The Social and Cultural Contexts of Second Language Acquisition in Young Children Anne K. Soderman, Professor Department of Family and Child Ecology Michigan State University USA Worldwide, many more young children are required to learn new languages • • Increase in international migration for financial and political reasons New emphasis in schools on multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual education Concerns about Second Language Acquisition • What is optimal time to introduce? • What kinds of learning contexts are advantageous? • What defines best practice in curriculum, instruction, assessment? • Are there gender differences? Primary Language Acquisition • Core to what makes us human • Takes place early and naturally in a social context • Requires mastery of – Phonology (sounds) – Vocabulary (words) – Grammar (syntax) – Discourse (sentences) – Pragmatics (rules) Second Language Acquisition • Becomes more difficult – brain maturation brings early and ongoing decline in ability • Five factors essential: – Age – Aptitude (talent) – Social (outgoingness with others) – Psychological (motivation, willingness to take risks – Low anxiety in environment Stages of Second Language Acquisition (Clarke, 1996; Tabors, 1997) • • • • Stage 1 – Home language use Stage 2 – Nonverbal period Stage 3 – Telegraphic and formulaic speech and code switching Stage 4 – Productive language The Study • Year long, August-June • 3e (Explore, experiment, express) International Kindergarten, Beijing, China • Dual-immersion program, Mandarin & English • Best of the East and West pedagogy • 23 preschool and kindergarten children, Ages 3-6 • 16 different family nationalities Study Aim • The aim of this study was to examine social behavior and competence of children as they progressed through the stages of second language acquisition. Procedures • Over 100 2-3 hour observations, 6 different classrooms • Pre- and Post-test, Social Competence and Receptive Vocabulary Measure of Social Competence • Social Competence Behavior Evaluation (SCBE) (LeFreniere & Dumas, 1992) – T scores <37 – significant adjustment difficulty SCBE – Teacher Questionnaire, 80 Items, Ages 30-78 Months • 8 basic scales, negative/positive poles – Emotional Adjustment » Depressive-joyful » Anxious-secure » Angry-tolerant – Social Interaction with Peers » Isolated-integrated » Aggressive-calm » Egotistical-prosocial – Social Interaction with Adults » Oppositional-cooperative » Dependent-Autonomous SCBE 4 Summary Scales • Social Competence – Summary of basic scales • Internalizing Problems – 4/8 negative poles – Depressive, anxious, isolated, dependent • Externalizing Problems – 4/8 negative poles – Angry, aggressive, egotistical, oppositional • General Adaptation – Global Summary Score Findings: Differences in Eastern and Western Classrooms, T1 • Eastern teachers: – Children viewed as more depressive (p<.01) – Children viewed as more anxious (p<.01) – Children viewed as more dependent (p<.01) – Children lacking in overall social competence (p<.05) • Western teachers: – Children viewed as more egotistical and oppositional (p<.05). Differences in Western and Eastern Perceptions, Time 2 Eastern: Chinese teachers see children as more depressive (p<.01), more isolated (p<.05) Western: Social Competence and General Competence improve significantly (p<.001 and p<.01). Children less angry, anxious, isolated, oppositional; fewer internalizing problems (p<.01) Conclusion 1: Teachers in Western and Eastern Classrooms rate children’s competency differently, based on language. Conclusion 2: Boys’ interactive play depends less on language. Conclusion 3: Boys are more likely to solve own problems Conclusion 4: Girls are more territorial about friendships and possessions. Conclusion 5: There was animosity and exclusion among children, based on language and nationalities. Conclusion 6: Rules were extremely important to the boys, and they were more likely to enact them. The Future • Research on 2nd Language Acquisition at 3e continued – Larger sample • Findings from 2006/07 disseminated Young Children, November 2007 International Journal of Early Childhood Education • 3. New strategies in place to support social adjustment and language acquisition Acknowledgements • This project was supported by the Sun Wah Educational Foundation in Hong Kong. The author would like to thank the teaching staff of 3e International Kindergarten in Beijing, China, for their assistance.