Language acquisition is the process of learning a native or second language. Many people study how children learn a language, the factors that influence the process of learning a foreign language and the unique challenges facing English language learners (ELLs).
If you are looking for research paper topics in language acquisition consider these questions as ways to prompt your ideas.
How do children acquire language?
We often think that children speak a language because their parents actively taught it to them. In reality, children learn a language by listening to and repeating what is said to them. It happens automatically with or without formal teaching. Language is acquired through interaction and conversations, through cause and effect when the language is used correctly or incorrectly. Children of bilingual parents easily pick up two languages and are remarkably skilled at separating them and using each one correctly.
Other information is provided on the Linguistic Society of America’s FAQ page. For example, humans have an innate ability to use language. According to the LSA, “It’s far easier for a child to acquire language as an infant and toddler than it will be for the same child to learn, say, French in a college classroom 18 years later. Many linguists now say that a newborn’s brain is already programmed to learn language, and in fact that when a baby is born he or she already instinctively knows a lot about language.”
Consider looking at children’s innate abilities with language acquisition, early language learning in the classroom, or raising children in a bilingual environment as possible subjects to begin your research.
Factors that influence language acquisition
Another good research paper topic is to discuss the many factors that influence the acquisition of a new language. These include internal factors, such as the student’s motivation, age, gender, and attitude or bias toward the language or culture. There are also external factors, like the skill or bias of the teacher, environmental issues, and time or materials with which to learn the language.
One of the most important is classroom interaction, which depends on the relationship between the student and the teacher. In Bahman Gorjian and Reza Prorkar’s article, “The Effect of Risk Taking Strategy on EFL Learners’ Oral Proficiency” in Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods, January 1, 2017, they wrote: “Classroom interaction is indeed a complicated phenomenon. Teachers’ perceptions of the nature of language learning, of classroom activities, and of norms for classroom participation often differ from those of their students, who have a wide variety of proficiency levels, linguistic background, culturally predisposed ways of learning, and individual motivations and objectives in studying language.”
Challenges for English language learners
A good research paper topic is to discuss the challenges for teachers of ELL students. The number of ELL students enrolled in American schools was estimated to be about 10 million in 2015; that’s about one in four public school students. A majority of ELL students are native-born, three out of four are Spanish-speaking, and two-thirds are from low-income households. Due to language difficulties, their academic performance is often well below their peers. Teachers guiding these students as they learn English have unique challenges, such as teaching to a diverse group of students who are at different levels of proficiency. They are also dealing with limited resources, and may not have access to practical, research-based information.
In addition, when the No Child Left Behind Act was implemented, some states did not have a statewide assessment system in place, and no high-quality method for testing the growing number of ELL students. To help combat these problems, the National Education Association, in its policy brief, “English Language Learners Face Unique Challenges,” stated its commitment to “collaborating with many communities and many organizations on strategies to close the gaps in student achievement, reduce the dropout rate, and increase the number of high school graduates who go to and graduate from college.”
For more information, check out Questia’s library on language acquisition.
Do you have a story about your acquisition of a foreign language? Tell us in the comments.