My family is currently living in America and before we moved to U.S.A, we lived in Germany which is our home country. When we came to U.S.A twenty years ago, we faced communication problems because most of our family members could not speak the English language. Since we were unable to speak English, my siblings and I faced myriad challenges and we could not even socialize with people in the neighbor hood. Our parents were able to speak English and they always helped us in interpreting some things.
In order for us to cope with the social and cultural conditions in America, we had to learn English as soon as possible. My parents enrolled me in one of the American grammar schools. It is from this school that I developed the interest of learning English as my second language. After learning a few skills in English, I joined one the elementary schools in California. Coping with education system in this school was initially very challenging to me. This is because I had only learned a few concepts in the English language and I could not understand the most of the concepts that were taught in class.
I found participating in class even more challenging since my colleagues could laugh at me whenever I made some mistakes. I took this challenge positively and I kept on consulting my instructors and fellow students on how to answer questions correctly in English. Unlike other foreign students who avoided socializing with native students, I forged good relationships with them. This helped me to learn very quickly and after the end of the first semester I was able to speak and write fairly good English. My interest in learning English continued as I continued with my studies.
When I joined high school I was now able to speak good English just like other native students. This motivated me to learn more about English. While in high school, I spend most of my free time studying English grammar and its usage. When I graduated from high school got very good grades in English. I then applied for a scholarship at California State University, and I luckily secured a scholarship to pursue a course in teaching English.
I pursued my linguistics course for four years and during this program I learnt a lot about the process of learning and teaching English as a second language. One of the key things I learnt was the teaching approaches that could be applied in teaching a second language to foreign individuals. These skills became very important to me when I went for my attachment to teach foreign students English. During my three months attachment, I was able to transform many students negative attitude toward learning English as a second language. I used my personal experience to encourage and teach them how to write and speak English.
Social, emotional and linguistic factors always influence the capacity of an individual to learn a second language. The social environment within which a person operates will definitely influence his ability to learn a new language. For example, the learning environment in America encouraged me to learn English. This is because there was no other language used for teaching hence I had to learn English in order to cope with my studies. I also had to socialize with my friends and this could only happen if I new how to speak English.
Emotional factors also influence the ability to learn a new language especially when an individual feels that the second language, English, is more superior to his first language. People who are learning new languages should be given enough psychological support (Lightbown, 2006). This can be done through encouraging them to continue learning the new language (Brown, 2007). They should also be given enough time to learn new skills. “Krashen’s theory of language acquisition states that adults develop competences in second language acquisition by using language for real communication” (Vanpattern, 2006). The input hypothesis of the theory states that “humans acquire language in only one way – by understanding messages or by receiving comprehensible input” (Ellis, 2008).
Cultural diversity is important in a classroom environment because it enables learners to share their social and cultural experiences. This enables learners to acquire more information because they can learn from their colleagues who come from different cultural backgrounds. By accepting each others cultural background, learners can have a better understanding of each other, hence they can learn peacefully. Cultural diversity might however negatively affect learning especially in a situation whereby some learners feel that their culture is more superior. This might make them look down upon some of their colleagues.