Changes in Language Learning Beliefs as a Result of Study Abroad

Introduction

Students travel abroad to further their studies and get further training. This is an opportunity for them to learn the second language and its culture. They acquire the second language through speaking and interacting with native speakers of the second language. The authors of the article Changes in Language Learning Beliefs as a Result of Study Abroad, Amuzie & Winke (2009), argue that student’s beliefs in learning language abroad have an impact to their second language acquisition. These beliefs are diverse and vary from one individual to another depending on individual’s perception. Variables that influence these beliefs include; the learning context in the class and the duration of time the students spend while training. Those who live longer abroad are perceived to have a many changes in beliefs of the second (p. 366).

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Amuzie & Winke (2009) aim of conducting this study is to discover the changes of learning the second language abroad and the causes of these changes in the beliefs. Students realize that learning abroad is not the same as they have already imagined and thought it would be. The learning system abroad is generally different from the home country system. Institutions of learning abroad give emphasis on teacher–student interaction on top of student’s autonomy in learning the second language. Likewise, students who have studied abroad have more changes in beliefs than those who have stayed for a short period of time (p 377).

Amuzie & Winke in their study have discussed the changing beliefs without considering the dynamic nature of humans and their uniqueness in learning languages. Students require guidance in learning the second language with a curriculum that fit their unique needs of learning. However, they are right to argue that students get disappointed when they fail to learn the second language; this is because language is best learnt through individual initiation to practice.

Summary of the article

Amuzie & Winke (2009) notes that the number of student who are studying abroad has increased with a majority taking short term courses, therefore it is important to study the changing beliefs as well as advantage to the student concerning the second language acquisition. Additionally, perceptions that students have about the second language may directly affect the student’s ability to cope with the study abroad and the outcome of the final accomplishment (p 367). Kuntz (2000) in his study describes belief as “notions about learning that individuals have acquired before receiving or giving instructions” p 67. Such beliefs indicate the students self assurance in relation to their learning ability. For instance these beliefs include the impression that the teacher will dominate the class while teaching and at the end of the course the teacher will test them.

Tanaka and Ellis (2003) concur with Amuzie & Winke that studying abroad improves an individual’s orientation and skills in the second language. The experience with the native speaker’s is beneficial. It brings a positive attitude towards learning the new language (Amuzie & Winke, 2009, p 63). There is a remarkable inspiration towards the culture and language that cause the students relate with others with confidence (p 368). Moreover, Tanaka & Ellis (2003) add that students create ideas before traveling and these ideas change when they experience a different learning with diverse tutors and a different curriculum (p 64).

Amuzie & Winke in this article point out that there lacks a standardized types of the beliefs. This is because beliefs are complex in nature; a researcher must use a specific theory to analyze these beliefs. “Cognitive psychological framework” is widely used by researchers. The framework presumes that “beliefs are like other forms of metacognitive knowledge in that they are stable, though they differ because they are value-related and tenaciously held” (Amuzie & Winke, 2009, p 368). Contrary to the framework, beliefs are subject to change as time changes.

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The article authors Amuzie &d Winke (2009) used both qualitative data in form of interviews and quantitative method in form of questionnaire. The questionnaire question purpose is to obtain “the relationship among learner beliefs study abroad and length of study abroad” (p 369). The participants were university students in language studies taking English as a second language. They were divided into two groups. The first group had stayed abroad within six months while the second group had stayed abroad for more than six months but not exceeded two years. The research instruments were used to get information concerning beliefs paying attention to preconceptions about the second language and beliefs after studying abroad. Students were given questionnaires to fill and volunteer for interview. The qualitative results were used to depict the precedence of changes in belief while the qualitative results gave reasons for the outcomes (Amuzie & Winke, 2009, p 370).

In their research Amuzie & Winke (2009) findings showed that the student’s expectation to interact with native speakers was disappointing. Most often students learning English as a second language would form own groups with students of same ethnic identity and would speak their native language. Students often related their experience in home country with the experiences in the United States. Classes are interactive and teachers allow students to develop their language skills as they monitor the student’s progress. Students realized a difference in teaching and testing which was contrary to what they anticipated (p 374). Students realized their role in learning and that their own efforts to learn the second language matter a lot besides learning in the class room.

Critique

Amuzie & Winke aim as mentioned above was to establish changing beliefs among the students studying abroad and the effect of perceptions on students after studying abroad. Their findings reveal that perceptions have changed among the students studying abroad. The teacher’s role is different in the United States as opposed to their home countries where the teacher does not interact with students during learning. Learners who take responsibility of skillfully strategizing how to acquire the second language adopt easily in the learning environment and make remarkable progress (Amuzie & Winke, 2009, p 371).

The duration of time spend in studying abroad has an impact on the students beliefs. Amuzie & Winke (2009) found out that the students who were in the second group had a greater degree of independence when it came to the second language acquisition. In addition students who advocate for independent learning tended to take courses that elongated their study and coped with the methodology of teaching (p 375). Beliefs in language learning reflected in the behavior of students during the period they study and the decisions they make concerning their study abroad. Zeng (2007) says students often prefer to get instruction from the teacher as opposed to class participation. Students shy away from answering for fear of making mistakes that will cause them to be embarrassed (Para 30).

Kuntz (2000) notes that after the Second World War students have enrolled in universities abroad to learn the second language. It is believed that students get to learn intensively because the language is used widely and by a majority of people (p 67). Contrary to Kuntz findings, Amuzie & Winke (2009) indicate that students were disappointed because there were minimal interactions with native speakers of English. Students use their first language during the study abroad with fellow first language speakers. Consequently, students become dissatisfied with the training abroad because they do not gain as much language skills as they looked forward to. Therefore, it becomes inevitable for them to change what they believe about studying abroad (p 367).

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Learning practices are different from studying abroad. According to Amuzie & Winke (2009), students reported that in their home countries the teacher plays a big role in the education. In most cases, the teacher is the reservoir of knowledge, students go for lectures to listen and take notes. This belief changes when they study abroad. The teacher in the foreign country encourages active participation in the class where students must participate in class. Class discussions and interactive learning lessons characterize the study abroad. Consequently, students beliefs change and they learn to be in charge of their own learning (p 377).

Amuzie & Winke (2009) are quick to point out that their study may have had limitations. The students who were interviewed had different reasons so study abroad besides the small sample size for the research. Furthermore, research done on the two groups may not have given precise results in comparison to research done on the same group at different times (p 376).

Stakounis and Helena (2010) argue that the use teachers can a play a role in making English language easy to learn and give activities to students that will make students use English both in class and in other contexts. Such assignments that make students speak English language as a local language (Para 1).

Beliefs are influenced by the interval period a student stays during the study abroad. The longer the student stays the more their independence in learning increases. Other variables such as learning environment and the teacher greatly affect the beliefs of the student in learning second language abroad. Zeng (2007) maintains that the teachers o language impact on the students learning. According to him the teachers’ experiences as students and as a trainer could be used to form a curriculum that would effectively assist students of English develop learning techniques that are effective (Para 3).

The use of qualitative and quantitative methods in their research meets the needs of the study which is to capture the changes in language learning belief as a result of studying abroad. Students are conversant with answering questions as well as expressing themselves in an interview. Conversely, the sample size was small.

Conclusion

Stakounis & Helena (2010) do agree with Amuzie & Winke (2009) that there is need for further research on whether these beliefs take another shape upon return (p 377). Kuntz (2000) suggest that programs could be designed to assist the students learn immensely. He further notes that students who learn from captivating and concentrated programs tend to have a remarkable change in the learning of the second language. The program could be administered in the home country or abroad (p 67).

Language learning can be successful if the student initiate their own strategies and set objectives that they should meet to improve their acquisition of the second language. Finally, students can interact with native speakers and use social network to improve their language skills.

Reference List

Amuzie, G. L. & Winke, P. (2009). Changes in Language Learning Beliefs As a Result of Study Abroad. USA: Wells Hall.

Kuntz, P. (2000). Beliefs about Language Learning: students and Their Teachers At Arabic Programs Abroad. African Issue, 28, 1/2. Web.

Stakounis, H. & Jarvis H. (2010). Speaking in social context: Issues for Pre-Sessional EAP students. TESL-EJ Journal, 14, 3.

Tanaka, K. & Ellis, R. (2003). Study-abroad, Language Proficiency, and Learner Beliefs about Language Learning. JALT Journal, 25, 1. Web.

Zeng, Z. (2007). Tensions in the Language Learning Experiences and Beliefs of Chinese Teachers of English as a Foreign Language. TESL-EJ Journal 10, 4.

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