Monday, June 15, 2015

How do children best learn a second language?

Lund: Where do you learn the most English in the shortest amount of time, in Sweden or Vietnam? Swedish children are better at communicating, while Vietnamese children are better at constructing correct sentences and at understanding language rules. This was the result of a study of children 11–12 years old by doctoral student Vi Thanh Son at Lund University in Sweden. “Swedish children are more free in the classroom and communicate more in English. They have better pronunciation, know more words, and are happy to speak even about things other than their schoolwork. However, they often do not understand even basic grammatical terms such as subject and tense”.
Learning English is just as important in Sweden as it is in Vietnam, where the language is crucial to getting a job. Doctoral student Vi Thanh Son is working on a thesis on how children in the fifth grade are learning English and what they master, by studying classroom activities and having the children solve various tasks in English. So far, the results show that, in Vietnam, teachers and pupils are more controlled by predetermined lesson plans and detailed curricula. They often repeat after the teacher, and carefully follow up on the grammar they learned during their previous lesson.
“They memorise what they learn by heart and can also explain the rules of language. If you ask why it’s called ‘he knows’ instead of ‘he know’ they know why”.
The Swedish and Vietnamese children in the study are comparable in terms of English education in schools. They started learning English in the third grade and had studied English for two years at the time of the study. The difference is that the Vietnamese children receive additional private tutoring in English, while Swedish children have more contact with English outside school, through various media. The analyses are not yet completed, but the tendency appears to be that the Swedish children find it easier to communicate in English, while the Vietnamese children can describe the grammatical rules better.