School Curriculum

Language is the organized speech used as our means of communication. It is a differentiated system as used by a section of human race. A second language is learned after the mother tongue. It is an advantage to speak several languages since we are associated to multi-cultural environment, a preparation to orientation and exposure to variety of languages in the workplace. A second language contributes to the preservation of different cultural identity within a unified society and the medium of instruction of worldwide scope in education, business and different professions.

Studies show that bilingual children score higher on standardized tests than those who speak only one language. In fact, students who have studied a foreign or second language for four or more years scored higher than students who had studied other subject for the same number of years. Finally, students who have studied four years of foreign or second language scored higher in mathematics than students who had taken four years of Math (Cook 45). Acquiring fluency and eloquence of a second language must be done in several yet systematic stages.

The basis of language such as sound, vocabulary, grammar, enunciation and so on must be rigidly developed. There must be a learning situation which is generally applicable to learners of different first language backgrounds. The ideal time to start teaching is in childhood wherein a child can learn up to five different languages if a child is commonly exposed to this, commonly the language used in the household regularly. Children and adolescents respond more readily by means of cognitive and academic approaches. So each age range would seem to have pros and cons with regards to language learning.

If on educational, political and philosophical grounds children are to be introduced to second languages based on psychological needs, it cannot be the only consideration. Age is not certainly the individual factor in language learning. Cognitive factors, style, personality, attitudes and motivation play a vital role in this complex question of second language learning. Correction of grammatical and enunciation errors does not have a direct influence on learning a second language. However instruction may affect the rate of learning but will undergo the same stages.

Children and adolescents who know the systematic way of learning the second language comprehends faster than those who do not (White 354-356). Learners of the second language have knowledge that goes beyond the input they received in other words the whole is greater than the parts. Learners are able to construct utterances of phrases, sentences and questions that they have never seen or heard before. Furthermore children and adolescents who have limited input still acquire the first rather than the second language. Bilingual education should be repaired not replaced.

It helps provide long periods of total English immersion as well as opportunities to interact with native speakers. There are several teaching methods that will help primary and secondary students learn a second language. The immersion training of which where regular hours are spent in schools in studying the language, taking a distinct language subject, the grammar translation method and the direct method. In the grammar translation a method student are instructed in grammar and are provided vocabulary with direct translations to memorize and was predominant in Europe in the 19th century.

Today most instructors acknowledge the infectivity of the method itself and for written languages also. The teaching of grammar consists of a process of training in the rules of a language which must make it possible to the students to correctly express their opinion, to understand the remarks which are addressed to them and to analyze the text which they read. The objective is that after primary and secondary, the pupil controls the tool of the language which are the vocabulary, grammar and the orthography. By this time a pupil can be able to read, understand and texts in various contexts (Mangubhai 156-158).

The teaching of grammar examines the texts and has developed the awareness of language constitutes a system which can be analyzed. This knowledge is acquired gradually by traversing facts of language syntactic mechanism, going from simplicity to complexity. The teacher is supposed to correct the exercises so that the pupil can follow his progress in practicing the language through comparison of results. The direct method, sometimes also called natural method, is a method that refrains from using the learners’ native language and just uses the target language.

It was established in Germany and France around 1900. The direct method operates on the idea that second language learning must be an imitation of first language learning, as this is the natural way humans learn any language – a child never relies on another language to learn its first language, and thus the mother tongue is not necessary to learn a foreign language. This method places great stress on correct pronunciation and the target language from outset. It advocates teaching of oral skills at the expense of every traditional aim of language teaching.

According to this method, printed language and text must be kept away from second language learner for as long as possible, just as a first language learner does not use printed word until he has good grasp of speech. Learning of writing and spelling should be delayed until after the printed word has been introduced, and grammar and translation should also be avoided because this would involve the application of the learner’s first language. All above items must be avoided because they hinder the acquisition of a good oral proficiency.

India with its huge population and apparent new boom for English learning as mentioned by Gupta (12-18) is also a large beacon of English learning. Just these two countries alone and their appetites for English education give us a new sense of the increased diversity of language ownership; something Phan Le Ha (456-458) touches on in her article on the internationalization of the language and non-natives increasing critical role in teaching, development and learning. It signals the reality that those learning English will be significantly entered around or originating from Asia.

Therefore educators need evermore to recognize the importance and distinctive context based needs of those requiring education in English outside the traditional native speaker contexts. This is not inherently contradictory with those with persistent arguments that many general principles of acquisition should be understood and appropriately applied by educators within their distinctive classroom settings and communities. Chew (144-149) in her article on reviewing the evolution of syllabi in Singaporean English education, indicates that the single centred approach to a syllabus may be ebbing, increasingly substituted by a more eclectic one.

Whether this experience will be replicated in other countries in the region, may be difficult to exactly say. It may be that we are in a period of the “end of methods”. But like others in different social sciences who harkened the end of ideology, it may be more prudent to view change as largely evolutionary with recurring ebbs and flows depending upon the current contextual streams of challenges. However, the attractiveness of task based learning relates not only to the enumerated benefits. It provides rather a useful practice that that can be applied across many approaches, as well as boundaries.

Task based learning may provide an enduring legacy that meets the test of time. It may also provide a curricular and syllabus framework of flexibility that logically students and teachers will be drawn to even if it need not be the central leitmotif for certain places. For example, tasks could include, completing a grammar bingo game after a contrastive analysis, grammar-translation based presentation. Subsequently, task based communicative teaching practices could be supported to incorporate the appropriate grammar into developing two way oral skills through an interview exercise.

Again, the task approach does not deny that in some Asian classes -or anywhere in the world for that matter- that certain traditional approaches need to have their day. Rather it is especially supportive of an integrated approach, or even where the needs of the learner may be solely communicative. However, again task selection and development is the key to better ensure specific needs are met. In doing this, the educator needs to be conscious of principles and aspects of acquisition.

In this respect Ellis (203-206) has so well summarized here with authority and clarity the general understanding in the profession on instructed language learning. We are further faced with the fact that the true task of learning a second language in the many EFL environments that Asian learners find themselves are removed from a lot of ‘naturalistic”, non-classroom, English speaking settings. Such an understanding of these realities and the principles that surround realistic classroom learning can be of service to classroom teachers wondering what methods, approaches and practices to choose at a specific time.

It reminds us of the value of the extensive reading programmes to which Helgesen (514-516) alludes can be so useful for Asian learners where they are limited in their accessibility to communicative English in a natural environment. Teachers in such contexts may need to be reminded, at times to extend the task work outside the classroom with proper direction that permits students to develop independent learning skills that facilitate students to do the extensive work necessary to gain fluency.

In cultures where top down approaches are in the main, instructors be they native teachers or not, need to be cognizant of these realities and limitations. We can not simply, for example, put all learners on the Internet or through CALL, clap our hands and say “go to it”. Again learning context, as related to acquisition can be highly relevant, which Ellis (256-258) would seem to imply. The process of language learning can be very stressful, and the impact of positive or negative attitudes from the surrounding society can be critical.

One aspect that has received particular attention is the relationship of gender roles to language achievement. Studies across numerous cultures have shown that women, on the whole, enjoy an advantage over men. Some have proposed that this is linked to gender roles. Doman (511-512) notes in a journal devoted to issues of Cultural affects on SLA, “Questions abound about what defines SLA, how far its borders extend, and what the attributions and contributions of its research are. Thus, there is a great amount of heterogeneity in the entire conceptualization of SLA.

Some researchers tend to ignore certain aspects of the field, while others scrutinize those same aspects piece by piece. “Community attitudes toward the language being learned can also have a profound impact on SLA. Where the community has a broadly negative view of the target language and its speakers, or a negative view of its relation to them, learning is typically much more difficult. This finding has been confirmed by research in numerous contexts. A widely-cited example is the difficulty faced by Navajo children in learning English as a second language.

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