Effects Of Second Language Learning On First Language English Skills .

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Effects of Second Language Learning on FirstLanguage English Skills: Southern TasmanianTeacher PerceptionsBy Rachel Emily JensenSubmitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Bachelor of Education (Primary)with Honours.University of Tasmania. October, 20151

Declaration of OriginalityThis thesis contains no material which has been accepted for a degree or diploma by theUniversity or any other institution, except by way of background information and dulyacknowledged in the thesis, and to the best of my knowledge and belief no materialpreviously published or written by another person except where due acknowledgement ismade in the text of the thesis, nor does the thesis contain any material that infringescopyright.Authority of AccessThis thesis may be made available for loan and limited copying and communication inaccordance with the Copyright Act 1968.Statement of Ethical ConductThe research associated with this thesis received ethical clearance from the University ofTasmania (H0014912) and the Department of Education (2015-38).AcknowledgementsTo Paul Kebble for his supervision and Bruce Waldrip for his guidance.To Elaine, Don and Ashlee Jensen for their support.To Alex Woodworth for her willingness to proof-read.To the participants for helping this research to happen.2

Table of ContentsDefinition of Key Terms . 5Acronyms . 5Chapter 1: Introduction . 6Background . 6Purpose for Research . 7Research Question . 9Assumptions. 9Hypothesis. 12Chapter 2: Literature Review . 13Vocabulary . 15Grammar and Syntax . 16Punctuation . 17Awareness of Language . 18Methods of Instruction . 19Implications for Research . 20Chapter 3: Methodology . 22Theoretical Framework . 22Methodology . 23Participants . 24Ethical Considerations . 24Research Instrument. 25Limitations . 25Delimitations . 27Data Collection and Analysis. 27Chapter 4: Results . 303

Languages . 30Methods of Instruction . 31Instruction Time . 31Direct Comparison . 32Effects . 32Areas Where Language Students Outperform Non-Language Students . 33Areas Where Non-Language Students Outperform Language Students . 34Specific Links to Previous Research. 35Chapter 5: Discussion and Conclusion . 38Effects Experienced by High-School Students . 39Specific Linguistic Effects . 40Instruction Time . 46Relationship between L1 English and L2, and the Effect on Language Transfer . 48Extent of Effect of L2 on Students . 52Research Question . 53Conclusion . 54References . 58Appendix A: Principal Invitation Letter . 64Appendix B: Participant Information Sheet . 65Appendix C: Teacher Consent Form . 684

Definition of Key TermsThe language used in this paper reflects the terms that are used in the AustralianCurriculum: Languages document (Australian Curriculum Assessment and ReportingAuthority [ACARA], 2015c), as well as common terms that are used in the area of languagelearning.Bilingual: Fluent in two languages (Historica Canada, 2015).First Language (L1): The primary language spoken at home; the language in whichschooling is conducted and through which primary instruction occurs (ACARA, 2015c). Forthe purposes of this research, students’ L1 is English.Immersion: No less than 50% of the entire curriculum (all subject areas) is taughtusing the second language (Bostwick, 2011; Keckes & Papp, 2000).Second Language (L2): The second or additional language (sometimes referred to asforeign language) that students are studying at school (ACARA, 2015c). Second languages inthis study include but are not limited to: Chinese, French, Indonesian, Japanese and Italian.AcronymsIn addition to the key terms (defined above), the following acronyms have been usedwithin this paper:ACARA: Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority.HREC: Human Research Ethics Committee.L1: First language.L2: Second/Additional language(s).5

Chapter 1: IntroductionWhen I was a student I loved studying languages. Throughout high-school I studiedJapanese, German and French, and as I progressed in each of these areas I was convinced thatmy English skills and conceptual understandings also improved – particularly in the areas ofvocabulary and grammar. Since this time, I have been curious about whether other secondlanguage (L2) learners have experienced a similar effect on their first language (L1) andconsequently this was the inspiration for my research.BackgroundSecond language learning has become increasingly prioritised as the world hasbecome more globalised (Kramsch, 2014). This, according to ICEF Monitor (2013), isbecause many people see L2 competency as a requirement for success in the modern world,not only by enabling communication with other countries, but also through improvingcultural understanding. This view is reflected in countries such as Iran, where L2 learning,particularly in English, is seen to increase opportunities such as studying at prestigiousuniversities (Taguchi, Magid & Papi, 2009). Similarly, Canada, as a bilingual nation,provides educational opportunities in both French and English, although it is not compulsoryfor every citizen to be bilingual (Historica Canada, 2015). In addition to this, in Europe,where L2 learning is seen to be highly regarded, the importance of L2 learning is reflected inthe European Union’s goal for every European to speak two languages in addition to theirfirst (European Union, 2015).Many Asian countries also reflect this prioritisation of L2 learning, such as in HongKong where it is part of the Government’s policy for all primary and secondary students tolearn English in addition to the official language Chinese (Dickson & Cummings, 1996).Singapore has also embraced this idea in their bilingual education policy where every subjectis taught in L2 English, with only one lesson per week to be conducted in what the policy6

terms the “mother tongue” (Dixon, 2005). Furthermore, Malaysia has launched a nationalprogram entitled ‘Upholding Bahasa Melayu and Strengthening English’, emphasising theimportance of both the national language (Bahasa Malaysia) and English for all Malaysians(Darmi & Albion, 2013).In the past, it was suggested that this focus on L2 learning was harmful to L1 abilities,but since the 1970s a number of studies have been conducted in this area and the generalconclusion is that no ill-effect occurs as a result of L2 learning (Keckes & Papp, 2000;Lambert & Tucker, 1972; Swain & Lampkin, 1982; Worsley & Harbon, 2001; Yelland,Pollard & Mercuri, 1993). In fact, evidence was found in these studies to suggest thatparticipants’ L1 skills had actually improved as a result of their L2 studies, particularly in theareas of grammar, punctuation and vocabulary (Keckes & Papp; Swain & Lampkin).Purpose for ResearchIn 1989, Odin wrote about the idea of language transfer, discussing extensively howthe skills and knowledge learnt in one’s first language can be drawn on and applied to asecond or additional language that is being learnt. Given this perceived transfer from L1 toL2, it is possible that such a transfer might work in reverse - that learning from L2 couldtransfer to L1. While evidence of the language transfer from L1 to L2 is well documented,evidence supporting a reverse language transfer is harder to come by. Nevertheless, theresearcher has found five studies of note that support the idea of reverse language transfer,specifically noting improvements in L1 grammar (Swain & Lapkin, 1982; Keckes & Papp,2000), punctuation (Swain & Lapkin), vocabulary (Swain & Lapkin) and awareness oflanguage (Lambert & Tucker, 1972; Worsley & Harbon, 2001; Yelland et al., 1993).Within the three international studies (Keckes & Papp, 2000; Lambert & Tucker,1972; Swain & Lapkin, 1982), it was generally agreed that the more L2 instruction time that7

occurred, the greater the benefit in L1. Lo Bianco and Freebody (1997) also raise this pointand suggest that this benefit occurs as a result of high levels of competence in more than onelanguage. Australian-based Yelland, Pollard and Mercuri (1993), however, suggest that evenlimited exposure to L2 may have benefits on L1, concluding from their research that positiveeffects in L1 English in terms of word awareness can be seen even after limited exposure toan L2 (in this case Italian). Similarly, Worsley and Harbon (2001) conducted a Tasmanianstudy finding that after 11 weeks of L2 learning (in Japanese), the primary school studentsdemonstrated an improved metalinguistic awareness of the English language as well asincreased competence. This increase in awareness and competence is frequently cited bysupporters of second language instruction (Linking languages and literacy, 2002).Whilst both of these Australian studies (Worsley & Harbon, 2001; Yelland et al.,1993) suggest there to be benefits in L1 as a result of limited L2 learning in both the earlychildhood and primary school settings, the researcher of this proposed study wonders whetherthese benefits are also experienced by students in Southern Tasmanian high-schools.According to Harbon (2012), Australian schools are inconsistent with the opportunities theyoffer students in regards to language education. Schools offer second language instruction tovarying degrees with some primary schools having ample opportunities and resourcesincluding specialist teachers and access to native speakers, while other primary schools donot offer any second language as part of their curriculum. This means that not all Australianstudents are given the opportunity to study a second language at the primary school level andmany students may only begin L2 learning when they enter high-school (ACARA, 2015c;Harbon). At this later stage of development, do students still experience benefits to their L1literacy skills? Do Tasmanian high-school students experience similar effects in grammar,vocabulary, punctuation and word awareness as the students in the aforementioned studies?Do these benefits vary depending on the L2 being studied? These questions, which may be8

important to consider in the scheme of L2 learning in Tasmanian high-schools, have not beenadequately addressed at this stage in published literature and thus the researcher sees this as aworthwhile focus in this limited research project.This research is significant and relevant because it links in with the debate on whetherstudents should be learning a second language and whether ACARA’s desire to include moreL2 learning in the Australian Curriculum is justified (ACARA, 2015c; Lo Bianco, 2009).Many parents in Australia, according to an article in Fairfax Media’s The Sydney MorningHerald (Macgibbon, 2011), dispute the teaching of second languages in schools on the basisthat they have little benefit. One argument against L2 teaching is that the time could be betterspent on literacy and numeracy (Hiatt, 2014), but if L2 learning can be shown to improve L1skills, as many studies including Keckes and Papp (2000) and Yelland et al., (1993) claim,then this argument is counterintuitive. This proposed research seeks to determine whether theclaims made by previous researchers in the field are true in the context of SouthernTasmanian high-school students, and thus the results will contribute to this existing debate.Research QuestionThe central question for this research project is: What effects do Southern TasmanianEnglish teachers perceive second language learning to have on high-school students’ firstlanguage English skills?AssumptionsThis research is based on a number of assumptions, namely that: participants willrespond honestly; English (literacy) skills are a priority within the curriculum; L2 learning isallocated less time in the curriculum than English; and English teachers understand theirstudents’ skills in English, particularly in the areas of vocabulary, punctuation and grammar.9

Participant integrity.The researcher believes it is reasonable to assume that participants will respondtruthfully during the research interviews because participation is voluntary. Furthermore, asthere is no monetary gain to be had, teachers who volunteer will be intrinsically motivated toparticipate and this supports the assumption that participants will respond to interviewquestions with honesty.English (literacy) as a priority.Western Australian government schools have recently decreased the number oflanguage programs they offer, with the Western Australian Primary Principals Associationpresident, Stephen Breen, citing the prioritisation of literacy and numeracy as the reason forthis (Hiatt, 2014). Furthermore, the design of the Australian Curriculum implicitly prioritisesEnglish as it was one of only three curriculum areas originally endorsed in 2010, and literacyis placed at the top of the list of cross-curriculum priorities (ACARA, 2015b). Consequently,there is little doubt that English is considered to be a priority in Australian schools.Time allocation per subject.Given this prioritisation of English in the curriculum, there is less time for languageeducation to occur in schools (Bense, 2015). This is evidenced in Figure 1 (over page) whichdetails the percentage (%) of school time allocated to each subject at each year level as wellas the approximate equivalent time in hours per year. This information is sourced from theDepartment of Education and Child Development (Government of South Australia, 2011),the Australian Curriculum: Languages (ACARA, 2015c) and the Curriculum Design Paper:Version 3 (ACARA, 2012). Looking at the highlighted sections, it is evident that a higherproportion of the time available in the curriculum is dedicated to English than Languages.10

14%17%17%and e ursHealth AllocatedTimeFigure 1. Allocation of school hours per subject.11

Teacher knowledge of student capabilities.One requirement of teaching is knowing what your students have achieved (Brady &Kennedy, 2012). Through assessment and reporting that relates back to learning outcomes,teachers collect evidence of their students’ strengths and capabilities as well as theirweaknesses and areas for improvement (Brady & Kennedy; Cunningham, 2009). Thus itfollows that, as a result of engaging with this information, an English teacher will know whattheir students have achieved in all areas of the English curriculum.HypothesisGiven the findings from previous research in this area (Keckes & Papp, 2000;Lambert & Tucker, 1972; Swain & Lapkin, 1982; Worsley & Harbon, 2001; Yelland et al.,1993), it is expected that this research will yield a similar result with the majority of teachersinterviewed indicating that students’ L1 English skills have benefited from their L2 studies. Itis, however, unrealistic to expect that all teachers will share the same perception andconsequently some teachers may report that no effect or even a negative effect has been notedwhich could be attributed to the L2 learning.Depending on the results, more research will need to be conducted to ascertain theextent of the effect that students experience. If a positive trend is recorded (as is anticipated)or a negative effect, then research can continue to establish the extent of the effect andpotentially inform curriculum implementation practices in the future. If, however, mostparticipants believe there to be no effect, then it may be decided to abandon this line ofinquiry into how students’ L1 English skills might be improved.12

Chapter 2: Literature ReviewThe majority of studies conducted in the area of second language learning focus onthe effects of the first language (L1) on the second (L2). Of the relevant studies that addressthe effects of L2 on L1, the majority were conducted in either Canada (Lambert & Tucker,1972; Swain & Lapkin, 1982) or central Europe (Keckes & Papp, 2000) where L2 learning isseen as a necessity. In addition to these, two Australian studies have examined the effect thatlimited exposure to L2 in the early primary years has in terms of L1 development (Worsley &Harbon, 2001; Yelland, Pollard & Mercuri, 1993).The two Canadian studies examined the achievements of English speaking Canadianchildren who were enrolled at a French speaking school for the preliminary years of theireducation (Lambert & Tucker, 1972; Swain & Lapkin, 1982). Students in both studiesparticipated in L2 (French) immersion and their achievements in L1 (English) were thentested and compared with a control group of students who did not participate in L2 learning(Lambert & Tucker; Spolsky, 1973; Swain & Lapkin).Instead of examining the effects that learning French had on students’ L1 English likeLambert and Tucker (1972) and Swain and Lapkin (1982), Keckes and Papp’s (2000) studyexamined the effects that L2 learning in English, French or Russian had on participants’ L1Hungarian. The high-school aged participants in Keckes and Papp’s study engaged in one ofthree types of L2 learning: immersion, specialised (seven or eight L2 classes per week withother subjects in L1), or control (two or three hours of L2 learning a week with all otherinstruction in L1). Subsequent to their L2 instruction, the written L1 work by participants ineach of these groups was analysed using the Bernstein-Lawton-Loban method (as cited inKeckes & Papp) to establish the complexity of the syntactical structure within embeddedclauses. L2 learning was determined to have effected L1 depending on the score theparticipant received – a high score indicating increased complexity in the response suggesting13

that L2 learning had a positive effect on L1 production. Results from each group wereanalysed and compared to determine the effect of L2 on L1.In addition to these studies that examine the benefits of L2 immersion learning on L1,two Australian-based studies have focused on the effect that limited L2 exposure has on L1learning. Yelland et al., (1993) studied the word awareness of Victorian students in their firstand second years of schooling (preparatory and Grade 1), while Worsley and Harbon (2001)studied the language awareness of students in a Tasmanian primary school.The students in the study by Yelland et al., (1993) were divided into two categories:monolingual students (students who speak only one language and were not learning a second)and marginal bilingual students (students learning Italian for 1 hour per week at school). Onegroup of monolingual students and marginal bilingual students were tested for wordawareness in each grade. Word awareness in this study was defined as the student’s ability toseparate the structure of the word from the object that the word represents (Yelland et al.,).Students were deemed to have word awareness if they could identify words as little (wordswith only one syllable) or big (two to five syllables) without being influenced by the meaningof a word. For example: a student with word awareness can accurately identify ant as a littleword and caterpillar as a big word even though they both represent small animals; a studentwithout word awareness would incorrectly identify words such as tree, bed and whale as bigbecause they represent large objects, rather than focussing on the fact that each word ismonosyllabic.Similar to Yelland et al., (1993), Worsley and Harbon (2001) conducted a study thatexamined the benefits that primary school aged children experienced as a result of theirsecond language learning. The Tasmanian student participants in this study engaged in asingle unit of Japanese (L2) work over a period of 11 weeks that involved comparing the14

same book written in L1 and L2. This study was specifically designed to test students’awareness of the relationship between the two languages.These studies provide invaluable information about the effects that L2 learning has onL1 skills. In each of the reviewed studies, similar themes have been identified and these willprovide a basis on which to start investigations into whether Tasmanian teachers perceive L2learning to have any effect on high-school students’ L1 English skills.VocabularyVocabulary is a fundamental component of second language instruction ascommunication in L2 cannot occur without using L2 vocabulary (Folse, 2004). Perhaps it isfor this reason that vocabulary was a focus in both of the Canadian immersion studies(Lambert & Tucker, 1972; Swain & Lapkin, 1982). Regardless of the reason for this focus onvocabulary, there were mixed results in these studies as to the actual effect that L2 learninghas on L1 vocabulary.Lambert and Tucker (1972) found that there was no significant difference between theachievements of the experimental and the control groups by the end of their study as theexperimental group demonstrated the same level of competency in their L1 as their peers whodid not engage in L2 learning in terms of written vocabulary. Whilst Lambert and Tuckerwere not convinced of a direct improvement at the end of their study, they did suggest that asa result of students’ L2 learning the experimental group may have developed superior skillswhen it comes to comparing the similarities and differences between the two languages andthat this may enable the immersion students to later increase their vocabulary (Bournot-Trites& Tellowitz, 2002; Lambert & Tucker). Contrastingly, Swain and Lapkin (1982) concludedthat L2 immersion students demonstrated a wider range of vocabulary than their peers whodid not engage in the immersion program.15

Despite the fact that Lambert and Tucker (1972) did not observe a positive effect intheir study, they did consider the possibility that students would come to experience positiveeffects as a result of further exposure to L2. This complements Swain and Lapkin’s (1982)view that L2 learning has a positive effect on L1 vocabulary. Further to this, vocabularyacquisition was not directly measured in Keckes and Papp’s (2000) study, but an increase invocabulary may be assumed as without displaying a range of vocabulary participants wouldhave been unable to use sentences of the complexity required for the researchers to establishthat L2 learning did indeed have a positive effect on L1. The combined results from thesestudies are inconclusive about the effect of L2 learning on L1 vocabulary, and this makesgeneralisation of these results to other contexts difficult, meaning that further research intothe effect of L2 learning on L1 vocabulary is required.Grammar and SyntaxIn the relevant literature the terms syntax and grammar are used inconsistently, whichhas the potential to cause some confusion. For the purposes of this literature review, the termgrammar has been identified as a broad term which encompasses sentence structure and wordformations (including verb tenses, regular and irregular plurals) as discussed in Humphrey,Droga and Feez (2012). Syntax, which refers specifically to sentence structure, falls under thebroad term of grammar.Grammar was not a key focus in Lambert and Tucker’s (1972) study and thus nospecific evidence was produced to indicate that there was either a positive or negative effectin this area on L1 grammar skills. Grammatical errors in L1 were analysed by Lambert andTucker in this study although no conclusion was made as to the effect of the L2 learning onthese. Despite the fact that the experimental groups’ education was in L2 (French), theseparticipants still spoke their L1 (English) at home so a direct connection between thelanguage of instruction and achievement in L1 could not be ascertained.16

Swain and Lapkin (1982), on the other hand, found through their study that theimmersion students were more proficient in L1 grammar than their peers who did not engagein the L2 immersion program. According to Bournot-Trites and Tellowitz (2002), this ledSwain and Lapkin to conclude that once literacy skills have been established in one languagethey are transferable to another.Keckes and Papp’s (2000) study, like that of Swain and Lapkin (1982), addressed theeffect that L2 has on L1 grammar. Keckes and Papp focused on analysing the grammaticalsubset of syntax to establish whether L2 learning had an effect on participants’ L1,concluding that L2 learning has a positive effect on L1 abilities. Keckes and Papp also notedthat the degree to which this effect is experienced by participants depends on the amount ofinstruction time in L2 (the greater the exposure to L2, the more benefit there is for L1).The findings from these studies strongly suggest that L2 learning has a positive effecton L1 grammar, thus increasing the

using the second language (Bostwick, 2011; Keckes & Papp, 2000). Second Language (L2): The second or additional language (sometimes referred to as foreign language) that students are studying at school (ACARA, 2015c). Second languages in this study include but are not limited to: Chinese, French, Indonesian, Japanese and Italian. Acronyms

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