Spontaneous Vs. Scientific Learning–Spontaneous
Spontaneous vs. scientific learning–Spontaneous concepts are learned in our everyday life, where we pick up these ideas from daily experiences. This does not require formal teaching or special help. For example, knowing what a car, hammer, or cat is. We develop the concept for it and we do this by interacting with it. Riding in a car, using a hammer, petting a cat (Freeman and Freeman 77). Scientific concepts are more abstract and are learned formally. These are not picked up in our daily lives and instead acquired through education. These abstract ideas allow us to be able to categorize or organize those aforementioned concepts. For example, knowing that a hammer, screwdriver, drill, and wrench all belong in the same category: tools. These concepts are important to the study of language acquisition since they are directly related.
Humans pick up language spontaneously, especially as children, when we are constantly exposed to it. Without formal teaching, aka scientific concepts, we would not consciously know why we make some language choices or understand what nouns are. It is important for the study of second language acquisition, because it can encourage people to attend formal schooling and not miss out on learning this.
Acquisition vs. learning–Krashen’s acquisition/learning hypothesis is a parallel to the spontaneous vs. scientific learning. Krashen claims that acquisition is the subconscious acquirement of language, whereby we acquire language through our daily lives and interactions of those around us. Even when we do not realize we are learning a language, our minds are soaking up the things our ears hear. According to Krashen, “acquisition can also occur in classrooms in which teachers engage students in authentic communicate experiences” (Freeman and Freeman 114). Learning on the other hand, happens in the classroom. This is learned consciously and we focus on parts of the language. This is like the scientific concepts, more structured learning.
An example of this is the native language I acquired while I was growing up for six years in Serbia and the first year of elementary school in California. After that, I was starting to learn the English language, as we began studying it in the classroom. It is important that both teachers and parents understand the importance of nurturing the languages through social interaction and solidifying them with a strong foundation through formal education. This will give students the opportunity to become better and more confident English speakers.
Zone of Proximal Development–This is the difference between what the learner can do without help and what they cannot do without it. Basically, this concept defines the areas where the student requires guidance to complete the task or can manage on their own. The example that always comes to mind now is the one from Between Worlds: Access to Second Language Acquisition, of fourth grade teacher Mike, who works in the students’ zones of proximal development during his classes and provides scaffolding at the necessary moments (Freeman and Freeman 75). For example, Mike will walk around the class and listen to his student discuss the literature and he joins in with certain groups to listen and encourage, as well as provide with helpful context or ask thought provoking questions. This is important to second language acquisition because it allows teachers to gauge when the student needs scaffolding to continue to be successful in their learning.
Long term English language learners–These are students who are between 6-12th grade and are often bilingual—speak likes natives—yet have “limited literacy skills in English and in their native languages” (Freeman and Freeman 26). These students underperform on tests, are high risk for dropping out, and there are three potential categories for them. For example, the book mentions Carlos, a Mexican student who is fluent in English, but struggles at school and hates it. He does not do well in his content classes and is at risk of dropping out (Freeman and Freeman 27). This is important for language learning because these students often slip through the cracks because teachers wrongfully assume that because they sound like natives or speak well, that they are proficient in everything else. Understanding this and being able to identify these types of students, will help many of them continue their education and not get discouraged enough to drop out.
Lau vs. Nichols–This was a 1974 Supreme Court case that addressed whether a school is required and responsible for providing a program to help non-English speaking students. This was the result of the children of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco, CA not receiving any language instruction or supplemental materials to help them learn English. There were no programs or support for these students. The court ruled in favor of Lau, which required schools to provide adequate and equal learning opportunities for their students by providing language learning programs and teachers to help these students. This is important in the study of language acquisition because educators must be aware of this law, even after all these years, it is still violated. For example, in 2001, when I attended elementary school in El Cajon, California, I received no help or instruction in my native language. I was placed among the fluent English speakers and expected to learn on my own. Teachers must be aware of this so they can bring the school’s attention to it and advocate for resources on behalf of the students.
#3. This issue is not as uncommon as we may believe. Many teachers who have not had much experience with ELL students often do not know how to teach them, talk to them, or understand them. Many assumptions are made about these students, often wrong, sometimes very detrimental. ELL students are often mislabeled as special education or disruptive and unteachable, because the teachers feel as if they are not learning like they should be. Since these students often underperform as a result of their minimal L2 proficiency, teachers are upset because they drag down the averages of standardized testing.
These teachers are more concerned with their “reputations” and how they are viewed than how their students are actually doing. Teachers may be worried about their jobs, which is where this may come from. I would respond to these teachers by telling them that these students may be struggling because they do not understand English well enough to perform well on the tests or may not have any previous experiences with it.
I would suggest to them giving these students practice tests ahead of time, so they can become familiar with the layout or how these tests are meant to be taken. Some teachers may wrongfully believe this to be special treatment, but it is in fact, equal treatment. Most native English-speaking students have already had experience with standardized tests, while the rest of these students may be entering school for the first time ever. It is important to explain to these teachers the situation these ELL students are in. We cannot assume that they know or understand anything about it.
#4. We live in an immensely diverse and large world. There are roughly over 6,000 languages in the world and so many different cultures, we are most likely not even aware of them all. Many people who have grown up in small towns have not been exposed to any diversity. Those who have most likely have interacted with the larger minority groups in the United States, such as African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. They may believe that they understand these cultures and have encountered diversity by meeting one or two people, but chances are they have not invested much time in researching their culture. This is understandable, as asking people questions about themselves and their cultures—that we may be unknowledgeable about—can be uncomfortable and inappropriate to certain people. It must be approached with empathy, sensitivity, and an open-minded attitude.
Although diversity is widespread, there are certain places where certain groups congregate, so for some people they may believe there is a lot of diversity there, even though those groups are not present all over the country. Another reason I believe we misinterpret the amount of diversity in the country is how often immigration is discussed and how it is emphasized that white Americans are becoming the minority and immigration is rising dangerously. This leads us to believe that our culture is threatened and our language will dissipate in the midst of all of these diverse languages. This lens through which some view immigration, makes it seem as if there are billions of immigrants and that we are becoming the minority, even though that is not the case.
When we did that censuses activity in class, almost everyone was shocked by the numbers we witnessed. The media’s emphasis of immigration and people’s beliefs that there are too many immigrants is affecting our view of how much immigration there really is. One way that this would affect teaching is teachers may feel that they do not need to incorporate culture into their teaching or address it, because they believe everyone is aware of it—whether this knowledge came from television, social media, the news, or word of mouth. This is a poor assumption. One of the reasons there is so much miscommunication between people is a lack of understanding another culture. There are many misrepresentations on television of different cultures and even prejudice. To become culturally sensitive and be able to communicate with peers effectively, we must interact and learn. This way, teachers can empathize with their students and understand the reasons behind their classroom behaviors. Our perception that there is more diversity in the United States than there actually is affects teachers in the way that if they feel that the English language or American culture is being threatened by how much diversity it is, they may not wish to incorporate other cultures or languages in their classrooms and stifle them instead. On the other hand, they may believe that they do not need to teach their students diversity—especially if it’s an all-white American classroom—because the children will eventually be met with diversity and learn as they go along. I believe that teachers who have done this do not mean anything harmful by it.
#2. Children pick up language incredibly fast. I agree that children learn language without being taught if it is their mother tongue and they are surrounded by it since birth. Babies pick up sounds from that language and if they continue to hear it, they will be able to produce those sounds when they are older. They pick up language without formal teaching; they learn by listening, observing, and simulating. Much of their language is developed and picked up through social interaction, whether that is with their parents and siblings, or friends on the playground.
Children communicate verbally and nonverbally. If children are not interacted with, it makes it much more difficult for them to acquire the language without formal teaching. On the other hand, I think children need to be taught their L2 to learn it. Unless they are constantly surrounded by the L2, or a parent in the household can speak it, the children will need formal assistance or ELL classes to learn their L2 properly.