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First Language and Learning English Essay

Language is the most dynamic form of symbolism that cultures possesses. Language is the medium in which people interact and communicate for the exchange of ideas, knowledge and feelings. Language acquisition has been one of the most intriguing aspects of human nature and had been the focus of different disciplines. For the most part, language acquisition had been theorized and conceptualized in different ways all of which was to determine where language came from and how it developed.

On the other hand, the multicultural aspect and globalization of our society have made it almost a necessity to learn English as the most favored international language. Most educational curriculums in the world integrate the learning of English as a second language especially in areas where the first or native language is structurally different from English (Gitsaki, 1998). According to Krashen’s (1981) model of second language acquisition “acquired and learned languages are different”.

Language acquisition is a subconscious process brought about by the meaningful interaction of the individual with the target language while learning a language is a conscious process which results in conscious knowledge about the language (Krashen, 1981, p. 103). Learning a second language is a complex process that can be affected by different factors, one of the most leading issue is that of how first language affects the teaching of English as a foreign language in the classroom.

Several researches have reported that first language proficiency strongly predicts English language learning (Clay, 1993; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998), moreover, a strong correlation between first language fluency and learning English was also reported (Hiebert, Pearson, Taylor, Richardson, and Paris, 1998). Children who have to learn a second language generally have to use first language in comprehension and analysis of the information exchanged in the second language.

Therefore the impact of first language to learning a second language can be facilitative while it can also interfere with learning a second language such as English (Bialystok, 2002). This literature review would present what has been known about the role of the first language in learning English as a second language in the context of classroom learning as well as how teachers can effectively use the first language to the teaching of English. This exercise would also discuss the theoretical framework, the research methods and the strengths and weaknesses of the presented literature.

Appendix Auerbach, E. (1993). Reexamining English only in the ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 27(1). Bialystok, E. (2002). Cognitive processes of L2 users. In V. Cook (Ed. ), Portrait of the L2 user (pp. 147-165). New York: Multilingual Matters. Burden, P. (2000). The use of the students mother tongue in monolingual English ‘conversation’ classes at Japanese universities. TLT Online Editor. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from http://www. jalt-publications. org/tlt/articles/2000/06/burden Clay, M. (1993).

Reading Recovery in English and other Languages. Keynote address presented at the West Coast Literacy Conference, Palm Springs, CA Cummins, J. (2000). Language, power and pedagogy: Bilingual children in the crossfire. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters. Cummins, J. (2001). Bilingual children’s mother tongue: Why is it important for education? Retrieved May 12, 2008, from http://www. oise. utoronto. ca/MLC/MotherTongueDK. pdf Garcia, G. E. (2000). Bilingual children’s reading. In M. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, D.

Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds. ), Handbook of reading research Volume III (pp. 163-179). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Giacobbe, J. (1992). A cognitive view of the role of L1 in the L2 acquisition process. Second Language Research, 8; 3, 232-250. Gitsaki, C. (1998) Second Language Acquisition Theories: Overview and Evaluation. Journal of Communication and International Studies 4; 2:89-98. Hamers, J. & Blanc, M. (2000). Bilinguality and bilingualism 2nd ed. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.


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