Factors Affecting Second Language Acquisition And Implications On Language Teaching

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Assessment Type

Case Study

Word Count

2000 words




2 Days

Assignment Criteria

Case Study

Carlos is 25 years old, and has been living in Sydney for about 14 years since migrating here with his family from Chile. Members of his extended family had already been living in Sydney for some time, and Carlos's family found accommodation and a welcoming community of Spanish speaking migrants very quickly. Both parents found jobs in a factory soon after arrival, and Carlos and his older brother Luis were enrolled in the Intensive English Centre at a high school in western Sydney.  

Carlos used to idolise his bother Luis, who is four years older than him, and who was always popular among young women and always the 'leader' among his male friends. When they both started at the IEC, Luis, who had always found academic study difficult, could not bear sitting in IEC classes, unlike Carolos who was quite keen. But Luis quickly made friends with other young Spanish-speaking young men, all of whom shared his dislike of school. Soon Luis was skipping classes with his newly found friends, and getting into trouble with the school authorities, their parents and occasionally with the police. Carlos, on the other hand, had always liked school, especially maths and science. At the IEC, he was most switched on when the teacher was teaching the science and maths curricula, but he managed to do well in all of his subjects, and was transferred to the mainstream class after 12 months when he was 12. 

In the mainstream classes, Carlos's hard work initially helped him to keep up. But within six months, his studies became increasingly disrupted by his older brother, who by that stage had not only been thrown out of school, but thrown out of his home by his parents. Carlos who still idolised his older brother would be asked to run errands for Luis when he should have been doing homework. Soon Carlos found it difficult to keep up with his school work, and was seen by his teachers as a 'dis-engaged' student who wasn't 'academically-inclined'.  

In his last years of high school, Carlos was advised to pick up vocational courses, and did so in TAFE. Over time, he completed an apprenticeship and then a Certificate 4 in Electrical Trades, and after working for a year, he decided that he wanted to go to university and obtain a degree in science. From his apprenticeship years and his year of full-time work, he has saved enough money to study part-time while working part-time (and his brother is no longer placing demands on his time, as he went back to Chile three years ago). 

Although Carlos had felt very confident about starting university, given his success in his TAFE courses, he is beginning to wonder about the emphasis made on a number of university websites about the academic English and literacy demands of university study, and what implications this has for his readiness to enrol in a university course.


When you look at a linguistic factor , don't just doing detailed linguistic analysis, you need to be selective about which similarities and differences on this case analysis, why this matters on this learner.

The implications to be connected to what is good to the learner, if you were a teacher what do you need to do to support this learner.( This learner will benefit most from a classroom situation, from having ESL teacher who embedded in math classroom. What recommends, what support does he need? ).

Louis disrupted Carlos learning, if Louis doesn't there, what impact Louis in Carlos language development.

Does age matter? Does age affect all aspects of language?

Critical period hypothesis.

How does age impact his pronunciation.

He has some achievement.

Impact of interruption his English literacy development on his university study.

Social environment: is the environment very tolerate? Or not.

Is the environment positively encourage people to use English language?

How does the environment support his learning?

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Assignment Solution

Introduction: The Case

We have a 25 years old Spanish speaker Carlos from Chile, who wishes to learn English to further his education in a university in Sydney. To help Carlos achieve this goal, we need to understand the challenges that a learner like Carlos might possibly face while learning a second language. Looking at existing bilingualism and Second Language Acquisition literature, we shall see that some of several factors that affect second language learning are learner's age, intelligence, language learning aptitude, social setting, motivation, etc. This will not only help us recognize the potential areas of language learning difficulty for Carlos but also give us better control at designing learner specific language resources and teaching methods. Carlos' language proficiency can be measured by his skills and abilities in listening, speaking, reading and writing a language with competence (Baker, 2006, pp. 2-4).

Factors Affecting Second Language Learning and Development

Similarities and Differences between L1 and L2

Both English and Spanish belong to the Indo-European Language Family; however, English is a Germanic language, while Spanish is a Romance language. Starting with Phonology, there are quite a lot of similarities in the consonant system of the two languages, but the vowel, stress and intonation patterns are remarkably different. Spanish, for instance, does not make length distinction in vowels, unlike English. This is why Spanish learners typically find English vowels difficult to recognize and learn. They also face problems with getting the sentence rhythm right, which often makes them incomprehensible to native English speakers. Another challenging area is consonant clusters, which are common in English, but not so much in Spanish. There is a tendency to skip or drop consonants in such clusters. Coming to supra-segmental features, Spanish is a syllable-timed language, unlike English, where stressed syllables are accompanied by a change in pitch, and unstressed syllables are somewhat reduced. Spanish speakers use a narrower pitch, which can make them sound bored to English speakers. Also, unlike English, the sound and spelling match is high in Spanish. This makes English orthography especially confusing to Spanish learners. However, the punctuation part is similar in both languages, and there are fewer problems in this area. There is a problem picking up capitalization, however, as it is absent in Spanish. Spanish speakers find it difficult to get English verb contractions, as verbs do not get contracted in Spanish. Next, there are quite a lot of grammatical similarities between English and Spanish, like plurality of nouns, definiteness in articles, regular and irregular verb forms, the occurrence of tense morphology, presence of number feature and grammatical gender, etc. However, Spanish has a much freer word order and is morphologically richer as compared to English. Besides this, Spanish lacks question words and modal auxiliaries, which are present in English. Negation is also marked differently in Spanish. Lastly, a lot of Latin vocabulary is shared; however, that often makes Spanish learners speak a formal variety of English (Coe, pp. 93-112). 

According to De Swan’s Language Hierarchy, English is a Hyper-central language spoken in almost all parts of the world. Spanish lies just next to it in the hierarchy as a Super-central language, having functions across many parts of the world.  De Swan also describes four kinds of second language learners, which are classified on the basis of their purpose, goals and motivation behind learning another language. Carlos falls under the group of Classroom L2 Learners who wish to learn L2 for getting a higher education (Cook, 2014, pp. 126-131).

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