Experience of English as a Second Language Acquisition

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Assessment Item No. 2: Case study
This essay reports the experience of the English as a second language acquisition for a French master degree exchange student in Australia. First, her background and learning context will be outlined, followed by an evaluation of which phase her English language acquisition is. Then her salient issues will be exposed, focusing on her struggles in lectures. Therefore, this essay will focus on listening and speaking, and give some advice of how to improve the students listening and speaking skills in order to successfully develop the English Language.

The interview with the student was conducted orally, however four short answers where replied written. These are attached to this essay.

The student’s background and learning context
Mathilde is a twenty-two year old international exchange student from Angoulême, France. She came to Australia in the beginning of July 2012 to take the final semester in her master degree in Information Technology at Queensland University of Technology. Her mother tongue is French, which is also the language she speaks at home with her family and friends. Here in Australia is the language spoken home English, since she live in a student share house with other international students from around the world. Living here, she daily uses more English than French, in all kinds of settings and genres. She only speaks French when talking to her family and friends back home and to other French students in Australia.

Mathilde has had English language teaching in school in France since she was eleven years old, for one hour two times per week until she graduated high school eighteen years old. However, she does not feel proficient in English and rarely used the language living in France. Movies and media, her friends, teachers and family all only use the French language, even going vacation in English speaking countries. Her parents refused for a long time to learn English, as they according to Mathilde “didn’t felt it necessary”. In other words, she has never got to use the English language learned at school until the age of twenty-two, when she suddenly needed to develop her conversational English simultaneously with her academic language proficiency (Hertzberg 2012, 8). She feels she has the same struggles in all four language modes; listening, reading, speaking and writing. In the beginning of her stay in Australia, she had great difficulties understanding her English roommates, and making herself understandable to them. However, she feels she has improved severely; her roommates now seem comprehensible, and she can speak faster and be more understandable for others.

What kind of English Language Learner is the student?
During the interview, Mathilde used a significant amount of paralinguistic language, such as gesture and body language, to convey her answers. She had difficulties answering the questions in a lexical dense, which often led to reformulated and follow-up questions. Eye contact was important for both to check if the other participant understood the communication completely before moving on, and she also struggled to conjugate verbs speaking in the past tense. Therefore, Mathilde is depending on contextualisation to convey her message (Hertzberg 2012, 7-8). According to Cummins, conversational language takes about one to two years to develop and five to eight years to develop academic language proficiency (Hertzberg 2012, 9). Even though Mathilde has only used the English language in Australia for three months, she did not start from scratch; she had seven years of English teaching in France, and already knew many basic words. However, she never used the language in a productive way, especially not in an academic matter. In order to follow the lectures, she needed to develop her academic language proficiency fast. Because it required such an intense concentration for her to understand texts and instructions from the teacher,...
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