Students learn English in different parts of Hong Kong for different reasons and therefore different approaches may be used. The Hong Kong students may learn English either a second language (alongside a native language) or as a foreign language. These categories of learners are the ones that have given English its international scope and not those who learn it as a first language. Whether or not students have learned a first language considerably affects how they learn English. Reading, for example is learnt only once. This is not however to mean that students who already know a first language can learn reading English on their own. Rather, it will only make it easier. Most learners who are taught English in Hong Kong are simultaneous bilinguals who learn two languages at ago.
The total mental environment includes the student’s, the teacher’s and the situation’s characteristic. While these bear directly upon the learning outcome, the effect is also mediated by the participants’ perceptions of them. For instance, if students perceive a strategy as exposing them to ridicule and therefore as being threatening, they are likely to be very reluctant participants. If a teacher perceives this response as a willful, bloodily-minded lack of co-operation, the environment could become somewhat tense. In this event, the prospect of the strategy achieving its anticipated ends is greatly reduced. The components of the total learning environment have the potential to be highly interactive. Abras, (2003) saw parallels between the elements of the learning environment and the chaos theory butterfly: just as a tiny flick of the elements can be catastrophic for the quality of learning. The factors which might shape the learning environment seem limited attempt to understand a topic.
These structures could be ideas which enable them to judge critically the worth of the other ideas about the topic. Another strategy is to analyze the topic into more or less discrete units and take each in turn in a stepwise fashion. Others might attempt to make the subject concrete by looking for examples of its operation and by applying the ideas on other contexts. On the other hand, students may try to memorize the topic and acquire it by note learning, point by point. These approaches are not mutually exclusive. For instance, a student could use both a relating strategy and a concrete strategy.
Freedom of language use promotes learning of English language as opposed to strict use of English to learn it. Literacy activities in the native language continue the development of a strong language base. Brisk M E features a teacher who explain that if children do not understand her in English, she uses Chinese (The native language of the learners in this case) to make them understand. Use of the original language to teach English is a most direct and open method of teaching English. A teacher gave students Aesop fables and Greek mythology to read in their native language and then gave the videos in English of the same stories. He found them to be learning English faster than those who were not exposed to the same content in their native language.
In fact, there are similarities in the vowels and other letters of the alphabet of English and of other languages. For example, the vowel sounds a e I o u and o are found in most languages including English, Hawaiian and a vast majority of African languages. A learner who first knows the vowel sounds in his or her native language learns English language more easily (Ladefoged 2005). For example, the vowel sound ‘O’ in most Hong Kong languages is similar to that of English. Therefore if a learner can pronounce a word with the sound in his native language may not have any difficult in learning to pronounce the word ‘boy’ in English.
But the similarity in vowel sounds is only superficial and does not stand the tests because of vowel sound contradictions. For example, depending on the dialect, the English language has about 40 vowel sound contradictions. Each of the other languages (which may be serving as the native language) has contradictions in their vowel sounds. This presents a challenge when a learner who already knows the sounds in his native language has to be re taught those particular sounds. This makes it difficult for the learner and it would be easier for him to learn such sound without having to learn the native language.
Most of the disadvantages of using native languages to teach English are phonetic related. While English language diphthongs tend not to be accurately perceived, and are mostly pronounced as two short vowels with interpolated glides as in the word paint, most of them are long in Dravidian languages. (Smith, 2001).
Use of native language as the medium of instruction in the acquisition of English language skills poses the risk of mother tongue influence on the learnt English language. Some letters used in the English language do not exist in other languages and hence when learnt look strange and their pronunciation and spelling are often interfered with. For example, most native Hong Kong languages have either R or L but mostly not both. If the child is used to pronouncing R without reference to differentiate it with L, the learner gets difficulties in spelling and pronouncing such English words like rarely, really, reload and lorry which have both R and L. they may refer to ‘lorry’ as ‘lolling’ or ‘rolling’ all courtesy to having a first language which is later used to facilitate acquisition of English skills.
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Past and ongoing research clearly shows that the most effective way to develop both academic concepts and English language proficiency is through the development of their first language and the use of native language as the medium of instruction. Study after study emphasizes the importance of supporting and valuing the native language. Native language has been identified as the main primary factor related to effective English language skills acquisition. Even in schools designed to provide instruction primarily in English, findings from a study of nine sheltered instruction programs indicated that the classrooms were multilingual environments in which learners’ native languages served a multitude of purposes and functions. Across sites, native language use emerged as a persistent and key instructional strategy realized in very site specific ways (Salsberry, 2007). It is noted that the use of native language to learn English language increases the parental participation in the child’s learning of another language which in this case is the English language.
Special education is defined as the specialized treatment of children with special needs. This special treatment includes use of equipment that is special to the learner. It may also include interventions meant to increase the sufficiency of learners which would otherwise not be realized if the child/learner was in an ordinary learning situation such as a general classroom. Such special needs include physical disabilities like the deaf. Special education is legally defined as the provision of education in a special way to children with special educational needs or having learning difficulties or disability that make it harder for them to learn or access education than most children of the same age. (Dhawan, 2005) the law further says that learners do not have difficulties in learning simply because their first language is not English. It is therefore not in order to treat children learning English as having special needs because not being English literate is neither a difficult in learning nor a disability.
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However, based on other factors that may not be considered special education, the child may be given specialized attention either in a smaller learning group or as an individual entirely. Such factors may include the level of interest, the native language of the child (grouping children with similar first language orientation in same groups) and the speed of learning and the IQ levels (children capabilities).
Evidence of Successful Changes of Approach
Many researchers have found That students and teachers are especially willing to accommodate change if the new approaches mirror features in their social culture that have not previously been exploited in their educational culture. For example, Lazar, (2001) suggests that the teacher-centered, accuracy-focused approaches typical of the Hong Kong popular culture to help stu9dents to learn English. Also group activities have been found to be particularly suitable for EFL learners in many collectivist cultures where a sense of belonging to the group is important. It has also been found that many learners do not expect or even want foreign teachers to imitate local cultural norms when teaching a foreign language. Salsberry (2007) for example, concludes that, “While students may hold preconceptions as to how a ‘normal’ class operates within their own culture, isn’t it likely that they will automatically readjust their expectations when a foreign teacher appears on the scene?” Many researchers have stressed the importance of the teacher in determining what actually happens in the classroom. If the teacher values a methodological change, it will be reflected in a significant change in classroom activity. If the teacher is resistant, the changes will be at the best cosmetic. The teachers’ own beliefs can affect classroom action more than a particular methodology or course book. For example, as Dicks, (2002) observes, the reason why conversational skills fail to develop in the classroom is because many teachers tend to control learner talk not by helping it to meet the learners’ purpose but by directing it to the teacher’s purpose. And, as Dicks, (2002) says, whether students are “passive” or “active” in class depends more on their teacher’s expectations than on culturally based learning styles. Many researchers have reported on the positive effects of teachers changing their beliefs and expectations.
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In conclusion, students who have a first language learn English more easily since there is an existing medium of instruction as opposed to imparting the same skills where there is no other model of communication with the child. It is even more challenging to let a child who is in a non English background to learn English in a situation where everybody else is not speaking in English. But the same would not hold if the student was in an environment where all around are using English. A student who is in an English environment simply gets socialized in to English. A student who has to learn English as a second language is proved to be able to learn more words than age mates who learn only one language. Using the native language to teach English is therefore a more ideal approach of skill acquisition.