Language development

Published: 2019-05-23 05:15:34
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Language development is greatly influenced by the environment that a child has been raised up in. Ones fluency in speech, in a particular language, can change in response to changes in the environment. However, ones command in that language can be disapproved when tests of his/ her writing skills are conducted. An analysis was conducted through the aid of a computer program on distinctiveness of English language of 8 students of Aruban origin who grew up in same environment, went to the same high school but attended universities in different countries. Of the eight students, 4 were from a Dutch university and 4 were from an American university. The hypothesis was that although some students went to study in the USA (immersion) and some in the Netherlands (classroom learning), their writing style and size of vocabulary would not differ from one another due to their homogeneous background. The study concluded that the students had a similar writing style, and their range of vocabulary had little-to-no difference despite the different learning environment they were in. This research provides insight into the impact of the change in environment on writing style.

This introductory and main chapter discusses the background of the study, statement of the problem, research questions and the significance of the study. This study was conducted on eight university students studying abroad. The students had the same background, having been raised from the same country. They attended the same high school but upon graduating, they moved to different countries for university education.

It has been assumed that to improve command of a second language, immersion in the country of the target language is indispensable. This is popularly believed to be of the essence, especially for university students wanting to go on a study abroad. The belief that second language acquisition, (SLA) is improved by a combination of classroom learning and immersion does not have proper empirical evidence to support it. Despite numerous studies, there is still a lack of careful and precise analyses on the linguistic effects of a study abroad. In her study Freed (1995) aimed at finding empirical support for this popular belief. There were two goals to be addressed in Freeds (1995) study. Firstly, judges had to distinguish between two groups (Immersion and classroom learning), which had gone abroad and which had not, by conducting oral and written tests. Secondly, Freed tried to determine the linguistic differences that might exist in the language of these two groups. Freeds study concluded that the language of the immersion group has not improved over the classroom learning group. Speech rate increase was the only difference noted. In her study, (1995) Freed also discusses that there are many factors to bear in mind when it comes to language acquisition. It is, therefore, critical to design the appropriate type of learning that is most beneficial for a level of study.

A majority of studies (DeKeyser, 1991; Freed, 1995; Meara, 1994; Moehle & Rauchpach, 1983) suggest that it is not yet clear what is understood as study abroad learning and what the linguistic advantages are to be gained from a study abroad learning experience. If there are any, is it culture gain, meaning the ability to study in a different culture, adapting to new customs and people in the target language? These are questions that came forth from the numerous contradicting studies on study abroad. More importantly is whether there is a change in the way immersing students write because speech can give native-like impressions (sound and rate) if immersing students pick up native attributes although mistakes are still made. Therefore, writing can tell whether there has been a change or not. (Ellis, 2008) Stresses that we need to be cautious when interpreting these conflicting studies. Conclusions are drawn while the studies are not carefully designed and do not constitute a particular linguistic focus, for instance, on grammar, vocabulary or fluency (Ellis, 2008). Even if this were the case, what can be considered as an improvement? Should an improvement be regarded if all three areas improved? Or is progress in just one of these areas enough to claim that there was an improvement? What if there are no improvements, but simply a change in style in the way the students speak or write? If that is the case, should the study not show a divide between the two groups due to their differences?

The present research conducted has not been done in this fashion yet. As numerous researchers (DeKeyser, 1991; Freed, 1995; Meara, 1994; Moehle & Rauchpach, 1983) have discussed in their research, it is difficult to keep a balanced sample when doing a research. The background of the students who participated in study abroad research varies in some cases significantly. That is, the difference in the context of the language learning is a factor that needs to be considered when interpreting the results. In a case study there was no balance because the students who stayed home had studied French for an average of eight years, while the ones who went abroad were weaker in French because they had studied far less prior to going to France (Freed, 1995). In the present research, the study offers a well-balanced sample because of the homogenous background of the students. They all had the same L1 and L2 and went to the same high school before attending a university. The homogenous background is a relevant factor to investigate similarity and differences between immersion and classroom learning. This research can uncover whether a study abroad experience has an impact on writing style in an immersion and classroom learning setting. Also, the effect of classroom learning in a study abroad setting is another aspect not done in previous research. Most studies (DeKeyser, 1991; Freed, 1995; Meara, 1994; Moehle & Rauchpach, 1983) examine students who go abroad and students who stay home. In the present study, both groups go abroad instead of one staying home. Therefore, it creates a different scenario where the classroom-learning group is immersing in a country where the mother tongue is not the target language they aim to learn. This research can set the precedent for students with the same homogenous background, and what they can expect from such an experience. The prediction was that the research would find no significant differences in the writing style between these two groups. The study could also be the priority for a larger and more elaborate study in the future.

Several prior studies (Coleman, Grotjahn, Klein-Braley, & Raatz, 1994; DeKeyser, 1991; Freed, 1995; Meara, 1994; Moehle & Rauchpach, 1983) have been conducted on language development of students who moved to a new country for higher learning. These studies found that speech rate increase is the only noticeable difference. However, emphasis has not been put on the commonality of origin of these students. Therefore, these prior studies have been general. There is no reputable evidence that studying abroad is necessary for SLA. According to Meara (1994) our current belief in the importance of a year abroad rests on some very flimsy, and largely anecdotal evidence. Other researchers even claim that there is a decline in the linguistic progress once the student returns from a year abroad (Coleman, Grotjahn, Klein-Braley, & Raatz, 1994). In fact, some studies have reported that the grammar (mistakes), the length and syntactic complexity of sentences remains unchanged in the students who went abroad (Moehle & Raupach, 1983). (DeKeyser, 1991) Study suggests that groups that went abroad possess a larger repertoire of communicative situations. This is how immersion students give a native-like impression; they can speak at a faster pace and use more repairs in their speech.

The study focused on the impact of study abroad on language acquisition. Instead of an objective approach, the study included 13 self-assessment or attitudinal questions dealing with numerous components of the study abroad experience, of which 586 students took part. The results suggested that the majority of students felt that their oral-aural skill improved, but not even half of the students were convinced that they had made the same progress in writing and reading skills. Oral skills in this study do not imply an improvement in terms of vocabulary, grammar, or different writing style, but rather a faster pace of speech. The study by (Coleman et al., 1994) focused on what had contributed to the linguistic progress during a year abroad. They found support for progress of language, but as was the case with (Meara, 1994) this progress was attributed to speech rate. Additionally, they discovered that the progress decreases upon return form the study abroad (Coleman et al., 49-55)

(Moehle and Raupachs work,1983, 1984, 1987) focused on the factors that have contributed to the famous notion that study abroad is the best way of learning a language. (Moehle and Raupach 1983) Suggest that the students gain global fluency; they gain the ability where they sound right because their speech rate has increased and the length of time between utterances has decreased. The students also seem to learn how to use the appropriate fillers, modifiers, formulae and compensation strategies, which give them a set of native-sounding attributes (Moehle, 1984; Rauchpach, 1987).In (DeKeyser, 1991) study he investigated how a study abroad experience influenced learners to correct their gaps in communication and use their second language knowledge. He found that there were no significant differences between classroom learning and immersion groups in their use of grammar and oral proficiency desp...

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