Teaching a second language to Anglophones: evidence from Ireland



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Teaching a second language to Anglophones: evidence from Ireland

Manuel Catena Fontalba and Simon Stephens

Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Port Road, Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland

manuel.catena@lyit.ie; simon.stephens@lyit.ie
Abstract
Evidence from the British academy indicates that the decline in modern language learning in the UK endangers the ability of the UK to compete with researchers who are more linguistically competent. Indeed this is a challenge for all Anglophones. Increased competition for funding and learners means that the traditional advantage of Anglophones is being eroded. This creates a pedagogical challenge. Why? Didactic approaches to second language acquisition and strategies used at other European universities are not effective for Anglophones. For the purpose of this scoping piece, the mixed methods approach of sequential explanatory strategy (Creswell, 2003) is adopted. The method is used as follows: first, secondary data is collected to profile the experience of Anglophones when learning a second language. Second interviews are conducted with language lecturers and learners. This qualitative evidence is used to assist in interpreting the findings from stage one. There is need for Anglophones to address their deficit in second languages. A teaching approach that emphasises motivation and utilises a variety of approached will encourage Anglophones to successful learn a second language. This research indicates that a direct, natural and cognitive methods aided by the use of language laboratories may help learners to increase their motivation to learn a new language. Liu (2008) explains that special attention should be paid to the diversity of learning styles and to the importance of dealing with learners that learn differently. Previous research indentifies unique challenges in teaching second language learning to Anglophones. Therefore, higher education providers must provide appropriate teaching resources and methodologies to support motivation and to overcome didactic challenges.

Keywords Pedagogy, Anglophones, Learners, Lecturers, Ireland.

Introduction

This paper explores the experiences of Anglophones and tutors who are involved in foreign language modules in Ireland. Class groups are typically small (6-20 learners). The small number of participants is due to a lack of demand/interest from learners. Anglophone learners are not motivated to learn a foreign language. Why? Gardner (1988) reports that motivation to learn a second language is at least as important as language aptitude for successful learning. Coleman (2009) explains that Anglophones are less likely to speak foreign tongues and less motivated to study them. In the EU Anglophones are particularly unmotivated to learn languages than their continental counterparts. In addition, across the whole of Europe at secondary level, the number of pupils learning Spanish has increased by 50%, French by 22% and German by 5%. However the UK and ROI have the lowest proportion of students learning foreign languages (European Commission 2008, p. 95). Additionally, a survey carried out by the BBC in 2007 showed that on average, adult Anglophones can only speak seven words in a foreign language. However, Kouritzin et al. (2009 p. 287) suggests that in a global economy it is important to understand all the factors that influence successful language learning and motivation. Evidence from the British academy indicates that the decline in modern language learning in the UK endangers the ability of the UK to compete with researchers who are more linguistically competent. Indeed this is a challenge for all Anglophones. Increased competition for funding and learners means that the traditional advantage of Anglophones is being eroded.


Modern business and foreign language learning

Tate and Thompson (1994) highlight the continued discussion concerning the relationship between learning in higher education and practice which co-exist with the development of professional education and training in higher education. With the emergence of mass higher education the higher education curriculum has been transformed and now encapsulates skills and abilities which transcend discipline boundaries. Gherardi (1998, p. 273) explains that our society is now dominated by a view of learning, education and training as an endeavour of knowledge delivery based on a notion of learning as a process of information delivery from a knowledgeable source (either a teacher or a text book) to a target lacking that information. This information has academic value. It is important for industry to have access to an adaptable and flexible pool of higher education graduates. Graduates must be capable of acquiring new skills as required by their employers.


The demand for second language learning is increasing at present due to changes in the business world and the effects of globalization. The globalization of the economy and the European Union law facilitating the free movement indicates that a considerable number graduates may have to practise their professions abroad. Therefore, European graduates and professionals are increasingly expected to speak foreign languages. Grosse (2004) defines the term global economy expressing that it implies a business environment where competition among companies regularly crosses national borders; and mentions that many believe that English is the language of international business. He surveyed 2.500 alumni from the graduating classes of 1970 through 2002, of Thunderbird, The Galvin School of International Business. He reported that the majority of respondents acknowledged that foreign language skills had benefited them in their professional lives.
Globalisation and the emergence of China and India as global trading partners means the Anglophones can no longer expect modern trade negotiations to be conducted in English and must be aware of the importance of other international languages that might replace English as lingua franca in the future. Kouritzin et al. (2009, p. 287) suggest that in a global economy it is important to understand all the factors that influence successful foreign language learning and motivation. Krammer (2000) reports that the three universal languages are Chinese, English and Spanish; they are spoken by 49 percent of the world’s population. Spanish, after English, is the most important international language. It is the most widely spoken first language: 5.4 percent of the world’s population speak it as a mother tongue, followed by English with a 4.7 percent of native speakers (Ferry, 2005).
But Anglophone industry especially small medium enterprises (SMEs) do not have sufficient resources to merit employing an individual languages expert. Instead SMEs recruit graduates who have acquired specialised academic knowledge and are able to fulfill a variety of roles. Higher education, specifically, academics continue to introduce learners to theories, concepts and models that; first, have academic standing and second, are applicable in the workplace. However, the evidence collected in this study indicates that there is a need to refine and develop higher education programmes so that these skills contain a competence in a foreign language. A consequence of the current teaching and learning environment in higher education is that a graduate’s perception of the skills and competencies they will use in the workplace are different to the reality.
Quite often research into assessment in higher education explores how one innovates in teaching and assessment and what practices work in different contexts and cultures (Brown, 2004; Byran, 2006; Gvirtz and Larripa, 2004). Furthermore, the literature offers much advice on teaching and assessment (Ashcroft and Foreman-Peck, 1994; Beard and Hartley, 1984). Teaching a second language to Anglophones creates a pedagogical challenge. Why? Didactic approaches to second language acquisition and strategies used at other European universities are not effective for Anglophones. Chomsky (1965) demonstrates that everybody is capable of learning a foreign tongue but not in the same way, the human mind has an innate capacity for learning languages or a Language Acquisition Device.
According to Gardner and MacIntyre, (1993) all second-language learners bring with them antecedent factors to their language learning situation: some are biological (age, gender, etc.), others are experiential (previous language training, etc.). For example, Joiner (1981) confirms that the peak learning age for languages is twenty four. Furthermore, according to Ausubel (1964) adults are better language learners than children because of their larger vocabularies and ability to deal with grammatical principles; in addition Ervin-Trip (1978) and Krashen (1978) also indicate that adults are better second language learners than children. Cowles (2006, p. 369) indicates that adults learn best when they are motivated by a personal need and know that they can apply their knowledge to their life and/or work. Sex is another biological factor to be considered. According to Pritchard and Loulidi (1994) differences based on sex in attitudes towards the study of languages are a widespread area of investigation. Indeed Carroll (1975) and in the USA Smith (1975) already suggested that girls show significantly more positive attitude towards languages than boys. Indeed Coulombe and Roberts (2001, p. 565) reflect that a learner’s cognitive and affective differences influence their language acquisition process. Cognitive variables such as intelligence, strategies, and aptitude are linked to the process of knowing, whereas affective variables, namely attitudes, motivation, and anxiety, refer to responses to the learning.
Motivation is as important as language aptitude (Gardner 1988, p. 44). According to (Noels 2001, p. 108) motivation, unlike aptitude, can be enhanced as the goal of learning a language requires effort and a reason for learning the language; therefore even individuals with remarkable abilities need motivation in order to become successful language learners as motivation provides the impetus to learn the foreign tongue. It is believed that Anglophones tend to be unmotivated foreign language learners. Learning a foreign language is a long and continuous process that requires time, effort and determination; consequently motivation is essential. Motivation is the combination of effort plus the desire to learn the language plus positive attitude towards learning the foreign language (Gardner 1985, p. 10). Gardner and Lambert (1972, p. 26) make a distinction between instrumental motivation, where the goal is survival, and integrative motivation, where the goal is identification with the other culture group. If language aptitude is held constant, those students who have an integrative motivation will be more successful language learners. In contrast, the concept of instrumental motivation assumes that second or foreign language acquisition refers to the development of near native-like language skills, therefore time, effort, and persistence are essential; furthermore learners must be identified with the culture of the second language community (Gardner 2002, p. 2). Hernández (2006, p. 605) refers to Ramage (1990) who believes that interest in the second culture influences student’s motivation to learn a language. His research shows that students learn Spanish in the USA partly because they are interested the culture of the second (integrative motivation; and suggests that ‘a focus on classroom activities that enhance integrative motivation increases success in foreign language acquisition’ (p. 606).The case of Spanish as a foreign language provides a valuable example as some aspects of Spanish culture and way of life which tend to appeal to students are prime motivators. The Spanish lifestyle appears attractive and exciting to English learners of foreign languages. British tourists to Spain outnumber those from any other nation and permanent retirement from Britain to Spain is a frequent and widely acknowledged phenomenon. Spanish seems to enjoy a natural advantage over other foreign language when it comes to attracting learners, but it must be acknowledged that many of those who study the language do so in an informal setting with the aim of becoming linguistically self-sufficient at a basic level in order to survive in everyday situations when in Spain and that this trend does not necessarily carry over into the university sector (Goldsland 2010, p.114). Anglophones tend to have a selective functional interest in language acquisition and integrative motivation to study a language as their goal is not usually to become fully proficient in the foreign language. Most of them are only proficient in English who often believe that they are more likely to use the foreign tongue on holidays rather than at work.
Method

Mixed methods approaches have a good track record in conducting research on and within higher education settings (Marton et al., 1993; Saljo, 1979; Stephens et al., 2007). For the purpose of this scoping piece, the mixed methods approach of sequential explanatory strategy (Creswell, 2003) is adopted. The method is used as follows: first, secondary data is collected to profile the experience of Anglophones when learning a second language. Tight (2003, p. 188) explains that it is difficult to imagine anyone undertaking a meaningful piece of research, which does not involve some documentary analysis. Therefore, it was essential that sufficient access to literature was secured and a review undertaken. The analysis of literature in this paper refers to documents produced by governments and their agencies, books and academic articles Second interviews are conducted with language lecturers and learners. This qualitative evidence is used to assist in interpreting the findings from stage one.


English as a lingua franca

English is widely used for internal and international purposes at present; however this language is only spoken by 25 per cent of the world’s population (Coleman 2009, p. 122). According to Kachru and Nelson (2001, p. 9) English however is the most widely taught, read, and spoken language that the world has ever known. English is the language of international business (Grosse 2004, p. 351) therefore Barker (2006, p. 89) indicates that people are willing to learn and accept English as a universal utilitarian language that facilitates trade and commerce, and international communication. Besides, (Dor 2004, p. 98) suggests that English is the language of academic journals, books, magazines; and of the internet. At present The European Commission (2006, p. 8) indicates that 56% of Europeans can hold a conversation in a FL. English is the most widely-spoken FL in Europe and 38% of EU citizens state that they are able to have a conversation in English (p. 12). In contrast, most British and Irish citizens say that they are only proficient in English. In addition only 25% of the adult population in the USA can hold a conversation in a language other than English (Gallup 2009, p. 1). The British government decreed that from 2004 it would no longer be obligatory for school pupils in England to study modern foreign languages beyond the age of fourteen (Goldsland 2010, p.113). Coleman (2009, p. 113) believes that languages are unpopular in the UK because students find them difficult and boring, and schools see them as a threat to their position in the rankings. FLs are also unpopular at University level; Lissett (2009) indicates that sixteen British universities no longer offer degrees in the four major FLs (French, German, Spanish, and Italian). #In the ROI foreign languages are not compulsory at secondary level. At third level only the National University of Ireland requires a FL for entry purposes in some courses (O’ Halloran 2010, p. 10) and Trinity College Dublin accepts Irish as third language. In addition Irish institutes of technology do not require a foreign language for entry purposes.


According to Phillipson (1992) the spread of English is connected to the decline and death of many indigenous languages. Barker (2006, p. 89) states that English does not promote bilingualism but rather a shift towards English as the preferred language, especially in schools. ‘Any country which perceives itself as monolingual will be at best apathetic and at worst hostile to the acquisition and use of other languages’ (Coleman 2009, p. 121). Some nations such as Ireland, Wales or Scotland have become practically monolingual as their national Celtic languages are falling into disuse. For example in Ireland just 83,000 people speak Irish on a daily basis (O’Halloran 2010, p. 10). The fact that there is a tradition of emigration to English-speaking countries had a negative effect on the use of Irish and foreign languages. From 1987 to 1993 about 61% of Irish emigrants went to the UK and 15% to the United States (Clancy et al, 2001, p. 69). This might be a contributory factor to the lack of interest in languages. In Scotland only 1.3% of the population can speak Gaelic (Sutherland 2000, p. 199) and in Wales, Sutherland (2000, p. 205) indicates that 22 per cent of the population of Wales have proficiency in Welsh which represents a significant minority. The fact that those living in English-speaking countries do not need to become proficient in a second tongue explains their tendency to linguistic incompetence. There is little tradition to study languages in Anglophone countries as their national language is a lingua franca.
The consequence of this approach is students’ linguistic incompetence which places monolingual English speakers at a disadvantage in global labour markets. According to Coleman (2009, p. 122) monolingualism is the exception rather than the norm in the international labour market. Monolingual Anglphones students cannot ignore that being monolingual puts them at a disadvantage position (Byrne 2008, p. 18) as there are social, economic and academic benefits to the mastery of a second language (Oxford 2006, p. 358). English-speaking students must be prepared for a multilingual EU and international community. If industry demands proficiency in languages, existing policies will change. Policies will only succeed if learners are convinced that they need to learn a FL (De Bot 2007, p. 274). Language educators must emphasise that proficiency in FLs is associated to economic and personal success. Indeed such as strategy follows from the assumption that adapting to:

the local culture and language—releasing local markets from the task of translation and providing translation services as part of the product—is a necessary component in the penetration of, and competition over, local markets. Searching the Internet for such keyword combinations as “globalization, language,” or “globalization, knowledge,” we find that more than 90 percent of the relevant websites belong to Western businesses that buy and sell products of linguistic and cultural relativism

(Dor 2004, p. 102)


Rees and Rees (1996) report that the need for foreign language skills in companies is a constant theme in business publications concerned with international trade. However, despite advice from academics and policy makers there is according to Barnam (1987) an amazing degree of complacency in relation to the need for Anglophone business managers to engage and become competent in a foreign language. This challenge is complicated by the fact that often the workforce will have little or no expertise in the relevant foreign language. The impact on customer/client communication is significant. For open economies like Ireland and the UK which are part of common European trade area the impact on export and import growth is significant. Proficiency in a foreign language might be essential in the near future as more British employers value their importance. Reeves (1990, p. 60) suggest that mastery in foreign languages and empathy for other cultures is the key for success as Europe is the principal UK’s export market at present.

Conclusion and reflections

Learning in higher education involves adapting to new ways of knowing: new ways of understanding, interpreting and organising knowledge (Lee and Street 1998, p. 158). This is a challenge for all learners but particularly Anglophones who engage in learning a foreign language. There is need for Anglophones to address their deficit in second languages. A teaching approach that emphasises motivation and utilises a variety of approached will encourage Anglophones to successful learn a second language. The classroom must provide instruction in the foreign language as this is not available outside (McKay 1979, p. 74). Furthermore, the language laboratory seems to be learners’ preferred place for vocabulary acquisition. Barker (2006, p. 125) reports that language laboratories and computer-assisted language learning may facilitate the initial stages from monolingualism to bilingualism. Lacorte and Krastel (2002, p. 907) explain that the teaching and learning of foreign languages call for educators to be prepared for a diversity of tasks such as providing students with learning opportunities according to their individual needs. Reid (1987, p. 80) believes that FL students can have different learning preferences. ‘Although students report that they are interested in learning how to speak a foreign tongue, they often seem reticent to do so’. ‘Our classroom must provide students with the best opportunities to develop their language skills’ (Ballman 2007, p. 366). He suggests that communicative activities provide a context which allows learners to use the foreign in realistic situations. Real-life activities remind students why we use language and offer opportunities to develop language skills. Ballman (2007, p. 366) suggests that communicative activities provide a context which allows learners to use the foreign language in realistic situations. The four linguistic skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) are essential in order to learn a language. The classroom should provide opportunities to develop language skills.This research indicates that a direct, natural and cognitive methods aided by the use of language laboratories may help learners to increase their motivation to learn a new language. Liu (2008) explains that special attention should be paid to the diversity of learning styles and to the importance of dealing with learners that learn differently. Previous research indentifies unique challenges in teaching second language learning to Anglophones. Therefore, higher education providers must provide appropriate teaching resources and methodologies to support motivation and to overcome didactic challenges.



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