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Culture and Second Language Acquisition

Critical analysis of the literature

Culture and SLA

The relationship between language and culture can not be clearly defined, though different disciplines have tried to define their similarity and difference. For instance, a second language (L2) acquisition should be structured to incorporate a cultural environment for it to be effective. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) should be structured in both cultural and local context to make it more effective for all students who have a completely different culture. According to Cumming (2004) English is a digital language while Japanese is an analog language. Thus, this can be a good illustration as to why culture and local contest should be incorporated into the curriculum to avoid wasting time while trying to learn and cope with what the new language culture entails (Cumming, 2004)

To understand how learners acquire a second language the first step is to understand the word ‘acquisition’ though there isn’t a clear definition of the word. Knowledge is a combination of both acquiring and learning. Acquisition can be defined as “picking up” a language, studying it or language exposure (Condon, 1982). Knowledge in a language is also the ability to acquire a language for the first time, this means a student can only be said to have acquired a language if the language is not his or her primary language or first language. Whatever definition philosophers and researchers give to language acquisition, they all revolve around the ability to use the language in actual practice rather than academics. Second language acquisition and ability to apply the language in actual practice has increased the desire to enhance culture and local attributes to language acquisition.

To better analyze this topic the article gives an illustration of the complexity surrounding Japanese trying to learn English as their second language. According to Tarone (1994), improvements have been noted on the ability of Japanese to learn the English language due to manifesting different teaching styles to improve the entire learning process. Compared to Spanish and French language speakers, Japanese find it more difficult to acquire the English language. This is because Japanese extent too much surpasses difficulties arising from typological differences that revolve around the English and Japanese culture. To better improve ability of Japanese to learn English language Japanese native teachers should teach Japanese learners of English, and English native teachers should teach English native learners of Japanese. This can greatly assist in reducing the time Japanese student will take to learn English as they will not have to adapt to the “new culture of communication” and the “way of teaching” (Tarone, 1994).

Application of recommendations to a practical teaching context

As earlier discussed second language (L2) acquisition requires an incorporation of culture and local aspects for it to be easily implemented. Students take a lot of time trying to learn or cope with the culture of their new language, for instance while learning English as a second language, Japanese students will find it difficult to adjust to digital learning since they are used to a analog method of learning. The main problem as stated by Johnson (1992) when it comes to second language acquisition is with the teaching methods. In today learning methods, an academic atmosphere is what most tutors try to achieve, they like to make learning a very serious activity assuming that it is the only way for the students to concentrate and take it seriously. However, this theory needs to be wiped out because it does not only make students lose the desire to understand the actual concept relating to a new concept but also prolong the time taken for then to acquire the knowledge required. With that, we can confidently say; learning methods and specifically teaching students a second language requires actual practice and not entirely an academic set up (Johnson, 1992).

Teaching context irrespective of institutional level or learners requires active participation of both learners and tutors. By making the two parties too distinct only makes learning more difficult since both parties hardly know the likes and dislikes of the other. For instance, tutors need to understand his or her students’ weaknesses, areas of motivation and besides their preferred method of study. However, tutors should pay attention to the type and level of students before designing a learning method. To understand the analysis better relating to learning methods we can pay attention to high school students who are beginner language learners. To most high school students are beginner language learners thus they require more time and more practice. High school students will tend to understand better when a new concept in stated or mentioned by word of mouth than when written. For these reason learning a second language to high school students should also include major discussion sections and more practice. Further, high school students may lack the skill quickly cope with new language culture thus taking more time to adjust from their primary language influence. This can be solved by ensuring that the second language culture is related to their primary language (Hidasi, 1998).

To achieve desired result in second language acquisition, time issues can be solved by ensuring the tutors have the same primary language as the students. For instance, a Japanese teacher who has learnt English and best be suited to teach Japanese student the English language. This move will not only assist to reduce the struggle that students have to face when struggling to learn the culture of the new language since the tutor will easily try to relate the two cultures. In addition, using tutors with same primary languages as the students will also motivate students; it will be easier for them to see that it’s possible to fluently speak the second language. Basically, a proper ‘L2’ teaching method should be informal; frequent actual practice and discussions will assist in building confidence to the students especially with college English besides, continuous written exercises to assist in building proper spelling and punctuation (Powell & Anderson, 1994).

This teaching approach will be appropriate to the learning context and learning need because it assists in reducing time required to learn a new concept by reducing the cultural differences. Further, the teaching approach will assist in motivating students, research has shown that motivation assist preventing any serious problem that manifest between teachers and students.


Condon, E. (1982). Cross-Cultural interference Affecting Teacher- Pupil Communication: Intercultural communication. Belmont: Wadsworth.

Cumming, A. (2004). Alternatives in TESOL research: Descriptive, interpretive, and ideological orientation. TESOL Quarterly 28, 673-703.

Hidasi, J. (1998). Fuzzy Logic in Communication- The Japanese Case. Nyelv-stilus Irodalon, Budapest: ELTE, 245-250.

Johnoson, M. (1992). Approaches to research in second language learning. New York: Longman.

Powell, G., & Anderson J. (1994). Culture and Classroom communication, Belmont: Wadsworth, 322-331.

Tarone, E. (1994). Analysis of learner language: Alternative in TESOL research. TESOL Quarterly Special Issue, 28, 676-678


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