Drawing upon one of the four Case Studies provided below, explore how the following factors
influence the learner’s L2 development:
i. similarities and differences between L1 and L2
ii. psychological factors
iii. social factors.
Then consider implications for language teaching/learning.
You must draw upon (a) the set textbook (Lightbown & Spada) and (b) at least 4 readings from
the required weekly readings of the subject. You may use further references as well, particularly
in order to undertake the linguistic analysis of the case, but close and critical reading of (a) and
(b) is essential.
(This is an individual, written task.)
Case study A.
Josefina immigrated to Australia from the Philippines with her parents when she was 2 years
old. She and her family came from a town outside Manila where most people spoke Tagalog in
their everyday work and other social activities. However, as both Filipino (which evolved from
Tagalog) and English are the official languages in the Philippines, Josefina had exposure to
English in her environment, most notably through television.
Even after migrating to Australia and settling in the western suburbs of Sydney, Josefina’s family
members continue to converse in Tagalog at home, and most members of her parents’ social
networks are from the Tagalog – speaking community who interact largely in Tagalog. Initially,
Josefina’s friends were children of her parents’ social networks who also spoke Tagalog.
However, through interactions with children from other language backgrounds and through
schooling, some of the older children in the community have developed fluency in spoken
English. Josefina could hear English spoken by some of these older children. Occasionally, one of
them would read a children’s book to the younger children in English, and teach them some of
the English words.
Josefina’s parents started work almost as soon as they arrived in Australia. Josefina’s mother is a
qualified nurse who works various shifts in a large hospital. Josefina’s father had a builder’s
certificate from the Philippines, but has had difficulties getting it recognised in Australia, and
has been doing labouring work with other Filipino workers.
Josefina is now three and a half. Since arriving in Australia, Josefina has been dropped off each
weekday morning at her aunt’s home to be looked after by the mother-in-law of Josefina’s aunt
while her parents go to work. ‘Aunty Cecilia’ has two other Filipino children, aged two and three,
who she looks after during the day. The children are indulged by Aunty Cecilia and allowed to
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play with their toys and watch as much television as they like. Aunty Cecilia does not read to
them because her eyesight has been steadily deteriorating over the last few years. However, she
enjoys telling Josefina and the other two children Filipino folk stories and teaching them
children’s songs in Tagalog.
Josefina is able to start pre-school in six months time. Her mother is keen to see Josefina in an
environment that would accelerate her English language development, and is concerned that
the nearest pre-school has a high population of Filipino children, many of whom do not seem to
be able to communicate very much in English yet. Josefina’s mother is wondering whether she
should find a different pre-school where Josefina will have no choice but to interact in English,
even if this means longer travel.
Case study B.
Carlos is 25 years old, and has been living in Sydney for about 14 years since migrating here
with his family from Chile. Members of his extended family had already been living in Sydney for
some time, and Carlos’s family found accommodation and a welcoming community of Spanishspeaking
migrants very quickly. Both parents found jobs in a factory soon after arrival, and
Carlos and his older brother Luis were enrolled in the Intensive English Centre at a high school
in western Sydney.
Carlos used to idolise his bother Luis, who is four years older than him, and who was always
popular among young women and always the ‘leader’ among his male friends. When they both
started at the IEC, Luis, who had always found academic study difficult, could not bear sitting in
IEC classes, unlike Carolos who was quite keen. But Luis quickly made friends with other young
Spanish-speaking young men, all of whom shared his dislike of school. Soon Luis was skipping
classes with his newly found friends, and getting into trouble with the school authorities, their
parents and occasionally with the police. Carlos, on the other hand, had always liked school,
especially maths and science. At the IEC, he was most switched on when the teacher was
teaching the science and maths curricula, but he managed to do well in all of his subjects, and
was transferred to the mainstream class after 12 months when he was 12.
In the mainstream classes, Carlos’s hard work initially helped him to keep up. But within six
months, his studies became increasingly disrupted by his older brother, who by that stage had
not only been thrown out of school, but thrown out of his home by his parents. Carlos who still
idolised his older brother would be asked to run errands for Luis when he should have been
doing homework. Soon Carlos found it difficult to keep up with his school work, and was seen by
his teachers as a ‘dis-engaged’ student who wasn’t ‘academically-inclined’.
In his last years of high school, Carlos was advised to pick up vocational courses, and did so in
TAFE. Over time, he completed an apprenticeship and then a Certificate 4 in Electrical Trades,
and after working for a year, he decided that he wanted to go to university and obtain a degree
in science. From his apprenticeship years and his year of full-time work, he has saved enough
money to study part-time while working part-time (and his brother is no longer placing
demands on his time, as he went back to Chile three years ago).
Although Carlos had felt very confident about starting university, given his success in his TAFE
courses, he is beginning to wonder about the emphasis made on a number of university
websites about the academic English and literacy demands of university study, and what
implications this has for his readiness to enrol in a university course.
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Case study C.
An is originally from Myanmar. Her family is from one of the Karen minority ethnic groups who
were in conflict with the military government over many decades since the end of the Second
World War. Many Karen villages were burnt down during the conflict, and many people fled
When An was only one year old, she and her family fled their home to hide and live in the forests
close to the Thai border for eight years. During that time, An and her siblings (a sister two years
younger and a brother five years younger) learned survival skills but received no formal
education. Their social contacts were limited to only a few other families who had also fled from
their village. Although An’s father would leave the forest from time to time to try to get some
provisions and information, An and the other children were never allowed to leave the forest.
Both of her parents had never been to school, and while the children were told stories and
learnt some oral histories about the Karen people, An never learned to read or write in any
language until the family arrived in a refugee camp in Thailand, close to the Thai – Burmese
border. At nine years of age, An was first introduced to schooling and literacy. She began to
learn the Roman/English alphabet and some English words and expression.
After nine months in the refugee camp, the family was accepted as refugees in Australia. This
was six months ago, and An is now ten years old, and is about to start school in an Intensive
English Centre. Although the IEC class that An is joining has several other children from refugee
backgrounds, most are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq; there are no other children from
An is very curious and enthusiastic about continuing the schooling of which she had a short
taste in the camp in Thailand, but at the same time, she and her family members are
overwhelmed by the change in material and socio-cultural environment in which they are now
living. An’s father has found work in a factory, and her mother is being encouraged to attend the
Adult Migrant English Program classes, but has not started yet. A local church group is helping
the family with some of their settlement needs, and the family has met a few other people who
arrived as refugees from Myanmar.
Case study D.
John is a 27- year old Australian primary school teacher. He was born and grew up in Sydney.
Both of his parents are second generation Greek – Australians. Although John’s parents had both
gone to ‘Greek-school’ on weekends to learn the Greek language when they were children, they
never encouraged John or his siblings to do the same. Nevertheless, John hears quite a lot of
Greek being spoken in the home and in his community, especially among older members of the
community, including some of his relatives. John had cousins and some friends who attended
weekend Greek school, but he never felt he was missing out on anything because there were
many other children of Greek ancestry who did not do anything to maintain the use of the Greek
language in their homes.
John did well in school, and found all of his schooling to be a very positive experience. This
influenced his decision to become a teacher. When he was younger, many members of his
extended family would comment on how John was very skilful in entertaining and looking after
his much younger cousins. John thinks these experiences may have influenced his decision to
choose primary school teaching as his career.
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After spending his first five years of teaching in a school on the northern beaches of Sydney,
where most of the children were from Anglo-Australian backgrounds, John recently transferred
to a position where there is a large population of children with Greek ancestry. On different
occasions he found that children would bring a variety of Greek cultural artefacts or foods to
school when there were cultural events. Some children were dropped off or picked up by their
grandparents who were interested to know that John also had Greek ancestry. Some of them
would start talking to John in Greek until they realised he did not understand. Gradually John
developed an interest in investigating his Greek heritage, and tracing his family history. There
are still some elderly relatives back in Greece who would have interesting stories to tell, but
they don’t speak English. John wants to travel to meet and hear their stories.
John did not study languages during his schooling. He attended a six-week beginning Japanese
language course before travelling to Japan with his university friends, but this is the extent of
his experience of learning a second language. He is wondering if it is possible for him to develop
enough proficiency in Greek to be able to listen to and record the family histories from his
elderly relatives in Greece. He is also wondering if he could learn enough to teach Greek in his
school, as teaching of languages other than English is being prioritised in the primary school