Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Language Learning Strategies of Two Indonesian Young Learners in the USA

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Language Learning Strategies of Two Indonesian Young Learners in the USA

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study attempts to discuss the English language used by Indonesian young learners who come to the US and identify their language learning strategies. Some theoretical issues in second language acquisition related to this topic are discussed and then followed by the discussion on the subjects' learning strategies and some factors related to the strategies, and the description of the subjects' language development. The two subjects are good English learners: they had "three variables" of good language learning: aptitude, motivation, and opportunity. They were bright children and they knew how to use their knowledge in learning a "new" language; they were good guessers and risk takers. They were also integratively motivated: they practiced their English; they were expressive and eager to communicate; and finally they had now a good opportunity to learn English in its natural setting. The main implication of this study is on the teaching of English to the Indonesian speakers. It is obvious that the differences between English and Indonesian sentence structures have created difficulties to the learners. A teaching syllabus based on contrastive analysis will be more realistic though only in obvious contrasting features. It should reinforce marked differences in L2, where L1 and Universal Grammar are unmarked - so as to raise learner's awareness of the new features.

Keywords: interlanguage, language learning strategy, contrastive analysis

1. Introduction

It is always amazing to see how children acquire a certain language in a relatively short time; not only how they produce sounds and combine them into thousands of words, but also how they construct those words into sentences to express their feelings and thoughts. It is more amazing to notice that all children in all cultures are also excellent second language learners; regardless of what languages they learn. Their cerebral plasticities - flexibilities in their neurological organizations within the critical periods for language acquisition - have made the mastery of those languages possible.

The languages used by Gina and Nadia - two Javanese girls who came to the United States accompanying their parents - are also very interesting. Gina (8: 6) and Nadia (7: 2) speak Javanese, their mother tongue, and Indonesian, their national language and the language of instruction in public schools in Indonesia - alternately and with ease. In addition, their parents said that they also learnt Arabic for almost a year, and took a special English class for three months before they lefttheir country. When they enrolled in elementary school in Athens, Ohio, USA, they had a new experience: they had to speak English when they were at school and had to spend eight hours a day with their American teachers and classmates.

This study attempts to discuss the English language used by the two children and identify their language learning strategies. First of all, some theoretical issues in second language acquisition related to this topic are discussed briefly, and then the method of this study is described succinctly. This section is followed by the discussions on the subjects' learning strategies and some factors related to the strategies, and the description of the subjects' language development. Finally, a conclusion and some practical implications are discussed.

2. The Issues

The notion "interlanguage" was first launched by Selinker in 1969 (Selinker, 1972; 1992). It refers to "... the systematic knowledge of a second language which is independent of both the learner's first language and the target language" (Ellis, 1985: 299). Different researchers used different terms to refer to this notion: Nemser (1971) used the term "approximate system" and Corder (1971) "idiosyncratic dialects" and "transitional competence" (Ellis, 1985: 47), and then "language-learner language" (Corder, 1978). According to Ellis, this term refers to three different concepts:

(1) to the series of interlocking systems that have been the characteristics of second language acquisition;

(2) to the system of a single stage of a language development; and

(3) to the combination of a particular native language/target language, e. …

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