Adult Language Learning: Insights, Instructions And Implications

Adult Learners in Language Class


Master's Thesis, 2006
112 Pages

Excerpt

Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Statement of Problem
1.2 Objectives of Research
1.3 Significance of the study
1.4 Hypothesis
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Research Methodology
1.7 Delimitation

Chapter 2 Literature Review

Chapter 3 Methodology
3.1 Research Design
3.2 Research Hypotheses
3.3 Participants
3.4 Classroom Observations
3.5 Questionnaires
3.6 Data Analysis

Chapter 4 Data Analysis
4.1 Classroom Observation
4.2 Questionnaires

Chapter 5 Finding and Recommendations

Bibliography

Appendix Questionnaires to Teachers
Questionnaires to Students
Observation Sheets

CHAPTER 1. Introduction

Research on second language learning suggests that age or age-related factors are a major variable in the acquisition of a second language. In learning language, adult learners are faster and more efficient learners, with the advantage of more advanced cognitive development in the first language. Every adult learner has a lifetime collection of previous knowledge and experience. When learning something new, most adults need to see how it fits in with (or is different from) what they already know. Adults are willing to learn theories, but only if they can see how those theories apply in real life. What exactly is the relationship between age and language learning? Piaget has shown how human cognitive development is achieved through maturational stages, with our thought processes and patterns changing systematically as we grow. He also studied the way we understand the stages of language development as part of more complex cognitive development. Piaget1 distinguished between "egocentric" and "socialized" speech in children. When he watched five-and six-year-olds working and playing together, he noticed that their communication often resembled monologues. The children talked, but without much notice of who was listening. They would answer their own questions without waiting for someone else to answer, and often several children would talk simultaneously in what Piaget called "collective monologues." Children seem unable to engage in sustained socialized speech until they move out of what Piaget calls the preoperational stage of cognitive development and into the concrete operational stage. This shift, which normally occurs around age six or seven, finds children outgrowing their inability to focus on more than a single aspect of a situation, or a single point of view, and beginning to consider relationships. At that point they begin to consider the need to communicate differently with different audiences--to take the listener's point of view into account. Given this pattern in child language development, it should not be surprising that educators have greater success redirecting the language behavior of 8- to 12-year-olds than 4 to 7-year-olds Although this younger group has no trouble learning a second language in natural settings, they do seem to be slower to respond to formal language instruction in school than older learners. It can be expected that as they move into the stage of cognitive development that permits socialized speech, their openness to educational intervention will increase. Around this same age, middle childhood, children develop a conscious awareness of language that allows them to think about it, judge it, and manipulate it much as adults do. This new awareness of language corresponds to a general cognitive "de-centering" 2 that children experience as they begin to step back and reflect on situations rather than just on themselves. Conscious awareness of language makes it possible for children to think about the appropriateness of what they and others say and to segment language into units -- a necessary step for learning to read. The onset of this awareness, coinciding with other advances in cognitive development, appears to be at, least partly responsible for the boundary that researchers have found between early childhood and middle childhood for purposes of school language acquisition. Instructional strategies which are popular in formal classroom settings are more likely to fit the cognitive abilities of older children, creating an advantage in rate of acquisition for older children over younger ones. A similar developmental boundary occurs around the time of adolescence, when the "formal operations" stage of cognitive development begins, allowing a kind of abstract thinking not tied to experience with concrete objects. At this stage, new concepts normally derive from verbal rather than concrete experience3.The ability to manipulate abstract linguistic categories and to formalize rules and concepts is an additional aid for language acquisition4. This advantage, related to conscious language learning and not natural language acquisition helps explain the initial advantage for adult learners that many researchers have found. Because of their conscious awareness of language and ability to formalize linguistic rules, older learners can outperform younger learners in the early stages of language acquisition, especially in production tasks .When conscious knowledge is called for, as in monitoring tasks that require grammatical analyses do adult learners keep a long-term advantage over younger learners. 5 The relationship of language acquisition to cognitive development may be one source, then, of the "age differences" researchers have found among language learners. By being alert to the cognitive variables active in the children who enter any classroom, educators can base instruction on what the individual learners are ready to accomplish. There are many misconceptions about the relative abilities or inabilities of adult language learners . Do adults learn language faster? Is it impossible for adults to achieve fluency? These and other common beliefs are simply not true. Young language learners do not necessarily learn faster than adults and, in fact, adults may learn more efficiently. Furthermore, there is no loss of language ability or language learning ability over time. Age is not a disadvantage to language learning, learning a second (or third etc) language actually keeps the older language learners mind active. People of all ages can benefit from learning languages. In the areas of vocabulary and language structure, adults are actually better language learners than children. Adult learners have more highly developed cognitive systems, which make them able to make higher order associations and generalizations. They integrate new language input with their already substantial learning experience. They also rely on long-term memory rather than the short-term memory function used by children and younger learners for rote learning. More recent research in neurology has demonstrated that, while language learning is different in childhood and adulthood because of developmental differences in the brain. They have superior language learning capabilities they believe in developing their concepts instead of going for rote learning. I seldom find any adult learner who goes for rote learning. Exercises such as oral drills and memorization, which rely on short-term memory, also discriminate against the adult learner. The adult learns best not by rote, but by integrating new concepts and material into already existing cognitive structures.

1.1 Statement of Problem

The acquisition of the second language by adult learners is slow and discouraging, but they want to use a foreign language with confidence and spontaneity, in the same way as they use their mother tongue. However they have the potential to become accomplished language learners with the advantage of more advanced cognitive development in the first language.

1.2 Objectives of Research

This research will explore the following objectives.

a. First objective is to clarify a misconception about adult learners, that they are not slow learners and they have more highly developed cognitive systems, which make them able to establish higher order associations and generalizations, and they integrate new language input with their already substantial learning experience.
b. It would help teachers to create atmosphere in the classroom, which would support the adult learner and build confidence, and congenial atmosphere in the classroom.
c. Moreover it would help the teachers to understand that experience of adult learner is a living text book and teachers may go through this programme by cooperating with adult learners.

1.3 Significance of the study

Adult learners are notable for a number of special characteristics “They can engage with abstract thought, have a range of life experiences, definite expectations about the learning process, their own set patterns of learning, and are more disciplined than children. Adult learners have a number of characteristics which can make learning and teaching easy by applying various teaching methods, good teaching methods can overcome their anxiousness and under-confident attitude. They have certain linguistic problems like ‘fossilized’ errors – persistent deviations from the L2 norm, language transfer - negative influence of the mother tongue on the productive skills, but heir prior experience can triumph over their problems.

Teachers dealing with adult learners know that “adults, unlike children, are concerned with how they are judged by others. They are very cautious about making errors in what they say, for making errors would be a public display of ignorance, which would be an obvious occasion of ‘losing face’This sensitivity of adult learners to making mistakes has been the explanation for their inability to speak without hesitation”. Adult learners have more highly developed cognitive systems, are able to make higher order associations and generalizations, and can integrate new language input with their already substantial learning experience. They also rely on long-term memory rather than the short-term memory function used by children and younger learners for rote learning. In the work, adults are expected to evaluate the relative importance of information, to exercise personal judgment in setting priorities and allocating their time. This basic orientation of personal responsibility of how adults approach the world of learning, Adults must feel the material they are learning is relevant, and that it will have an immediate effect. All adult learners want to use a foreign language with confidence and spontaneity, in the same way as they use their mother tongue. So for this purpose they put their all heart in it .They have certain reasons for learning English language, for some specific purpose it is noteworthy to examine how adult learners differ from young learners. Adult learners are notable for a number of special characteristics. In one respect, however, adult learners are similar to young learners. All may be grouped according to their preferred learning styles. Differences in cognitive styles influence learners’ priorities for particular approach to learning. Learners employ different learning strategies, “specific actions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, and more transferable to new situations., because they don’t exhibit hesitancy in learning ,they are very motivated .They like materials designed to present structures and vocabulary that is of immediate use to them. They can engage with abstract thought, have a range of life experiences, definite expectations about the learning process, their own set patterns of learning, and are more disciplined than children. They are more motivated than young learners. That is why researcher always prefer to teach adults.

1.4 Hypothesis

The age of the adult learner is not a major factor in language acquisition: There is no decline in the ability to learn as people get older. To communicate in a foreign language for adult learner is not difficult in fact it is easy and rapid.

1.5 Research Questions

It is generally assumed that adult learners engaged in target language

communication often have problems of various kinds and try hard to cope with them. Thus this dissertation mainly addresses research questions, as follows:

a. Do adult students integrate new language input with their already substantial learning experience in Reading classes?
b. Do adult students comprehend reading passages more quickly than young students?
c. Does age affect the ability to learn English as a second language?
d. Do adult students need reading materials designed to present structures and vocabulary that will be of immediate use to them?

1.6 Research Methodology

Every scientific research as a rule is aimed at the analysis of the relation between the different variables and to find out the most accurate information about the subject. This purpose can be achieved though the application of scientific procedure. There are two parts of the study. The descriptive part of the study depends on library research and the second part of the research will be the qualitative and quantitative research methods .

a) Classroom observations
b) Questionnaires to the 10 English language teachers teaching adults at different levels
c) Questionnaires to the 30 English language learners studying at different levels.

The participants of this research would be around 50 teachers teaching at, Diploma, Certificate and Foundation courses at National University of Modern Languages. It is worth mentioning here the researcher is involved in teaching languages to different level of learners at National University of Modern Languages Islamabad .Mostly students are adult. The course was designed for adults who needed English for their work and careers. Although they had learnt English at school, its level was much to be desired.. Researcher investigated features of teaching adults and differences between adult and young learners, problems they face in acquisition of the L2, and the ways of helping them out to cope with difficulties, 10 teachers who have been selected from the same university and their experience ranges from one year to twenty years. The researcher herself is a teacher here for 13 years and has been observing and experimenting with these situations. Her personal observations will also form a part of the present study.

The second instrument to collect the data for authenticity of the research will be questionnaires. These will be designed to evaluate the respondent’s responses.. .Researcher has chosen following questions around which to develop this questionnaires. First,. Do adult students integrate new language input with their already substantial learning experience in Reading classes? Second,. Do adult students comprehend reading passages more quickly than young students? and third ,Does age affect the ability to learn English as a second language?

The population from which she draws a sample of 10 teachers, teaching at Diploma, Certificate and Foundation in the department of English at National University of Modern Languages.. Their experience ranges from one year to twenty years. The researcher herself is a teacher here for 15 years and has been observing and experimenting with these situations. Her personal observations would be also form a part of the present study Specifically, the research was conducted in Department of English at National University of Modern Languages, a large proportion of its students have come from Army, selected for UN foreign mission and, more than half are those learner ,who are studying in tertiary level ,aged above 25. Therefore, it is suitable for the scope of the research. The questionnaire is. is divided into two parts: A, and B. Part A focuses on basic personal details, of which the two most important are “age” and “level” because these two dimensions will help in the data analysis.

Using this data, she will be able to choose the classrooms to use for the next phase of her research. All adult learners in each classroom will be tracked during observation.
All participants were receiving five 50-minute classes of English instruction daily, and reading is involved in all components of language learning.

1.7 Delimitation

The researcher has delimited her work to National University of Modern Language, and her research is on Assessing Proficiency of Adult Learners in Reading Skills of English Language in NUML. The researcher would discuss the classroom issues related to adult learners only. This research will focus at teaching learning process in classroom. However no broad generalization shall be made, rather the researcher will focus mainly upon the;

1. Reading aspects of language in classroom.
2. Adult learners in English language classroom

The Department of English (Functional Courses) of National University of Modern Languages is the most suitable university for data collection because adult learners come from all over Pakistan

End Notes:

1.Piaget, J.( 1926)The language and thought of the child. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
2. Flavell, J.H. (1977)Cognitive development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
3. Ausubel, D.(1971)and Ausubel, PCognitive development in adolescence. In H. Thornburg (Ed.), Contemporary adolescence: Readings. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, 42-49.
.
4. Krashen, S. (1977)The monitor model of adult second language performance. In M. Burt, H. Dulay, and M. Finnochiaro (Eds.), Viewpoints on English as a second language. New York: Regents.
5. Krashen, S. (1977) Some issues relating to the monitor model. In H.D. Brown, C. Yorio, and R. Crymes (Eds.), Teaching and learning English as a second language: Trends in research and practice. Washington, DC: TESOL

CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW

This chapter seeks to give an overview of the existing literature available on the current study. Although extensive research has been conducted on the current issue, yet the subject invites many different areas of TEFL, which have been sought by the scholars. This chapter has divided its research in two parts. Firstly, the researcher wishes to discuss the literature available on this topic. Secondly, various commonly held myths shall be elaborated. The researcher would relate all myths to her research topic.

2.1 Adult Learners versus Young Learners

There are many similarities and differences between adult and younger learners. Perhaps the greatest difference is that the former come to class with a long history of learning experience Learning experiences of adults maybe both full of glories and failures which possibly leads them to anticipate how teaching and learning should be carried out. It can be said that most adult learners have a definition of learning. Also we should recall adults are more nervous of learning than younger learners are .It is interesting to note that most of the language teachers believe that young students actually learn languages more quickly than adult students. As research on second language learning suggests that age or age-related factors are a major variable in the acquisition of a second language. In the early stages of acquisition, adult students are faster and more efficient learners, with the advantage of more advanced cognitive development in the first language. When adults learn second language, they are the most advantaged learners of second language, as Linderman 1926 said in his presentation that ,adult students have less time to make up lost years of academic instruction easily. The effect of age diminishes over time as the learner becomes more proficient in the second language.1Differences are generally found in the beginning when young and adult students start any course, but it takes all language students in any type of course a minimum of four years to reach native speakers' level of language proficiency and may take eight or more years, depending on a variety of factors. Researcher means to say using language effectively and functionally. Ervin-Tripp (1981) focused on grammatical correctness and the mental representations of rules and he believes that minor difference between learning of young and adult, starting points are not the same2. However adult Learners who learn second language already know how to converse, and they know how to classify, whereas young learner who acquire language time has to learn what to talk about, the categories that words represent, to participate in conversational turns and how to use language to symbolize and change the world, that is why there starting point is not same As Rogers (1996) points out .The adult learner can be said to be learning new forms for old conversational uses and ideas.3 L1 and L2 are very different at the semantic level for language-learners. Infants learning L1 spend a fair amount of time sorting out categories, learning that coats are not jackets or dogs are not cats, but both are animals. Second language learners already have a semantic system worked out. Adult students are voluntary learners. They have certain expectations of achievement . The teacher of adults should fulfill their expectations and utilize their experiences, because adults can respond better if encouraged to draw on their personal knowledge. Sometimes adult students learning English as a second language have several obstacles to overcome. Not only must they learn to communicate in a new language, but also they must adapt themselves to new Classroom culture

Whereas young learner adapt easily to new classroom culture .There are many factors which influence an adult's ability to learn English as a Second Language (ESL) skills like aptitude, age, motivation, and native language interference, but with the passage of time they can overcome it. These influences are variable and can positively and/or negatively affect ESL learning .There are some other factors as well ,which affect the adult's ability to learn to read English, they are oral knowledge of English, literacy level in the native language, the native language orthography, and student incentive. Sometimes new boundaries have to be learnt, and semantic orientations such as definiteness, aspect and gender are particularly difficult for adult learners, especially if their mother tongue has a different system of classification. L1 has a definite bearing on the learning of L2, and it involves structures, categories and background assumptions - phenomena which is learnt by young, but to some extent, are transferable from one language to another for adult learners.

When we examine "baby-talk" or "motherese", we notice that there are some differences between the register used to speak to infants, and that used to speak to adult learning a second language; both are spoken slowly, are well-formed, with small vocabularies and short sentences. A study by Freed (1980) compares the speech adjustments of adults who are speaking to foreigners, and those speaking to infants. Syntactically, there were hardly any differences between the two forms, But Freed found that the way in which speakers used their utterances differed greatly between the two types of speech. Adults used their speech for the purpose of information exchange, while with adults talking to infants, exchange of information was not important, rather this was a chance to involved the infant in a conversational routine 4

McLaughlin substantiates (1981) that differences between first and second language learning are dependent on three factors: 5

1. The age of the learner
2. The situational demands: what is expected from the learner in a given situation.
3. Their cognitive abilities

McLaughlin upholds his underlying principle that the younger the learner, and the more the situation is focused on communication, the more likely the learner is to resort to universal (possibly language-specific) strategies common to first and second-language learning. That is why the age of learner plays a very important role in learning. Second the learning of adult learner is more situational .That is why they read the text which is immediate use of them .which they can utilize it somewhere for healthy purpose.While the learner is adult, and there are more situational demands, the more variation one will find in second-language learning - and the more the output will differ from that of first-language learning. 6

First and second language learning are very different experiences - the infant has no prior representation of language, No initial framework or knowledge of turn-taking. At the same time as learning language, many other things must be learnt. For the adult learner it is more a case taking help of their cognition , transferring categories, and learning the rules of a new grammar. Different strategies are applied by young and adult language learners, and different forms of support are open to each. The young language learner "picks up" as he goes along, while for the adult language learner a wide range of experience .Adult and young they learn in different ways in the opinion of krashen,1991 and he was in the opinion that adults especially operate with high affective filters ,they are well aware of grammatical rules from their primary language and, unlike children, are far more intolerant of error for they realize the social implications of poor speaking ability. In fact, the dispute about the so-called biological critical period, namely that students are less able to acquire a second language after puberty, may be related to a higher affective filter due to self-consciousness of adolescence. Younger students are biologically disposed to better second language learning, as well as given certain benefits such as lower self-monitor and affective filter, but at the same time adults are not at a lower vantage point in L2 learning process7In the right language program, adult learners bring with them certain advantages. Later Durkin 1995 illustrated Krashen points of view that:Adults are better at understanding grammatical rules since they are aware of the rules and structures in their own language. Adults also have a greater knowledge of the world in which they live, allowing more conversation relevant to their lives accompanied with a larger capacity for vocabulary.8

2.2 Adult Learner in Second language Learning Programme

To ensure the older learners are successful in a language program In order to take a closer look at adult learning, the brief summary of Linderman should be underlined, as follows9

1. Adults are motivated to learn as they experience the needs and interests that learning will be safe.
2. Adults' orientation to learning is Life-Centered
3. Experience is the richest source for adults' learning.
4. Adults have a deep need to be self-directing.
5. Individual differences among people increase with age.

2.3 Adult Learner and Health Factor

Studies on aging have demonstrated that learning ability does not decline with age. But sometimes many chronic diseases can affect the ability of the elderly to learn therefore, health is an important factor in all learning. If adult remains healthy, their intellectual abilities and skills do not decline Adults. The effect of age reduces over time as the learner becomes more proficient in the second language. Swanson and R.A (1998)Adult learn differently from children, but no age-related differences in learning ability have been demonstrated for adults of different ages. Self-confidence may also work as a filter or barrier.10 Ausubel, D., and Ausubel, P. (1971) mentioned in their book ,Cognitive development in adolescence that ,Adult learners from many language minority backgrounds stand to perform with more self-confidence than younger learners in a language class because of the extent to which age influences their assertiveness in the face of authority.11 In spite of their lower anxiety, younger learners from restricted-code backgrounds may be less likely to project their own identity and try a more elaborated code than older learners are who have had to learn to do so for banking, shopping, and other community involvements. Health is an important factor in all learning, and many chronic diseases can affect the ability of the elderly to learn. Hearing loss affects many people as they age and can affect a person's ability to understand speech, especially in the presence of background noise. Visual acuity also decreases with age. (Hearing and vision problems are not restricted exclusively to the older learner, however.)It is important that the classroom environment compensate for visual or auditory impairments by combining audio input with visual presentation of new material, good lighting, and elimination of outside noise (Joiner, 1981).stated that,certain language teaching methods may be inappropriate for older adults. For example, some methods rely primarily on good auditory discrimination for learning. Since hearing often declines with age, this type of technique puts the older learner at a disadvantage.12 Exercises such as oral drills and memorization, which rely on short-term memory, also discriminate against the adult learner. According to ( Weisel, L. P.)The adult learns best not by rote, but by integrating new concepts and material into already existing cognitive structures. Speed is also a factor that works against the older student, so fast-paced drills and competitive exercises and activities may not be successful with the older learner, but with the help of their prior knowledge they overcome this problem as well. 13 There are ways in which teachers can make modifications in their programs to encourage the adult language learner include eliminating affective barriers, making the material relevant and motivating, and encouraging the use of adult learning strategies Weisel, L. P acknowledges the fact that stereotype of adult as a poor language learner can be traced to two roots:A theory of the brain and how it matures, and classroom practices that discriminate against the older learner.14 Lenneberg, E. H.(1967) says about the current theories of brain development, that the brain lost "cerebral plasticity" after puberty, making second language acquisition more difficult as an adult than as a child .More recent research in neurology has demonstrated that, while language learning is different in childhood and adulthood because of developmental differences in the brain, "in important respects adults have superior language learning capabilities.15 Ostwald, S. K., and H. Y. Williams.(1985)further illustrated in this way, the advantage for adults is that the neural cells responsible for higher-order linguistic processes such as understanding semantic relations and grammatical sensitivity develop with age. Especially in the areas of vocabulary and language structure, adults are actually better language learners than children16

Adult learners have more highly developed cognitive systems, are able to make higher order associations and generalizations, and can integrate new language input with their already substantial learning experience. They also rely on long-term memory rather than the short-term memory function used by children and younger learners for rote17

2.4 Adult Learners and Motivation`

Affective factors such as motivation and self-confidence are very important in language learning. Many adult learners fear failure more than their younger counterparts, maybe because they accept the stereotype of the older person as a poor language learner or because of previous unsuccessful attempts to learn a foreign language. When such learners are faced with a stressful, fast-paced learning situation, Their fear of failure increases. The older person may also exhibit greater hesitancy in learning.18 Thus, Snow, C. E. and Hoefnagel-Hohle accentuates in this manner that teachers must be able to reduce anxiety and build self-confidence in the learner. There are various hypotheses concerning second language learning versus acquisition. As described earlier, adult acquire a language, while they learn a second language. The learning of a primary language is part of the maturational process, and the learning of a second language is usually begun after the maturational process, and if adults are motivated , they learn in a better way, because this learning is the part of their maturational process, and motivation is key to their success. Motivation for learning a first language is survival and communication, whereas the motivation in an L2 classroom is usually graduation or professional requirement, rarely a genuine desire to learn the language.19

So important factor, which effects adult learning is motivation ,which differentiates it from young learners. Motivation for adult learners in education tends to come from a need to fill a professional gap or a direction from superiors.

2.5 Adult Learners and their Learning Pattern

Class activities which include large amounts of oral repetition, extensive pronunciation correction, or an expectation of error-free speech will also inhibit the older learner's active participation. On the other hand, providing opportunities for learners to work together, focusing on understanding rather than producing language, and reducing the focus on error correction can build learners' self-confidence and promote language learning. Teachers should emphasize the positive--focus on the good progress that learners are making and provide opportunities for them to be successful. This success can then be reinforced with more of the same.

Adults studying a foreign language are usually learning it for a specific purpose: to be more effective professionally, to be able to survive in an anticipated foreign situation, or for other instrumental reasons. They are not willing to tolerate boring or irrelevant content, or lessons that stress the learning of grammar rules out of context. Snow, C. E. and Hoefnagel-Hohle( 1978) pointed out, Adult learners need materials designed to present structures and vocabulary that will be of immediate use to them, in a context which reflects the situations and functions they will encounter when using the new language. Materials and activities that do not incorporate real life experiences will succeed with few older learners. 20 Adults have already developed learning strategies that have served them well in other contexts. Teachers should be flexible enough to allow different approaches to the learning task inside the classroom. For example, some teachers ask students not to write during the first language lessons. This can be very frustrating to those who know that they learn best through a visual channel. Postovsky, 1974; Winitz, 1981; J. Gary and N. Gary, 1981).stated that adults with little formal education may also need to be introduced to strategies for organizing information. Many strategies used by learners have been identified; these can be incorporated into language training programs to provide a full range of possibilities for the adult21 According to the research by Rogers, A (1996) he said that effective adult language training programs are those that use materials that provide an interesting and comprehensible message, delay speaking practice and emphasize the development of listening comprehension, tolerate speech errors in the classroom, and include aspects of culture and non-verbal language use in the instructional program. This creates a classroom atmosphere which supports the learner and builds confidence. Teaching adults should be a pleasurable experience. Their self-directedness, life experiences, independence as learners, and motivation to learn provide them with advantages in language learning. A program that meets the needs of the adult learner will lead to rapid language acquisition by this group. 22 As the school-aged population changes, teachers all over the country are challenged with instructing more children with limited English skills. Thus, all teachers need to know something about how children learn a second language (L2). Intuitive assumptions are often mistaken, and children can be harmed if teachers have unrealistic expectations of the process of L2 learning and its relationship to the acquisition of other academic skills and knowledge. As any adult who has tried to learn another language can verify, second language learning can be a frustrating experience. This is no less the case for children, although there is a widespread belief that children are facile second language learners. Lenneberg, 1967 in his digest discusses commonly held myths and misconceptions about children and adult second language learning and the implications for classroom teachers. Typically, people who assert the superiority of child learners claim that children's brains are more flexible but adult brain is adaptable23 Newport, 1990). Current research challenges this biological imperative, arguing that different rates of L2 acquisition may reflect psychological and social factors that favor adult learners Newport, E. in his research comparing children to adults has consistently demonstrated that .adults perform better than young children under controlled conditions One exception is pronunciation, although even here some studies show better results for adult learners24. Nonetheless, people continue to believe that children learn languages faster than adults. Is this superiority illusory? A child does not have to learn as much as an adult to achieve communicative competence. A child's constructions are shorter and simpler, and vocabulary is smaller. Hence, although it appears that the child learns more quickly than the adult, research results typically indicate that adult and adolescent learners perform better.

Teachers should not expect miraculous results from adult learning English as a second language (ESL) in the classroom. At the very least, they should anticipate that learning a second language is as difficult for a child as it is for an adult. It may be even more difficult, since young children do not have access to the memory techniques and other strategies that more experienced learners use in acquiring vocabulary and in learning grammatical rules.

Nor should it be assumed that children have fewer inhibitions than adults when they make mistakes in an L2. Young are more likely to be shy and embarrassed around peers than are adults. Whereas adults from some cultural backgrounds are extremely anxious when singled out to perform in a language they are in the process of learning. Teachers should not assume, that adult learn second languages slowly, such discomfort will readily pass. They should not be under estimating the adult learner. Krashen, Long, & Scarcella, (1979) and some researchers argue that an adult begins to learn a second language, the better than young.25 This research supports this conclusion in language settings. For example, a study of Pakistani student learning English in a language school context concluded that, after 5 months of exposure, adult were better L2 learners Similar results have been found in other languages as well .These findings may reflect the mode of language instruction used in Pakistan, where emphasis has traditionally been placed on formal grammatical analysis, but most of the language institutes follow the communicative approach ,where it is found that adult learners are more skilled in dealing with this approach and hence might do better. Pronunciation is one area where the younger-is-better assumption may have validity. Oyama(1976),found in his research that The earlier a learner begins a second language, the more native-like the accent he or she develops26 But this is seen only in the area of pronunciation ,whereas in other fields adults have an edge over young children .Adults continue to need the support of their first language, where this is possible, to avoid falling behind in content area learning.27 Teachers should have realistic expectations of their ESL learners. Research suggests that older students will show quicker gains, though younger children may have an advantage in pronunciation. Another aspect of adult learning is related to tradition and online learning, where adult learners showed their performance better than younger ones.28

Adults have distinct patterns in which they tend to learn, although learning is inherently a personal quest, and therefore, individuals may have other learning patterns. Adult learners tend to expect learning to be delivered in a traditional, teacher-led way, and to expect the faculty member to do the “work” of the learning. The adult learner is there to absorb the learning. Weisel, L. P.describes,Adult learners to automatically embrace a brand new way of learning immediately, or without proper orientation, is expecting too much 29,So this pattern should come as no surprise, based on the fact that pattern two illustrates the “practicality” mindset that adult learners have toward continuing education. Winitz (1981) advises that this may be dependent on where adult learners are in different professional stages of their lives, though. Adult learners tend to rely on colleagues or friends which may also be experts in their professional field for advice when seeking advice on learning or embarking on a new educational venture. There are many factors that must be taken into account to establish a productive learning and teaching situation in adult classes. According to Lenenberg(1967)Also adult learners have some characteristics which can sometimes make learning and teaching problematic. In some cases, unfamiliar teaching patterns and innovative activities may make them feel uncomfortable since their previous learning experiences get them to be critical of these teaching methods 30 Moreover, many other adult learners worry that their intellectual powers may be diminishing with age-they are concerned about keeping their creative powers alive, maintaining a "sense of generativity" Ostwald, S. K., and H. Y. Williams (1985) illustrate their point of view in this way that it is needless to say, that it is directly related to how much learning has been going on in adult life before they come to a new learning experience 31.As we have mentioned the problem of self-esteem and inhibition in adult learners, it will be beneficial to recall a study to see the other side of the coin: A survey by Child-Line shows that a sample of 1000 secondary school pupils were worried more about doing well at school than anything else in their lives and that Children as young as twelve were worried about university entrance concludes.

Whereas the main concern of this research is not the young learners, it should be considered that adultness is not a promotion or a medal of maturity. Naturally, adult learners also go through such educational jungles, processes, given above and the ones who are more sensitive or having a fragile self-esteem fulfill their beliefs and values on learning through those experiences. This survey is a notable evidence to convince us of importance of strengthening the self-esteem and encouraging the personal relations in our classes, whether our students are very young learners or socially accepted mature adults.

A study by psychologist Ostwald, S. K., and H. Y. Williams on the question "How adults learn? " mention that when the adults undertake to learn something through their own initiative, they start with a concrete experience.32 Then they make observations about the experience, reflect on it and diagnose what new knowledge or skill they need to acquire in order to perform more effectively. Then, with the help of material and human resources, they formulate abstract concepts and generalizations which they deduce what to do next. Finally, they test their concepts and generalizations in new situations, which refer to new experiences.When we pool our thinking to seek a connection between Kolb's research and studies of previous educators, it can be observed that Experiential Learning Theory is strongly related to Linderman and Roger's studies.(1926) For example, Linderman emphasized that (1926)Adult education is a process through which learners become aware of significant leads to evaluation 33

Meanings accompany experience when we know what is happening and what importance the event includes for our personalities. Consequently, we can assume that an adult learning program should construct a safe experience road on which the signs show the destination clearly and how to go through this road more effectively.

Linderman(1926) further conjures up that the experience is the adult learners' living textbook.34 Research on second language learning has shown that many misconceptions exist about how adult learn language. Teachers need to be aware of these misconceptions and realize that it is quick and easy and it is not a complex problem. Second language learning by adults is not so harder, and creates gratification in it. Teachers should not expect miraculous results from adult learning English as a foreign language in the classroom. At the very least, they should anticipate that learning a second language is as difficult for a child as it is for an adult. It may be even more difficult, since young children do not have access to the memory techniques and other strategies that more experienced learners use in acquiring vocabulary and in learning grammatical rules, whereas adult apply different techniques, by using their prior knowledge . Teachers should not assume that, because adult learn second languages slowly. The experienced teacher will be able to compare the information here with his experiences with higher levels to see what techniques and strategies are the same and what needs to be added or adapted. The experienced teacher has been familiar with learners who mostly had at least a high school education and who had studied English at home or in the institutions Because of this, he had no need for this information before; this research can help him better understand the diverse learners in his class. Teachers dealing with adult learners must remember that “adults, unlike children, are concerned with how they are judged by others. They are very cautious about making errors in what they say, for making errors would be a public display of ignorance, which would be an obvious occasion of ‘losing face’. This sensitivity of adult learners to making mistakes has been the explanation for their inability to speak without hesitation35

Adult studying a foreign language are usually learning it for a specific purpose: to be more effective professionally, to be able to survive in an anticipated foreign situation, or for other instrumental reasons. They are not willing to tolerate boring or irrelevant content, or lessons that stress the learning of grammar rules out of context. Adult learners need materials designed to present structures and vocabulary that will be of immediate use to them, in a context which reflects the situations and functions they will encounter when using the new language. Materials and activities that do not incorporate real life experiences will succeed with few older learners. Adults have already developed learning strategies that have served them well in other contexts. They can use these strategies to their advantage in language learning, too. Teachers should be flexible enough to allow different approaches to the learning task inside the classroom. Adults with little formal education may also need to be introduced to strategies for organizing information. Oxford-Carpenter, 1985.illustrated.Many strategies used by learners have been identified; these can be incorporated into language training programs to provide a full range of possibilities for the adult learner 36

[...]


1. Ausubel, D., and Ausubel, P. (1971). Cognitive development in adolescence. In H. Thornburg (Ed.), Contemporary adolescence: Readings. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, 42-49.

2. Bamford, J. & Day, R.R. ER: (1997)What is it? Why bother? The Language Teacher, 21, 6-8/12.

3. Baxter Sandra(2005) The Partnership for Reading Bob Kozman at RMC Research Corporation, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

4. Carrell, P.L. & Carson, J.G. (1997) Extensive and intensive reading in an EAP setting. English for Specific Purposes, 16, 47-60.

5. Campbell, R. (1989). The teacher as a role model during Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). Reading, 23(3), 179-183.

6. Davis, C.. ER(1995)an expensive extravagance? ELT Journal, 49(4), 329-336.

7. Durkin, Diane Bennet, Language Issues(1990) Readings for Teachers; University of California Press, Los Angeles CA,

8. Ervin-Tripp, S(1981). Social process in first and second-language learning. In Winitz, H. (ed) Native Language and Foreign Langugae Acquisition.1981

9. Fielding, L. & Roller, C. (1992). Making difficult books accessible and easy book acceptable. The Reading Teacher, 45(9), 678-685.

10. Flavell, J.H. .(1977) Cognitive development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

11. Freed, B. G. (1980) Talking to foreigners versus talking to children: similarities

and differences. In Scarcella, R., and Krashen, S. D. (eds) Research in second

language acquisition.

12. Joiner, E. G(1981).The Older Foreign Language Learner:A Challenge for Colleges(Language in Education Series No. 34). Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics; available from Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, ED 208 672.

13. Knowles, M , Halton, E.F -Swanson and R.A(1998)

The Adult Learner : Gulf Publishing

14. Krashen, Stephen D.(1991) "Bilingual Education and Second Language Theory"; California State University Press, Los Angeles CA

15. Krashen, S. D., M. A. Long, and R. C. Scarcella. (1979) "Age, Rate and Eventual Attainment in Second Language Acquisition." Tesol Quarterly 13: 573-582.

16. Krashen, S. .(1977).The monitor model of adult second language performance. In M. Burt, H. Dulay, and M. Finnochiaro (Eds.), Viewpoints on English as a second language. New York: Regents

17. Krashen, S(1977)Some issues relating to the monitor model. In H.D. Brown, C. Yorio, and R. Cymes (Eds.), Teaching and learning English as a second language: Trends in research and practice. Washington, DC: TESOL

18. Krashen, S.P(1982)rinciples and practice in second language acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

19. Lenneberg, E. H. (1967)Bioligical Foundations of Language. New York: John Wiley and Sons,

20. McLanghlin, B. (1981) Differences and similarities between first- and second- language learning. In Winitz, H (Ed) Native language and foreign language acquisition.

21. Moskowitz, Breyne Arlene(1978) "The Acquisition of Language"; Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA

22. Newport, E(1990). Maturational constraints on language learning. "Cognitive Science, 14," 11-28.

23 Nuttall, C. . (1982)Teaching reading skills in a foreign language. London: Heinemann Educational

24. Ostwald, S. K., and H. Y. Williams. (1985) "Optimizing Learning in the Elderly: A Model." Life Long Learning 10-13, 27.

25. Oxford-Carpenter, R. (1985) "A New Taxonomy of Second Language Learning Strategies." Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics, (FL No. 015 798).

26. Oyama, S. .(1976) A sensitive period for the acquisition of nonnative phonological system. "Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 5," 261-284

27. Ramirez, J.D., Yuen, S.D., & Ramey, D.R. "Longitudinal study of structured English immersion strategy, early-exit and late-exit transitional bilingual education programs for language minority children. Final Report." "Volumes 1

28. Rogers, A Teaching Adults (1996) Open University Press

29. Shumin K. (1997)Factors to Consider: Developing Adult EFL Students’ Speaking Abilities. “English Teaching Forum”, 25(3), July

30. S, C. E. and agel-Hohle, (1977)M. Age differences in second language

31. Snow, C. E. and Hoefnagel-Hohle, (1978)M. Age differences in second language

acquisition. In Hatch, E. M . (ed) Second Language Acquisition.

32. Swanson and R.A (1998)The Adult Learner : Gulf Publishing.1998.

33. Weisel, l. P.(1998) Adult learning problems: insights, instruction, and implications. (information series no. 214.) Columbus,

34. Winitz, H. The Comprehension Approach to Foreign Language

Excerpt out of 112 pages

Details

Title
Adult Language Learning: Insights, Instructions And Implications
Subtitle
Adult Learners in Language Class
College
National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad  (English Department)
Course
Research Project
Author
Year
2006
Pages
112
Catalog Number
V171452
ISBN (eBook)
9783640910670
ISBN (Book)
9783640908806
File size
1083 KB
Language
English
Tags
adult, language, learning, insights, instructions, implications, learners, class
Quote paper
Dr. Shamim Ali (Author), 2006, Adult Language Learning: Insights, Instructions And Implications, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/171452

Comments

  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Adult Language Learning: Insights, Instructions And Implications


Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free