2.1.English and Vietnamese
2.2.Social integration and identity
2.4.Frequency of exposure
8.List of tables
9.List of figures
The purpose of this term paper is to analyze the influences that the frequencies of language exposures and usage have on learners of a language. The analysis draws upon several theories, mentioned in Nick C. Ellis's “Frequency-based accounts of second language acquisition” and a “Longitudinal Study of Lexical Development in Children Learning Vietnamese and English” by Giang Pham and Kathryn Kohnert, who tested the language acquisition abilities of Vietnamese-American children that learned Vietnamese as a first language and English as a second language.
At some points in our lives, we have all tried to learn one or more languages. Besides our mother tongue, most of us were either taught foreign languages in school, attempted language classes at university or participated in online courses. The ability to access multiple languages has become an important attribute in modern-day society and is mandatory in a broad occupational field.
Before 1960, most psycholinguists ignored issues of learning and frequency, when discussing and researching the human process of language acquisition. Nowadays, the frequencies of language usage and exposure are important factors of psycholinguistic researches at all kinds of language representation levels, such as reading, spelling, language comprehension or lexis (Ellis 2002: 143-188, quoted after Ellis 2011: 7).
In this term paper, I will compare the results of a “Longitudinal Study of Lexical Development in Children Learning Vietnamese and English” to the major theories and aspects of Nick C. Ellis's “Frequency-based accounts of second language acquisition”.
I chose this longitudinal study for my observations, since the connection between American English and Vietnamese is quite interesting. As presented later on, both languages have completely different language systems. At the same time, there has been an extensive historical connection between Vietnamese and English.
Within the past four decades, the population of Vietnamese immigrants in the United states became one of the country's largest foreign-born groups. At the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the American government exported approximately 125,000 Vietnamese refugees to the United States. These were mostly associated with the American armed forces in Vietnam or have worked for the South Vietnamese government before. Between the 1970s and the 1990s, a lot of political prisoners and children of American servicemen followed. In 2012, there were approximately 1,3 million Vietnamese living in the United States (Rkasnuam & Batalova, 2014).
2. Theoretical part
There are a variety of factors, which influence the acquisition of a language. In order to properly analyze the results of Pham's and Kohnert's survey, one must be aware of certain aspects, concerning the human language acquisition abilities.
2.1. English and Vietnamese
This term paper is partly based on a study, which observed the lexical development of Vietnamese children, who lived in America and learnt English as a second language. In order to interpret the results of the study, it is mandatory to compare the two languages.
English and Vietnamese are two very dissimilar language systems, which share some consonant sounds but both have unique phonological characteristics. While the English language uses inflections to show grammatical cases, plurals and possessions, Vietnamese is an isolating language that does not use any bound morphemes. Contrary to the communication-based statements in English, Vietnamese communication is characterized by body language, pitch range, social status and the use of silence.
Unlike languages that are typologically related, such as Dutch and German, English and Vietnamese do not share any words with similar form and meaning, which makes it difficult for language learners to associate the two languages, since, according to the swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, the human brain associates words with similar meanings in memory clusters, which he called associative relations (Saussure 1916: 120-121). English and Spanish, for example, are typologically related and share similar words, such as “elephant” (English) and “elefante” (Spanish). According so Saussure, these similarities make it easier for learners of a language that is typologically related to their mother tongue to form associations between the two languages.