Learning in English: Academic Language Proficiency: Acquiring Versus Learning a Second Language and its Impact on Students in the Learning Process

By Venicia Flora McGhie.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

My thesis was about learning in English at tertiary level and the language learning challenges that second and/or additional language speaking first-year students of English experience during their academic careers. The objective of this paper is to examine the notion of language proficiency as Cummins refers to it, and the distinction that Krashen make between acquiring a second/foreign language, and learning a second/foreign language. The theoretical framework for this paper is thus based on the theory of Cummins (1984, 2000) and Krashen (1982). Cummins (2000) argues that a minimum of 5 - 7 years are needed for second language learners to catch up academically, i.e. to acquire the language proficiency that is needed to succeed at tertiary level. He distinguishes between conversation proficiency (or what he used to term BICS) and academic proficiency (formerly termed CALP). Krashen (1982) makes a further distinction between acquiring versus learning a second/foreign language. It is hoped that this paper will, firstly, contribute to a better understanding of why second language speakers of English experience language learning challenges in their academic careers, and secondly, suggest ways in which these challenges could be minimized.

Keywords: First-Year, Students, Learning, Acquiring, Second Language, English, Language, Proficiency, Challenges, Strategies

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 8, pp.35-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 517.027KB).

Dr. Venicia Flora McGhie

Lecturer, Academic Development Department, EMS Faculty, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, Western Province, South Africa

I am passionate about student development and academic support, and work with first and second year students in the Economic and Management Sciences Faculty (EMS) at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa. I am also a final year PhD student and I am investigating language learning challenges that first-year, second language speaking students of English experience in EMS; as well as trying to find out what language learning strategies these students use and how we, as lecturers, could assist these students with their language learning challenges.


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