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Numer: 1064
Dział: Języki obce

Crucial factors affecting a foreign language acquisition

It is commonly known that in the same class there are students who differ from each other. Learning a foreign language is conditioned by things such as students’ environment and their individual features.
As far as students’ environment is concerned, Hanna Komorowska states that in the same class there are people who come from different families, this can make learning easier or difficult for students. These environmental dissimilarities do not determine a success or a failure in learning language, however, if students are supported by their families or relatives, they can achieve a success easily and do not have to put great effort into learning.
Some people are better at learning languages than others. Acquisition of a foreign language is affected very much by individual differences. These dissimilarities are related to factors such as:
• age
• sex
• intelligence
• lateralization
• modality
• memory
• personality
• motivation
• attitudes and learning styles.
There are a number of commonly held beliefs about the age of learners. Some people say that children learn languages faster than adults do. It appears that children pick up a new language effortlessly. Hanna Komorowska is also for starting learning languages early but after acquiring the first language.
Sex is a factor that contrasts people’s behaviour considerably, including students who learn a foreign language. What is more, a man’s brain is built a bit different than a woman’s brain. Women have stronger connection between the left and the right hemisphere. Because the left hemisphere is responsible for speech (language) and the right hemisphere is responsible for emotions and movement, it is not out of the question that these differences may come out during the process of learning a foreign language.
Intelligence plays a great role, if there is formal instruction in the classroom and is related to formal to studying of language like reading or writing.
As for lateralization, it determines left-handedness or right-handedness of people. It has got an immediate impact on the process of learning a foreign language. Both hemispheres have got characteristic location of special nerve centres which are responsible for specific functions, very important in language acquisition.
Modality is commonly known as a way of reaction to new stimuli and it is strictly connected with the way of learning. Hanna Komorowska lists three types of modality: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. She also mentions that it is a changeable factor. Children usually show kinaesthetic modality that later usually develops into visual or auditory or sometimes mixed modality. It may happen that kinaesthetic modality does not change at all.
Learning a foreign language depends on memory to a large extent. There are two kinds of memory: mechanic and logical. The first one is typical of children whereas the second one starts to dominate at age of 13.
Janusz Arabski emphasises that in developing speaking skills extroversion is a desired feature, so extraverts learn to speak faster and better than introverts. Taking a risk in learning is a very important activity. Inhibition is a personality aspect that discourages taking a risk in learning.
Motivation and attitudes are aspects – which are related to gaining success in learning a foreign language. This process ‘‘can be a source of enrichment or a source of resentment” for learners depending on their attitudes. Motivation is often affected by relationship among the language being learned, the mother tongue and the social dynamic of them. Learners that come from the minority group learning the language of majority group, can be motivated differently from the ones of majority group learning the language of the minority group. Positive attitude is quite necessary but not sufficient to achieve success in language learning.
Other factors crucial to learners are learning styles. Student have got their own ways of getting to know new things. These ways are called cognitive styles, the most important appears to be the thinking style.
According to Hanna Komorowska in most cases – with the exception of motivation and attitudes, teachers do not have possibility to influence students’ individual characteristics. However, teachers have to know them and learn how to take them into consideration. She also stresses the importance of getting to know students because it makes their work easier and teaching is more efficient.

ARABSKI J Przyswajanie Języka Obcego I Pamięć Werbalna, Śląsk 1997
HARMER J. The Practice of English Language Teaching, Longman 2001
KOMOROWSKA H. Metodyka Nauczania Języków Obcych, Fraszka Edukacyjna 2004
LIGHTBOWN P.M. SPADA N. How Languages Are Learned Oxford University Press 1999

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