ENGLISH LANGUAGE ACQUISITION IN ADULT LEARNERSDanielle Hernandez
Casa de la Cultura About the program This program, previously run by the LIU, offers biweekly ESL classes for adult migrant workers in and around Gettysburg Classes are taught by students from Gettysburg College as well as volunteers from the community
Demographics The ELL students in the classes are largely Mexican immigrants
Observations Students I have tutored have varied greatly in their level of ELP as well as in the rate at which they acquire language In this presentation, I hope to explore this phenomenon
Revisiting Rothenburg Carol Rothenburg discussed in Language Acquisition: Dimensions of Proficiency the need for a number of conditions that lead to effective language acquisition. Her dimensions included: Comprehensible input Contextualized instruction Low-anxiety environment Meaningful engagement
While these remain important conditions in K-12 ESL and bilingual classrooms, studies have shown that the same may not be as effective for adult learners
Fossilization Second language acquisition (SLA) researcher Zhaohong Han explores this phenomenon in her book, Fossilization in Adult Second Language Acquisition. As one can observe from the title of her book, Han sees the largest problem amongst adult ELL students as being fossilization. Fossilization the stopping short or incompleteness of language acquisition observed in those past ages 7-10 A main component of fossilization is use of an interlanguage- especially gramatically. I notice this in the field when, for instance, native Spanish speakers use literal translations to end up with sentences such as I have hunger (tengo hambre). Han notes both social and cognitive causes for this
Adult SLA and the Brain Michael T. Ullman explores the neuroscience of language acquisition in adults in his article, Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective on Second Language Acquisition: The Declarative/Procedural Model Technically, SLA should not be significantly difficult for adults because the brain processes used in language acquisition are also used to learned many other things which adults have no problems learning Young people are, however, at an advantage since both boys and girls have extra estrogen in childhood and adolescence. Estrogen aids declarative and procedural memories which aid in acquisition of language There are a number of neurological factors at play in a loss of language acquisition as we age but one major one Ullman found is the loss of declarative memory which deals with learning sequences (however learning grammar is usually still manageable).
Works ReferencedHan, Z. (2004). Fossilization in adult second language acquisition. Clevedon ; Buffalo : Multilingual Matters, 2004. Rothenburg, C., & Fisher, D. (2007). Language acquisition: Dimensions of proficiency. In C. Rothenburg & D. Fisher (Eds.), Teaching English language learners: A differentiated approach (pp. 32-52). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Sanz, C. (2005). Mind and context in adult second language acquisition : methods, theory, and practice. Washington, D.C. : Georgetown University Press, c2005.