor in English Literature at the Institute of New Khmer; it was also the time when I started my job as a teacher of English at a language center. Working while studying it was a hard time, but it really helped me because I had a great chance to practice what I had learnt. Finally, I found that I had a dramatic improvement.
Talking about learning and teaching strategies, I want to focus on two aspects, my teachers and myself, and two contexts, in high school and university. For my language learning, from sixth grade to twelfth grade, I usually repeat words or sentences, sometimes grammar rules to remember due to no one to talk to, I mean I rarely do a real practice, and I often imitate teacher’s speeches because I want to be like the way teachers do. Moreover, I believed that repeating and imitating were good for me. For teaching, teacher centered was applied mostly during that time, so students have less time to practice with each other; they just sit and listen to the teacher and copy what he/she writes down on the chalkboard. In opposite, It has dramatically changed when I was in university because I have more chances to practice such as group work, presentation etc. Teachers just play role as a guider or helper. It seems that he/she tends to use the student center in the context. As mentioned above, I couldn’t judge which one is better whether teacher centered or student centered. For my everyday teaching, I mix these two approaches, and I have to be flexible. Finally, I want to say that being a teacher is not easy as people think.
*Reading response week4
Reading through this chapter, there are many important points. A point that I am really interested in is Linguistic Imperialism and Linguistic Rights.
One of the controversial issues to appear in the global spread of EIL was the extent to which the propagation of English as a medium of education, commerce and government “ impeded literacy in mother tongue language … and thwarted social and economic progress for those who do not learn it” (Philipson 1992,1994, 2009; Skutnabb-Kangas & Philipson, 1994; Canagarajah,1999; Skutabb, 2009). That is why English was integrated in Educational system in Cambodia since seventh grade. Obviously, in our country, people tend to learn English because they just want to communicate with other people who can use English and get a decent job etc. As can be seen, most companies and enterprises in Cambodia required English ability. Moreover, some people use English in their everyday life, for example, they show their feelings, interests on social media in English, and some parents use English with their children too, though they are Cambodian. Anyway we have right to preserve and develop our indigenous language.
-Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. Cognitive anthropologist Wenger (1998) not only applied CoP to any group of people who share a craft or profession, but also (Lave & Wenger 1991) to classroom of learners in educational settings. There are three characteristics of CoP:
For example, in our SLA class, teacher requires to do a presentation; we can work together to reach our goal by sharing, contributing, asking each other. I think this is one of Community of Practice.
Language imperialism is a phenomenon that occasionally occurs is defined as “the transfer of a dominant language to other people”. This language “transfer” comes about because of imperialism. The transfer is considered to be a demonstration of power—traditionally, military power but also, in the modern world, economic power—and aspects of the dominant culture are usually transferred along with the language.
As mentioned above, one country can influence other countries by two main factors, military power and economic power. Looking back to our past time, France colonization, French was taught in Cambodia because we were under France administration. So Cambodian students had learnt French, according to Forest (1980 states that there were four French- language schools in Cambodia in 1902, the College of the Protectorate in Phnom Penh, “which enrolled 250 students, and [three schools in provincial capitals] which each enrolled about 40 children”. Similarly, nowadays it seems like our country is influenced by economic power. Many Educational school integrated English, and some schools even applied only-English policy in their institute, so I couldn’t argue that the English Language Teaching industry in Cambodian context fosters linguistic imperialism.
During a valuable four weeks, we have discussed a lot of things related to our lessons. We could contribute to each other what we experienced, especially from lecturer. There are varieties of activities such as group work, class sharing, reading response, reflections etc. Moreover, we have unforgettable presentations among eight groups. It is also a time when we can contribute to each other called Community of Practice (CoP). Personally, I am really interested in researching on the use of L1 in ESL or EFL classroom in Cambodian context. Thank lecturer for your time.