Learning A New Language – Tanaka Family Case Study , Questions And Sample Answers

Tanaka Family Case Study

The Tanaka family emigrated to Canada from Tokyo 10 years ago and learned to speak English upon arrival. Machiko was 14 years old at the time and speaks English quite well, but with a bit of a Japanese accent. She also confuses “r” and “l” sounds. Her parents speak English less well than Machiko, and with a pronounced Japanese accent. But Machiko’s youngest brother Shuji was only a baby when the family arrived in Canada and speaks English perfectly, and with a native Canadian accent. He is also able to easily discriminate between “r” and “l” sounds.

Tanaka Family Case Study Questions

What does this tell us about how we acquire new languages?

Language is something that can be learnt by any human being. According to nativist theory, people are born with a certain aspect in their genes that permits them to learn language. Theorists believe that human contains language acquisition device (LAD) in the brain whose main role is to enhance language learning. This means that any human being has the ability to learn a new language, despite of age, or having knowledge of another language in the past. Based on Noam Chomsky theory of language acquisition, children are born with an inborn aptitude to learn any human language.  According to Chomsky, children must be having already imprinted linguistic structure in their mind. They therefor have language acquisition device that encodes the main grammatical structure and language principles in their mind (Kiymazarslan, 2011).

What do these differences indicate about how we develop regional accents and our ability to discriminate between different speech sounds?

Language learning is highly influenced by the environment also plays a great role in language learning. A child learns a new language from the surrounding. This explains why a child can easily manage to take the language and its accent, especially if it is the first language to learn. The rate of language learning is highly influenced by whether the learner had been exposed to another language in the past and the level of exposure. Individual exposed to another language prior to the first one are likely to get it hard to adapt the actual accent of the new language. Their new language is always influenced by the first language. The magnitude of the effect is determined by the length of exposure to the first language environment. This explains why the parents have a stronger Japanese accent in their English compared to their first child, and also why the second child can speak perfect English with Canadian accent, with clear discrimination of r and l (Gilakjani&Ahmadi, 2011).

Are there other challenges besides proper pronunciation for adults learning a new language?

Pronunciation is one of the main challenges in learning new language among the adults. However, this is not the only challenge that is experienced by adults in leaning a new language. There are other challenges that include shaping grammar in the new language. Adults are likely to struggle with grammatical structure of a new language, especially if they have grammatical issues in their native language. Another major challenge is vocabulary acquisition. It is already hard for adults to learn a new language. It therefore becomes considerably hard for them to acquire new vocabulary in the new language. This therefore requires great effort to ensure that one can easily understand the language effectively even when spoken by natives, and that one can effectively communicate with others people without being short of words (Flege, Frieda& Nozawa, 1997).

Do you think knowing two or more languages is beneficial?

We live in a multicultural world with diverse people to interact with. This means that it is very important for people to learn foreign languages, especially when a person focuses on interacting or working internationally. Learning a foreign language makes it easy for a person to fit in a new cultural environment since one can perfectly communicate with others. Lack of language proficiency in a new environment can be quite challenging and frustrating. Lack of ability to interact increases the level of isolation, and hence making it hard for anyone to cope in a new environment. It is therefore important to know more languages, especially if one opts to interact internationally.

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