Second Language Acquisition


Second Language Acquisition: English in India is a global language in a multilingual country. A variety and range of English-teaching sit...

Second Language Acquisition:

English in India is a global language in a multilingual country. A variety and range of English-teaching situations prevail here owing to the twin factors of teacher proficiency in English and pupils' exposure to English outside school. The level of introduction of English is now a matter of political response to people's aspirations rather than an academic or feasibility issue, and people's choices about the level of its introduction in the curriculum will have to be respected, with the proviso that we do not extend downwards the very system that has failed to deliver

The goals for a second-language curriculum are twofold: attainment of a basic proficiency, such as is acquired in natural language learning, and the development of language into an instrument for abstract thought and knowledge acquisition through (for example) literacy. This argues f or an across-the-curriculum approach that breaks down the barriers between English and other subjects, and English and other Indian languages. At the initial stages, English may be one of the languages for learning activities that create the child's awareness of the world. At later stages, all learning happens through language. Higher-order linguistic skills generalise across languages; reading, (for example) is a transferable skill. Improving it in one language improves it in others, while reading failure in one’s own languages adversely affects second-language reading.

English does not stand alone. The aim of English teaching is the creation of multilinguals who can enrich all our languages; this has been an abiding national vision. English needs to find its place along with other Indian languages in different states, where children's other languages strengthen English teaching and learning; and in "English-medium" schools, where other Indian languages need to be valorised to reduce the perceived hegemony of English. The relative success of "Englishmedium" schools shows that language is learnt when it is not being taught as language, through exposure in meaningful context. Thus English must be seen in relation to other subjects; a language across the curriculum is of particular relevance to primary education, and later all teaching is in a sense language teaching. This perspective will bridge the gap between "English as subject" and "English as medium". We should in this way move towards a common school system that does not make a distinction between " teaching a language" and "using a language as a medium of instruction".

Input-rich communicational environments are a prerequisite for language learning, whether first or second. Inputs include textbooks, learner-chosen texts, and class libraries, allowing for a variety of genres: print (for example, Big Books for young learners); parallel books and materials in more than one language; media support (learner magazines/newspaper columns, radio/audio cassettes); and "authentic" materials. The language environment of disadvantaged learners needs to be enriched by developing schools into community learning centres. A variety of successful innovations exists whose generalisability needs exploration and encouragement. Approaches and methods need not be exclusive but may be mutually supportive within a broad cognitive philosophy (incorporating Vygotskian, Chomskyan, and Piagetian principles). Higher-order skills (including literary appreciation and role of language in gendering) can be developed once fundamental competencies are ensured.

Teacher education needs to be ongoing and onsite (through formal or informal support systems), as well as preparatory. Proficiency and professional awareness are equally to be promoted, the latter imparted, where ver necessary, through the teachers' own languages. All teachers who teach English should have basic proficiency in English. All teachers should havethe skills to teach English in ways appropriate to their situation and levels based on some knowledge of how languages are learnt. A variety of materials should be available to provide an input-rich curriculum, which focuses on meaning.

Language evaluation need not be tied to "achievement " with respect to particular syllabi, but must be reoriented to the measurement of language proficiency. Evaluation is to be made an enabling factor for learning rather than an impediment. Ongoing assessment could document a learner's progress through the portfolio mode. National benchmarks for language proficiency need to be evolved preliminary to designing a set of optional English language tests that will balance curricular freedom with standardisation of evaluation that certification requires, and serve to counter the current problem of English (along with Mathematics) being a principal reason for failure at the Class X level. A student may be allowed to "pass without English" if an alternative route for English certification (and therefore instruction) can be provided outside the regular school curriculum.

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CLEAR CTET: Second Language Acquisition
Second Language Acquisition
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