First language or mother tongue is the primary language which children acquire due to the social impact of their environment and their surroundings. Thus, language acquisition is more or less a natural process which occurs in various stages and can be successfully achieved by way of practice. In the current age of globalization and advancement of computer technology and the internet, the tentacles of communication have spread beyond the limits of geographical locations resulting in the necessity and preference of the knowledge of more than one language, more commonly referred to as ‘bilingualism’. It is not only preferable but many times imperative to know a second language. The learning of a second language thus indicates the learning or knowledge of language “subsequent to the mother tongue” (Ellis, R. 1997). Ellis (1997) further explains that the learning of a second language need not necessarily imply the learning of a foreign language but any language, native or foreign, the learning of which could take place “inside or outside of a classroom” (p.3). This paper attempts to examine advantages of second language learning.
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Goals and benefits of learning a second language
The primary goal of learning a second language is communication and researchers have highlighted the numerous positive benefits of acquiring a second language in the modern world. The importance of learning a foreign or second language can be gauged from the fact that it has now become part of the national agenda of the United States of America. In its ‘Standards for Foreign Language Learning’ (1996), also known as ‘Goals 2000’, the government calls upon the education of the students of America so that they are “equipped linguistically and culturally to communicate successfully in a pluralistic American society and abroad”.
The ‘Goals’ have made it crucial to educate “All Students” in such a way that they would “develop and maintain proficiency in English and at least one other language” (Standards, 1996, p. 7). According to the standards, the students of the United States completing their fourth, eighth and twelfth grades had “demonstrated competency” in not only the core subjects of mathematics, English, science and other subjects, but also “foreign language”. The standards outline the basic goals of “communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities” so that students obtain the “powerful key to successful communication of knowing how, when, and why to say what to whom” (Standards, 1996, p. 11). The Secretary of Education of the United States, Richard Riley asserts that the learning of a foreign language has the potential to “expose” the younger generation “to new cultures and new horizons” thereby facilitating an enhanced comprehension of English.
Thus, communication skills in second or foreign language enhances the ability to comprehend cultures, traditions and values of a particular society or community and facilitates sensitivity to other cultures, thereby broadening ones horizon. The learning of a second language enables the learners to gain a global perspective which is becoming ever so crucial in the modern globalized community. Researches carried out across the Asian countries of India, China and Hong Kong proves the enhanced ability of bilingual speakers to deal with distractions as compared to monolingual speakers. (Washingtonpost.com). In a policy statement of 1989, the American Council of Education appealed to the education leaders to make the learning of foreign language “an integral part of a college education” so that each and every bachelor, acquires proficiency in a “second language” as the country ascends “into the next century”.
Ellis, R. 1997. Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Standards for foreign language learning: Preparing for the 21st century. (1996). Lawrence, KS: Allen Press. 2008. Web.
Bilingualism’s Brain Benefits. 2008. Web.
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