A child who has been exposed to English as part of the curriculum of his or her native school will likely have an advantage over a child who has not. The processes of learning a new language are themselves helpful, even if the child has not previously been exposed to English. Being prepared for learning irregular verbs, understanding how to diagram a sentence, and figuring out unfamiliar words in context are all skills that are essential to becoming fluent. Never having thought about a language in a critical fashion is an additional obstacle for non-English speakers who have never had formal language training. “This helps explain why foreign exchange students tend to be successful in American high school classes: They already have high school level proficiency in their native language,” and often an additional language (Walqui 2000).
The psychological motivation for learning a new language cannot be discounted. A child from a high-achieving background who is happy to be in the United States and wishes to assimilate quickly will have fewer internal obstacles than a child who is more ambivalent about doing so because he or she fears a loss of ties to his or her own culture.
“Feeling they have to give up their own linguistic and cultural background to join the more prestigious society associated with the target language,” can cause the child an identity conflict that does not facilitate ease of learning (Walqui 2000). Parents who view speaking the new language as a betrayal of the childs native culture and parents who do not allow English to be spoken at home can increase the learners anxiety. Even if parents are not fluent, encouraging and supporting the childs English language studies is vitally important. Peer support from the childs native language group of friends, and of friends who are native speakers in the childs second language can also facilitate the childs conscious or unconscious motivation when learning.
Walqui, Aida. (2000, September). Contextual factors in second language acquisition.
CAL (Center for Applied Linguistics) Digests. Retrieved May 10,.