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Schumann’s theoretical article “Research on the Acculturation Model for Second Language Acquisition,” he presents a model of how acculturation, meaning the social and psychological integration of the learner with a target language group, affects second language acquisition. The model hypothesizes that the more learners acculturate to the target language group, the more proficient they will become in the target language. Schumann also provides results of research that have been conducted and evaluations of the research results on the model. The vital variable in second language acquisition is acculturation. Based on Schumann’s view, the acculturation variable can be broken down into social and affective variables. Social variables refer to language learning by groups of people. These variables include seven factors that can affect second language learning. The factors that may facilitate language learning are: enclosure (the degree of two groups sharing the same public places), congruence (the similarity between the culture of two groups), attitude (positive feelings toward each other), and length of residence (the intended length of time staying in the target-language area). The factors that prevent language learning are: social dominance pattern (second language-learning group is more powerful than the target language group), and cohesiveness (the separation of the second language-learning group from the target language group). The three integration strategies (assimilation, preservation, and adaption) can either facilitate or prevent the learning of the target
language because the contact between second language-learning group and the target language group depends on which strategies are chosen. Instead of referring to groups, affective variables refer to the language learning by individuals. These variables, influencing acculturation and second language acquisition, include: language shock, cultural shock, motivation, and ego-permeability. Language shock means that learners try to speak a second language, but they are afraid that they will be laughed at. Cultural shock means that anxiety and stress learners face in coping with new problems in a new culture. Motivation means the learner’s reasons for acquiring the second language. The motivation can be integrative (becoming part of the target language group) or instrumental (having better employment opportunities), or both. Egopermeability can induce an adult learner’s level of openness to the target language input. The discussion of social and affective factors leads to the hypothesis that second language acquisition is just one aspect of acculturation, and the more learners acculturate to the target language group, the more proficient they will become in the target language. Schumann presents the results of research conducted on the hypothesis. Four of the six studies provide counter-evidence to the Acculturation Model, and the other two support it. Schmidt (1983) presents a case study of a thirty-three-year-old-Japanese artist named Wes. He socially and psychologically integrated into English speaking community and developed a high degree of communicative competence, but not necessarily grammatical competence. The Acculturation Model would predict that he would have achieved better grammatical proficiency in his spoken language. Stauble (1981) and Kelley (1982) both used questionnaires to evaluate the social and psychological distance of foreign speakers. They both found that language proficiency was not positively
associated with the degree of acculturation. England (1982) assessed the degree of integrative motivation among eighty-four students who had received high scores on the TOEFL. England found that some of these students were anti-integrative. She concludes that integrative motivation may not be the only reason for successful second language acquisition and the claim that acculturation promoting second language acquisition is inconsistent. On the other hand, studies conducted by Kitch (1982) and Maple (1982) support the Acculturation Model. Kitch presents a case study of Mr. Diaz, an adult Spanish speaker who had one year of formal instruction in English in Mexico and had lived in the United States for nine years. Kitch found that Diaz had a high degree of language development. He seemed to have a high degree of social distance and low degree of psychological distance. Kitch suggests that psychological factors are more important than social ones. Maple’s goal was to test the hypothesis that social distance does not promote second language acquisition. One hundred and ninety Spanish students were evaluated. They completed three questionnaires on social distance. ESL proficiency was assessed based on their CELS, TOEFL scores and final course grades. Maple concludes that the findings support the hypothesis that social distance correlates negatively with second language acquisition. I am not convinced by Maple’s doctoral research on the Acculturation Model. The limitation of his research is his way of assessing ESL proficiency. He used only the subjects’ scores of CELT, TOEFL, and final course grades. Communicative proficiency and pronunciation skills should also be assessed in language proficiency. Even though these students received good scores, they may not be good at communicating the
language verbally. My friend Kevin is one of the examples. He started to learn English in middle school in China. He came to the United States at age of 21 as an international student. He took the TOEFL and passed it with a decent grade. He started Hunter College and graduated with a GPA of 3.6. Would I say that Kevin’s English is proficient because he passed all the exams and had a decent GPA? My answer is “not really” because his pronunciation and communication skills are poor. When he speaks English, people have a difficult time understanding him. For example, two or three months ago, we went to Max Brenner for lunch. The waitress asked what we wanted for drinks. I ordered my orange juice. Kevin said that he wanted “water.” The waiter did not understand him even though he said it three times. He finally gave up and just pointed to a glass of water that a customer had at the next table. Kevin also told me that the interviews he had went terribly bad because the interviewers also had difficulties understanding him. Therefore, language proficiency should not be just based on scores. I also disagree with the hypothesis that learners acquire the target language to the degree they acculturate to the target language. For instance, my cousin Tong came to the United States at age 21. He has been in this country for also 11 years and never received any formal education in the United States, except learning English for a few years in China. He still speaks fluent and grammatical English. I interviewed him a few days ago and asked him how he learned English. He thinks that one of the main reasons is that he watches a lot of American and Chinese TV shows. He occasionally speaks English to his customers, but most of the time, he speaks Chinese. He only speaks English to my other cousins when they speak English to him. Tong also told me that he has no intention of going to college or using English in professional settings because he is happy to work for
the laundro-mat business his family owns. My cousin is also an example of the counterevidence to the hypothesis. Ironically, even though I have almost eight years of formal instruction in English in the United States, my cousin’s communicative and pronunciation skills are far better than mine. I have more English speaking friends than he does, and I also have the intention of being an ESL teacher and speaking standard English to my students. Based on the model hypothesis, I should have acquired the target language far better than my cousin, Tong. However, this is not true in real life. He can articulate his thoughts and express himself almost effortlessly, but I can’t. Something that is really surprising is that he knows how to flap the phoneme /t/ in words, like “water” and “cutting” even though he has never been taught. Based on my personal experience, I don’t think there is a big correlation between acculturation and second language acquisition. At the end, the author concludes that there is no ultimate answer to the above hypothesis. However, the research has provided us with some understanding of the relationship between acculturation and second language acquisition in different contact settings.
Word Cited Schumann, John H. "Extending the Scope of the Acculturaiton/ Pidginization Model to Include Cognition." (1990): Print.
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