THE FACILITATING ROLE OF COGNITIVE ABILITY IN by shamimali

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The main objective of this study is to intensify to the current methodological debate about the use of the learners' first language in Second language class; to base the discussion on the veiled role of translation in second language learner’s classroom practices; to advocate the sensible use of bilingual dictionary in the Second language classroom.

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									THE FACILITATING ROLE OF COGNITIVE ABILITY

IN SECOND LANGUAGE READING CLASS




       THE FACILITATING ROLE OF COGNITIVE ABILITY IN

               SECOND LANGUAGE READING CLASS


AUTHOR

        Dr Shamim Ali is a Professor in the Department of English &
        Functional Courses,at National University of Modern Languages.
        She teaches English as Foreign/Second Language to Adult
        Learners at Foundation,Certificate and Diploma Level.She
        earned her Doctoral Degree in EnglishLinguistics. Her interests
        include, Language Teaching, Teaching Language through
        Literature,Adultlanguagelearning.Bilingualism,DiscourseAnalysi
        s,Assessment and Evaluation.She has designed basic reading and
        course for Fundations and Diploma level

ABSTRACT

        The main objective of this study is to intensify to the current
        methodological debate about the use of the learners' first language
        in Second language class; to base the discussion on the veiled
        role of translation in second language learner’s classroom
        practices; to advocate the sensible use of bilingual dictionary in
        the Second language classroom. The Researcher has been
        teaching English as a second language for 15 years at different
        levels. During this time, the researcher had observed students in
        both testing and non-testing situations; noting their attitude
        towards learning observing their classroom activities and the
        extent of use of bilingual dictionary throughout the learning
        process. There was need for a holistic understanding of the issues
        appurtenant to the language learning phenomenon.The intellectual
        desire for a scientific and logical explanation of the issues and
        their possible remedies, led me to carry out this research
KEY WORDS/TERMS :Fitst Language,Bilingual Dictionary,Translation

INTRODUCTION:

©Dr Shamim Ali                                                                Page 1
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       The main aim of this study was to investigate the extent of use of Cognitive ability
among second language learners in Reading class, Secondly to find out that the role of
translation and   bilingual dictionary in Second language learning process? . As previous
research in this area by eminent linguists has shown that the first language of learners can
play a useful role for learning another language, if used prudently. This caveat must be
accorded due importance. Researcher reviewed some past research in regard to the positive
role of first language in aiding L2 learning and realized that students could take advantage of
cognitive skills in their native language and transfer them to the second language. For more
than a century, most approaches to L2 instruction recognized L1’s role in learning L2.
Researcher’s experience also affirms the use of first language in classrooms as a positive
medium/tool of L1-L2 interaction. Additionally, L1 is preferred by students as a natural
choice to fill in gaps in L2 communication .However,the teachers of NUML           and policy
makers still have reservations about using L1 in L2 classrooms; objecting on the grounds
that L1 limits exposure to the target language. But there are times when use of the first
language can have a very positive effect on learning and acquisition of the second
language.L2 pedagogy has advanced beyond the days when students were passive
participants; and teachers, the sole directors of the language learning process. Throughout
decades of foreign language teaching, a recurring issue has been the role of the first language
in the classroom. A long term debate       on the practical and theoretical questions on the
significance of L1’s obvious influence on the learning of L2 persists. Corder(1985)also
does’nt deny the significance of first language in language class ,but   emphasizes to use it
selectively .He admits that learners are not slaves to their first language in learning second
language,however there are some situations where they can use it sensibly. There is indeed a
time and place in which to make use of the first language in order to smoothen the process of
acquisition of the second language, where they feel it will be helpful based on various
considerations.

       A wide range of literature is available which tells us how learners use their first
language for learning a second language. L1 is helpful to learners of L2, because it is natural
to make associations with the first language. In learning one's first language, one associates
the language and its vocabulary with concrete objects and experiences. At this early stage of
©Dr Shamim Ali                                                                Page 2
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linguistic exposure, rudimentary cognitive development limits the ability for conceptual
reasoning. In the case of second language, enhanced cognitive abilities help develop new
techniques for learning, because concepts become clearer. According to Micheal Swan
(1985),when learning his first language, the learners mind can be likened to a blank slate.
During the process of learning a second language, he utilizes knowledge of the first language
using a mind that is already enriched.In formal discussions with colleagues, the researcher
found that most teachers either fell on one side or the other of the proposition: to use or not to
use first language; adhering very strongly to their respective positions. The issue of use of
first language in the classroom created heated debates. The issue of L1 use in the ESL class
is, to a certain extent, no longer a contentious one ,Auerbach (1993) acknowledged that the
linguistic resources of students can be beneficial at all levels of ESL." Similarly, Cook (1992)
reminded teachers that whether they want it to be there or not, the L1 is ever present in the
minds of their L2 learners. However, as a teacher who had spent some time observing
language classes found this issue very exploratary. She also saw the challenges posed by the
research.

       Ali(2007)states that it is a common phenomenon that human brain has an inherent
ability to deal successfully with two or more languages therefore,it is an acknowledged fact
that bilinguals can translate both languages with notable ease in class. This ideal situation can
be achieved by providing       instruction in both languages,and       the   hardest part about
tnstructions in both languages is balancing the needs of all learners without harming any of
them. Providing quality education to all learners should be the main         focus of the second
language teaching..Typically there are two ways of behaviour have been observed                 in
language class: One method is to teach subject matter in the Second language, without
translation,as it makes the Second language learners hear and read more comprehensible
output, another way of using the first language to accelerate second language acquisition is to
provide literacy instruction in the primary language. It provides background knowledge for
learning second language,it accelerates second language acquisition but it is not applicable to
linguistically diverse classrooms "As Stephen Krashen(1985) is in the opinion of providing
optimal language input (input that is comprehensible, interesting, and of sufficient quantity)
to the students; as well as provision of opportunities for output to students .This ideal
©Dr Shamim Ali                                                                   Page 3
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situation can be achieved by providing instruction in both languages. " On the controry
Auerbach, E. (1993) was of the view If a learner has a solid educational background in the
first language, he will understand far more in a second language class than a learner without
this advantage.Auerbach views support the idea of additive bilingual environment where all
students have the opportunity to learn a second language while continuing to develop their
native language proficiency,at the same time    it steps up the process of learning.Thus both
languages copmliment each other .Vygotsky's hypothesis regarding the verbalisation of one's
inner speech when faced with problems during a task so as to gain control of the task and to
direct problem-solving strategies with the help of First language provided theoretical frame
work to my research. Vygotsky's was in the opinion that there was a tendency to resort to the
L1 when the students were faced with difficulties that hindered their comprehension. Not
only was the L1 used when the strategy of translating was employed but also in other
strategies as well. When tackling vocabulary difficulties, the L1 in the shape of bilingual
dictionary was used by the students to confirm, to reason through or to guess an unfamiliar
L2 word. And in tackling idea-related problems, the L1 was used to help verify the accuracy
of their comprehension or to check their comprehension. In a study investigating the language
of thought used in comprehending L2 texts among fifty-one students of French, Kern (1994:
455) found that mental translation during L2 reading played "an important and
multidimensional role in the L2 reading comprehension processes" of the students. However,
Kern also pointed out that translation can be unproductive when it is done in a word-by-word
fashion without integration of meaning. In general, Kern (1994: 442) suggested that teachers
and L2 learners should not view translation as "an undesirable habit to be discouraged at all
costs but, rather, an important developmental aspect of L2 comprehension processes." The
learner’s native language plays a major role in learning L2, therefore L1 can be used as a
facilitator. In using the mother tongue, the learner has freedom of expressing himself, far
better than he has expressing himself in L2. The use of first language has a positive effect on
students’ comprehension. He can also understand academic/administrative tasks and
instructions given as part of classroom routine.It reduces the time spent by teachers on such
chores. Researcher has observed that teachers are often reluctant to use L1 in class because
they feel that it will encourage the students to use their native language while working in

©Dr Shamim Ali                                                                Page 4
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groups or in pair work. Some teachers strictly forbid these exchanges. As demonstrated
above, the teachers should not consider the use of first language as a waste of time. They
should acknowledge the role of native language as a vital aid for teaching of English. The use
of first language in the second language class will develop intellectual growth, logical
reasoning prowess, development and thinking process. First language is the first known, the
most familiar and the closest of all languages to a child, and emotional constancy and
steadiness is better attained through the use of mother tongue. Mother tongue or L1, is
considered as a natural first medium in the process of socialization.. First language offers the
most meaningful system of signs, allowing greater speed and facility than a system of signs
offered by another language. First language is a necessary precondition for a child's social
development. It is through the First language that a child adjusts to the life and culture of his
social group. He can apply his first language in different social contexts. However, to
accelerate his social and economic progress and comprehensive growth as an individual; we
should     provide him opportunities to learn more languages. As parents, teachers and
educationists, we should therefore exploit L1's potential as a valuable tool for socio-cognitive
processes in language learning. Learner of a second language will have difficulty in grasping
fully the implications and concepts of what is being learnt. This problem can be overcome
with the help of first language.

The use of first language for learning of second language is indispensable to our system of
education because in Pakistan there is no uniformity in the medium of instruction. The vast
majority of schools employ Urdu as the medium of instruction. On the other hand, a
relatively smaller number of private schools use English as a medium of instruction. This
creates a clear division and stratification in our system of education. Students belonging to
affluent families attend English medium schools; those from poor families attend Urdu
medium schools. However, for college level education, English becomes the operative
language creating an enormous dilemma and challenge for teachers of English language.
Duff(1989) makes some convincing arguments about translation; characterizing it as a
language learning activity, further noting that translation can help develop three
characteristics essential for language learning: flexibility, accuracy, and clarity. . He
says:"Translation trains the learner to search (flexibility) for the most appropriate words
©Dr Shamim Ali                                                                  Page 5
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(accuracy) to convey what is meant (clarity). TheTranslation is indispensable to reading skills
classes. It means that bilingual dictionary plays an important role for acquisition of second
language .It can improve comprehension, because it encourages students to read a given
passage carefully. In addition to the intense study of vocabulary, it improves understanding
and promotes self confidence in learners. Learners use translation as a communication
strategy. It does not limit exposure to the target language. By using the first language to
translate the second, the students can overcome their language barrier. Sometimes use of L1
in the classroom becomes indispensable, as a quickly translated word not only makes the
learning process easier, it also saves time.

        It is important to discuss the language situation of Pakistan because the two
languages involved in this research are English and Urdu and both enjoy a high status in
Pakistan .The majority of population of Islamabad, the Federal Capital,             comes from
different provinces of Pakistan; with distinct and separate ethnicities and mother tongues. All
of them however, share Urdu and English as a common language. English is extensively
spoken in the country. Its presence and prominence is a tangible reality. It derives its
importance and status from two facts. First, it is Pakistan's official language. Second, it is the
most widely used medium for international communication in diverse fields: diplomacy,
commerce and higher education; science/scientific research; medicine; engineering and
engineering technology-to name a few .It is already widely acknowledged that historical and
political developments have resulted in the spread of bilingualism and multilingualism, with
many people using more than two languages in their everyday life. The situation in Pakistan,
however, is complex and differs from person to person in such a way that it cannot be
generalized . As the official language, English is widely used within the government, by the
civil service and in the armed forces. Pakistan's Constitution and laws are written in English.
Many schools and nearly all colleges and universities use English as the medium of
instruction. Urdu is the national language, the lingua franca of the people. It is widely used,
both formally and informally, for inter-personal communication; as the repository of
literature and the primary medium for literary activities; and in the popular media. It is a
required subject of study in all primary and secondary schools. It is also the medium of
instruction for all Government-run primary, middle and secondary schools. Punjabi is an
©Dr Shamim Ali                                                                   Page 6
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important regional language. It is primarily spoken in the province of Punjab, Pakistan
Pashto is spoken as a first language in the North-West Frontier Province .Balochi language is
spoken in Balochistan. Sindhi is spoken as the first language in rural areas of Sindh province.
It does not hold sway in urban areas of Sindh, because of the exceptional influence of Urdu
spoken by the mohajir population (emigrants from India at partition) of Sindh.

DESCRIPTION OF THE READING SKILLS CLASSES

       The Reading Skills classes comprise the secondary level course. It consists of five
Subjects. The listening skills, writing skills, Error analysis, Speaking, and Reading skills .The
Researcher delimited her study to reading skills classes only. The reading skills course
content is based on comprehension tasks that assess the ability of the subjects to read semi-
authentic text(s) of various kinds and to show understanding of gist, detail and text structure,
and to deduce their meaning. It also emphasizes on skimming, scanning, questions, Jumble
up stories, True/false and multiple choice questions. The Whole task involves performance of
reading in conjunction with other skills: listening, speaking, or writing. Students in small
groups read a number of texts, such as stories, timetables, or maps etc. Thus all the aspects of
reading were covered. Teachers read aloud with their students, thus serving as role models of
good reading. This level enabled students to read unfamiliar, authentic texts accurately and
efficiently, focusing on awareness of the relations between vocabulary, structure and
meaning. Teachers used visuals to support their instruction as language learners require the
presence of some context in their learning process. Using gestures, expressions and pictures
makes words and concepts concrete and connections more obvious and memorable. The
learners were encouraged to do the same as they tried to communicate meaning. Teachers
kept track of student progress and provided help and guidance where needed

ACADEMIC AREAS OF READING SKILLS

Instruction occurred in the following academic content areas:

       Reading
       Voca
								
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