Second language acquisition varies from one language to another. It is the learner who determines the speed in which they acquire a second language either through learning or a social interaction. Therefore, second language learners may have different pronunciation of some vowels and consonants due to first language interference and transfer. The article samples out the variation in second language acquisition among Japanese and Chinese speakers. Linguists use the concept of contrastive analysis to identify the mistakes made by second language learners due to first language interference. It helps them locate the differences between a learner’s first language and the second language.
Summary of the Article
Second language acquisition is a quite challenging task especially for people learning a foreign language whose phonology is completely different from that of their first language. Linguistic accounts reveal that the best way to acquire a particular language is through enough exposure. The article suggests that there are three sources of variations in second language acquisition. They include the systematic and the unsystematic one where speakers often mix up suffixes to denote singular and plural. On the other hand, external and internal variation emanate from phonological constraints that alter the language’s phonetic order. The variations are also to blame for the increase in grammatical variables which alter the tenses (Doughty and Long, 2003). Lastly, the constraint hierarchy in second language acquisition occurs due to native language influence in pronunciation.
The authors’ attention when they wrote the book was to give the reader a vivid description of the process of second language acquisition. The book provides a phonological analysis of the language continuum to help the reader understand the language variations. Moreover, it helps the reader differentiate between perception and pronunciation of the word. The semantic analysis explains why some words change form while others do not change during plural. The authors’ segmental analysis explains the difference in the language’s supra-segmental features. Their presentation of the concept of contrastive analysis explains why translation from one language to another is likely to change the sentence structure.
The article is important in that it gives details of the process of second language acquisition. In addition, it considers one’s linguistic ability as their communication weapons. The current wave of industrialization has led to the need to learn the major languages common in international commerce, law and government business. It urges second language learners to grasp the target language’s structure for them to understand its phonological and morphological constituents with ease. It also discusses some of the controversies that mar the process of second language acquisition among learners.
One of the major problems that confront second language learners is linguistic interference. The cross meaning transfer in many cases is unconscious although some learners may opt to apply it knowingly. The transfer may not always be effective because; different languages have different lexicon. Ritchie and Bhatia (2009) add “knowledge of the lexicon of a language is generally seen as the core of knowledge of that language” (p. 179). Exposure to the target language facilitates acquisition because language is part of the culture of the native speakers of a certain language. Second language learners often start the process by being receptive to the target language’s vocabulary. Fast learners may master simple vocabulary and utter simple phrases in the target vocabulary. However, the learner’s acquisition speed depends on their entry level and the language’s relationship to their target language.
Doughty, C. J. S, & Long, M. H. (2003). The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. Malden, Mass: Blackwell.
Ritchie, W. C, & Bhatia, T. K. (2009). The New Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. Bingley, UK: Emerald.