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THE IMPACT OF LANGUAGE ON THE LEARNING OF PHYSICS IN SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS
- Background of the study
For many students from homes where languages other than English are spoken, learning another language (in Nigeria, the English language) can be a challenge. The time it takes to learn English may vary from students to students depending on the students’ age, motivation, personality, knowledge of the first language, and exposure to English. However, the developmental period for learning English is fairly consistent across young students. This developmental period includes four stages:
(1) The continued use of the home language,
(2) The silent or nonverbal period,
(3) Sound experimentation and use of telegraphic speech (e.g., the use of a few content words as an entire utterance such as when a students responds to “What do you want?” with comments such as “crackers,” “book,” or “airplane”) in the new language, and
(4) Productive use of the new language.
At issue is the fact that some of the behaviors that students might engage in during these developmental periods, such as studying in isolation and not speaking in either language, may be misinterpreted or mislabeled as a problem when in fact students are simply beginning to acquire the new language. Second-language learners might exhibit social interaction patterns along with limited communication abilities that are similar to those exhibited by students identified with specific language impairments or with speech impairments. Thus, it is not uncommon for many of these students to be labeled as having challenging behaviors or communication disorders when in fact they are following a fairly typical developmental path in acquiring a second language.
Some behaviors common among students beginning to acquire another language that may be misinterpreted as challenging behaviors include not talking, difficulty following directions, difficulty expressing ideas and feelings, and difficulty responding to questions consistently. For example, as students begin to acquire another language, they may go through a nonverbal period during which they begin to gather information about how to communicate with their peers and adults in the second language. During this period, students often choose not to speak, and they may isolate themselves as they take on the role of a spectator or observer. In “safe” environments (such as solitary play), some students may rehearse new words they have heard. For example, although Ms. Corinne might interpret Janelle’s tendency to keep to herself as problematic, Janelle might be watching classmates and adults and attempting to figure out how to communicate.
Additionally, some students use cognitive and social strategies to acquire a new language. One strategy used by students acquiring a new language is “pretending” to understand interactions or activities, such as large group play, when in fact they do not clearly grasp what is going on. In such situations, students may have difficulty or may be inconsistent in responding to directions given by their peers or adults.
Teachers and other caregivers should understand the process by which students learn language, whether it is their home language or a new language. It is also important that early students hood educators and other professionals gather information from a variety of sources to ensure that they have a complete picture of a students’ skill development. Teachers and other caregivers can learn from families not only about their students but also about the families’ cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds. With this understanding, caregivers will not only be able to distinguish between a challenging behavior and behaviors associated with second-language acquisition, but they also will be able to effectively support students’ overall development.
Teachers and caregivers will want to individualize instruction, because even two students from the same culture might show different patterns in learning English as a second language based on factors such as experience and personality.
It is critical that early students’ hood settings provide a supportive and safe environment in which students can use their home language and learn a new language. Teachers can develop a systematic plan to promote meaningful participation and inclusion of second-language learners in routines and activities in the classroom. To help young second-language learners, teachers and other caregivers can build upon what the students know and engage them in situations that at the beginning may not require them to give specific responses (e.g., low-demand situations). For example, Ms. Corinne might begin trying to get Janelle more involved in large group activities by having Janelle help carry materials such as books, name cards, and musical instruments to circle time. Language strategies such as pairing new words with gestures, pictures, and cues; commenting on things a students does; expanding and extending upon students’ words; and repeating what students say have been found to be effective in young students’ successful acquisition of a new language.
Some behaviors common among students beginning to acquire another language that may be misinterpreted as challenging behaviors include not talking, difficulty following directions, difficulty expressing ideas and feelings, and difficulty responding to questions consistently.
Thus, collaborating with families and other professionals, creating a supportive early students hood environment, and using evidence-based language strategies are key ingredients to helping teachers and other caregivers work effectively with second-language learners. Not only will using these strategies help in distinguishing between a challenging behavior and behaviors associated with second-language acquisition, but they will enable adults to effectively support students’ overall development.
Studies that describe the stages that young students go through as they acquire a second language have been conducted with a wide variety of ethnically and linguistically diverse students. These studies include students with disabilities and those who are typically developing. Students with disabilities include those diagnosed with developmental delays, communication disorders, and learning disabilities. Most of the studies have been conducted in center-based programs such as Head Start, university laboratory schools, and inclusive preschool classrooms.
1.2 Statement of the problem
For many students from homes where languages other than English are spoken, learning another language (in Nigeria, the English language) can be a challenge.
Assessment is the key to pinpointing a students’s strengths and needs, and then designing instructional programs that facilitate the students’ development. When assessing a second-language learning students, teachers and other caregivers should look at
(1) the students’ abilities in terms of cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development;
(2) the students’ abilities in his or her first language; and
(3) the students’ capabilities in his or her second language.
Because cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development are involved in and affected by the process of second-language acquisition, it is important to assess these areas. Knowing the students’s abilities in his or her first language is critical in gaining a complete picture of the students’ abilities, as is gathering information about how a students is progressing in the development of second-language acquisition. Similar to assessing students who are monolingual, conducting authentic performance-based assessment helps teachers and other caregivers see how a student uses language during day-to-day interactions.
1.3 Objectives of the study
1. To understand the impact of language on the learning of physics in senior secondary schools
2. To understand the relationship between language proficiency and the learning of physics in senior secondary schools
3. To find solutions to the challenges
1.4 Research Questions
1. What is the impact of language on the learning of physics in senior secondary schools?
2. Is there a relationship between language proficiency and the learning of physics in senior secondary schools?
1.5 Research Hypothesis
H0: Language does not have an impact on the learning of physics in secondary schools
H1: Language has an impact on the learning of physics in secondary schools
H0: There is no significant relationship between language and the learning of physics in secondary schools
H1: There is a significant relationship between language and the learning of physics in secondary schools
1.6 Limitations of the study
Limited time, limited funds and uncooperative responses from the respondents
1.7 Definition of terms
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