I work as a teacher assistant at the Asian Counselling Referred Service. Specifically, I assist the teacher in helping immigrants from Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea, and China to pronounce English words and master simple vocabularies. The acquisition of a second language is a study area that is of huge interest to me. I have realized that second language learners face cultural challenges while learning the language. I contend that there is a need for teachers to understand the best way to deliver content in a culturally diverse environment. Tang (2006) argues that the second language learners have different views regarding cultural and economic structures. Junani, Rahman, Rahman, Iqbal, and Chishti (2011) contend that teachers are devoted to assisting students in acquiring the English skills, but cross-cultural differences hinder the learners’ progress. In effect, cultural difference is a challenge to the acquisition of a second language. This paper argues that the cultural background affects the learning of English as a second language.
Definition of Key Terms
- Second language- Language that is not an individual’s mother tongue
- Immigrant- A person who leaves his motherland and comes to live in a foreign land
Yui, a client at the Asian Counseling Referred Service, held his cultural beliefs strongly. My interaction with Yui yielded striking observations. The client appeared disoriented and withdrawn. In addition, Yui seemed confused and incoherent. Yui complained that it had been hard for him to grasp the English skills because the environment did not support learning.
My discussion with Lang, a second language student at Asian Counseling Referred Service, revealed that cultural shock attributed to poor progress in the acquisition of English skills. During the discussion, Lang appeared stressed, tired, and nervous. The client complained a lot about how he missed his culture. Lang had the withdrawal tendencies while in the classroom.
John was motivated to learn English as a second language. During the discussion, John was keen and composed. The client answered my questions well and was very inquisitive. He wanted to know the best way to grasp English skills within the shortest time possible. John was excited and interested to acquire skills in a new language. John was contended with the classroom environment. Evidently, John’s case is different from the two aforementioned cases. Two hypotheses can explain the deviation. Second language learners are devoted to acquiring new skills in order to fit in different environments. The students have a high level of motivation to learn new vocabulary and pronunciation. An alternative hypothesis to explain John’s case is that some students are quick to combine their culture with a foreign one, and embrace the mainstream culture of the learning institutions. Such students tend to follow the values of their primary culture outside the school.
Cultural background affects the majority of the second language learners. The students’ beliefs do not match with the new culture. The students view their culture as dominant over the foreign culture. Such students tend to express withdrawal tendencies and lack of interest in the subject matter. However, a section of second language learners has a high level of motivation to learn a second language. The students combine their primary culture with a foreign one. Consequently, the students embrace the mainstream culture of the learning institutions and practice their primary customs outside the school.
Junani, N., Rahman, R., Rahman, F., Iqbal, M., & Chishti, S. (2011). Effects of Native Language Saraiki on English Language Pronunciation. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2 (8), 60-72.
Tang, Y. (2006). Beyond behavior: Goals of cultural learning in the second language classroom. Modern Language Journal, 90, 86-99.