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Jan 13

Second Language Anxiety

Posted on Sunday, January 13, 2013 in Education, French, Second Language Acquisition

The semester has started and the first week passed without much issue. My concerns are that 12 hours is a crazy course load for graduate school. I am taking two graduate French courses, French Syntax and Meaning, essentially a linguistics course presented in French instead of English, and Art and Literature in the 19th and 20th century. This course is one of those dreaded esoteric french courses that made me change my major as an undergrad and gives me huge impostor syndrome. I am not an expert in analyzing and interpreting literature in my first language and I suffer from huge anxiety trying to do it in my second language.

My anxiety about my skills in my second language go farther than just my ability to analyse literature. I know I can speak French but I always feel as if I have to be perfect. I have to prove it. I can’t make mistakes. And when I do make mistakes, I feel a complete sense of shame.

I realize these feelings, while normal in language learners, cannot control me. I cannot let fear of making mistakes keep me from my dreams. For years they did. I stopped speaking French after I got my diploma and when I would try I would make mistakes and I would just shut down.

When I started studying the research going on in second language acquisition, I learned things that made me feel more comfortable with my shortcomings as a second language learner.

1.) Language learning is a continuum. Regardless of one’s proficiency, if one is  learning the language he is  a speaker of the language. I took Spanish in college and felt a huge sense of failure when the language did not come naturally to me. I do not speak it well, but I can speak some Spanish. Spanish is my 3rd language. I cannot speak Urdu but I can understand a great deal. I am somewhere on the continuum for learning Hindi/Urdu. This is my 4th language. I no longer diminish my language abilities by dismissing the efforts I made to reach where I am on the continuum with any language I have tried to learn.

2.) One should not expect to speak like a native speaker. This one is hard. The nature of language learning is to want to become fluent. And fluency means to speak as much like a native speaker as possible. But to seek perfection is unrealistic and one will never speak exactly like a native speaker. Nearly perfect proficiency is possible but I have banished this kind of perfection from my mind.  I speak French well, as a second language. There are things I say that a native speaker would not. My accent is not perfect. There are ways I phrase sentences that are more like a native speaker of English speaking French. This is because my native language is English. And I am ok with that.

3.) One develops proficiency in the area of the language they practice. There are four aspects of language learning. Speaking, listening, writing and reading. To develop a complete proficiency, one must practice in all areas. Some courses are focused on one thing, for example academic language courses focus on reading. Conversation courses focus on developing communicative competency. For years the only input I had was to sporadically to read something in French. I did not have opportunity to speak it, I did not listen to native speakers of the language, nor did I have chance to write anything in French. I would freak out completely when I had difficulty trying to do one of these things.

As a future French educator, I enjoy learning the research and theories about SLA. They both comfort my own anxiety and short comings and help me to become a better educator.

Dec 5

End of semester brain dump

Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 in Education

My to-do list should be scaring me right now but it’s not. Probably because I really do have it pretty much under control.

Due the 11th are two major projects. One is almost done. My end of semester linguistics project is all written. As a group project, it has been authored by three people and it just needs to be pieced together.

The other, my children’s folk literature project, I have only done preliminary brainstorming and background research on. I have an 8 page to write about how second language learning can be facilitated by nursery rhymes.

I was quite motivated to connect the two fields within the LLED program but after a kerfluffle of misunderstanding between my advisor and myself, and becoming aware of some interdepartmental discussions about how WLE folk do not need to take Children’s Literature classes, my motivation has waned. I see a great connection there but policies are changing apparently after this semester and they are not seen as very connected even though courses under the two areas both share the “Language and Literacy Education” tag. Oh well.

Anyway, tomorrow is my day to really get started on the outlining of the paper. I have standards to look up, videos to transcribe and describe, and writing out in detail the research on which I have already taken notes. Then I have to write pedagogical implications and research possibilities. 8 pages will be laughable, in all honesty.

Mar 29

Thoughts on code-switching

Posted on Thursday, March 29, 2012 in Second Language Acquisition

When does code-switching stop being helpful and start being a crutch that language learners lean on to get their point across without circumlocution and talking around lexical words they do not yet know?

I guess I refer more to pidgin languages than proper code switching. But how often do you speak Franglais or Spanglish in your language class?

Jan 22


Posted on Sunday, January 22, 2012 in Second Language Acquisition

Oh Interlanguage, I have reawoken my interlanguage with my current semester’s French course. Yes, I think I have some ways to go before I am fluent again.

Also found this article on Universal Grammar. I really really badly need to take a linguistics course next semester. I’m flying blind here, people.