Second Language Acquisition Application Among University Students

August 07, 2023


second language acquisition

In the realm of academics, Second Language Acquisition (SLA) plays a vital role. 

However, it is not limited to the English language only. 

"Why do people prioritize the English language as if it is the only language that can be classified as a second language?"

If you have this thought, you are partially correct. 

The English language is the lingua franca that most individuals use for various purposes, 

Therefore, many institutions offer English language courses to improve their students' fluency in the language. 

Hence, SLA encompasses learning any language a person may be unfamiliar with.

What is second language acquisition? What challenges occur when one acquires a second language? 

If you want to know more about second language acquisition, read this article!

What Is Second Language Acquisition (SLA)?

second language acquisition

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Language serves as a medium of communication that conveys ideas and emotions through verbal or non-verbal signals.

If there exists a language barrier, it can hinder the accurate comprehension or understanding of a message. 

Second Language Acquisition (SLA) pertains to acquiring a second language after learning the first language from birth.

Therefore, the cognitive or subconscious process of SLA is not visible. 

However, when one attempts to speak a second language, they might find it challenging to form a sentence or translate words from their mother tongue to the second language. 

Formal education methods such as classroom instruction assist in identifying new alphabets, phonetics, and the meaning of foreign languages.

Let me share some insights from my personal experience. 

I admit that learning a second language can be daunting. 

When I was a high school student, I had to learn two foreign languages, Japanese and Arabic. 

It was a nightmare for me. I remember there was one time I cried the day before the examination due to a learning struggle. 

I studied, but I could not understand the meaning of the word. Let alone memorizing the Japanese characters in Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. 

Nonetheless, the effort of learning both foreign languages is worthwhile. 

I am still fascinated to decipher and translate the root word into my mind whenever I listen to a conversation or watch movies. 

Second Language Acquisition Challenges 

As a university student, you may sometimes switch from your first language (L1) to your second language (L2). 

This is especially true for international students pursuing higher education in Malaysia. 

They may encounter Malaysian students who do not speak their language. 

In such situations, communication is often conducted in English or Malay, which the international students may have learned in the classroom or from someone else.

What are the challenges that the two speakers encounter when this situation occurs? 

1. Formula language

Learning the rules of a language can be puzzling at times. English, for example, has a popular guideline that goes "i before e, except after c." 

As a non-native English speaker, you might have difficulty understanding this rule. 

Rest assured. 

To make use of the rule, you'll need to recognize words that obey it, such as "piece" (with "i" before "e") or "receipt" (with "ei" after "c").

2. Grammar

It's important to keep in mind that every language has its own unique grammar rules. 

As someone who has learned both Japanese and Arabic, I can attest to this firsthand.

Each language follows distinct grammar rules. 

For example, there is no space between words in Japanese, and it follows the SOV (Subject + Object + Verb) sequence. 

On the other hand, Arabic follows the VSO (Verb + Subject + Object) sequence, where the verb comes before the subject.

3. Pronunciation

Let's talk about pronunciation, which can be influenced by various factors beyond language differences. 

Tense and parts of speech, for example, can also affect how a word is pronounced. 

I won't bother comparing English to other languages, as that's pretty obvious. 

But as someone learning English as a second language, words like "read" (past tense) and "red" sound similar despite having different meanings and word categories. 

"Read" is a verb, while "red" is an adjective. Interesting right?

4. Overuse of first language 

second language acquisition

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In certain circumstances, educators may not be able to teach a second language entirely using that language. 

This is particularly true in rural areas where educational resources may be limited. 

As a result, students might not have had adequate exposure to the English language. 

Consequently, when students make errors while learning English, teachers may correct them in their native language. 

 Although it is more convenient to explain things in their first language. 

However, relying excessively on the mother tongue can have an adverse impact on students' comprehension and ability to understand concepts.

You can improve your second language by practicing despite all the challenges. 

It's okay if you keep making mistakes. Mistakes and experience are the best teachers. 

If you want to find ways to improve English (I think it still applies to other second languages), you can click here

Benefits of Second Language Acquisition

1. Brain stimulation

Learning a new language can be beneficial for your brain. 

It involves learning new grammar rules and vocabulary, which can be challenging and stimulating.

As you work to understand the complexities of language, your brain undergoes changes similar to how muscles grow stronger with exercise. 

This process involves both sides of the brain, unlike native language use primarily located in the left hemisphere.

Not only does learning a new language exercise the brain, but it can also help prevent cognitive decline and slow down mental aging.

2. Improve attention span

With attention spans decreasing, learning a new language has become a valuable solution. 

When you switch between languages, your brain stays focused and eliminates distractions. 

Being bilingual or multilingual means you are constantly moving between different languages. 

It improves your ability to concentrate on one task while filtering out irrelevant information.

3. More career opportunities

second language acquisition

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Many companies are expanding their market by opening offices overseas in today's multicultural world. 

As a result, the demand for bilingual candidates has increased significantly. 

Learning a foreign language can open up twice as many job opportunities and help you climb the career ladder more quickly.

Employers are searching for candidates who stand out from the crowd in a highly competitive job market. 

Being proficient in a foreign language can set you apart from other job applicants and make you more attractive to potential employers.

4. Improves memory

The brain is often likened to muscles because, just like muscles, it gets more substantial and prominent with more exercise. 

This principle also applies to the brain; the more it is challenged, the more it expands and functions better.

Learning a language is an excellent workout for the brain. 

Understanding and recalling multiple grammar rules and vocabulary helps to strengthen memory. 

That's why individuals who know more than one language better retain information. 

They have an easier time remembering lists, names, phone numbers, and directions than those who only speak one language.

To sum up, learning a second language is an essential and fulfilling experience that allows individuals to explore new cultures, expand their opportunities, and grow personally. 

With numerous effective language learning methods and resources, people can confidently embark on this journey with determination. 

Whether for educational, professional, or personal motives, achieving fluency in a second language enhances one's life and broadens their perspectives. 

Embracing the challenges and joys of language acquisition can lead to a more interconnected and compassionate world where communication has no barriers. 

Therefore, take the plunge into second language acquisition and explore its limitless possibilities.

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