Influences of individual differences

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Introduction: Individual differences are usually explained as different characteristics that distinguish one from another. In terms of second language acquisition this individual difference plays a very important role. Individual differences play a very much important role as it tend to influence specially in the case of acquiring second language. Learners are basically unique individuals who bring a critical set of variables to every learning scenario as well as delicate traits as indicators of their ability and also the history of achievement as signs of previous accomplishments and predictors of future performance. We all may have thought that why do some individuals nearly win the native speaker’s levels of ability during a second language whereas others never appear to progress a lot of on the far side a beginner’s level? Some second language learners create fast and apparently effortless progress whereas others progress terribly slowly.

Age: Difference in age can actually influence a learner’s L2 acquisition. This is even the most debated topic in the linguistics and educational circles. Age difference in language learning actually determines one’s learning speed, learning attainment and of course his linguistic ability. Some people believe that there is a certain time period between which acquiring second language is much easier and this is called critical period hypothesis. As we commonly hear, for children, acquiring a second language can come as second nature and almost be effortless. So, in between this period it is possible to acquire L2 to native like level. On the other hand, some of us also don not agree with this statement and believe that L2 can be acquired at any age if there’s enough motivation and adult learners proceed through the syntactic and morphological development faster. People of different ages may feel the need to learn L2 at any moment and that is fine but their age difference may affect how they will end up learning L2 as our age also determines our brain activity including lot of stuffs specially while learning a new language. Because when a learner is young his potential, goal, cognitive development will be very different from an older learner so it is quite obvious that age difference in individual is influencing the acquisition of L2.

Cognitive intelligence: Our linguistic intelligence leaves a great impact on our second language proficiency. Our linguistic intelligence is measured by verbal IQ includes proper speaking, using words, writing, giving presentations, solving word problems etc. Some people have good IQ or intelligence and some have less. On the opposite hand, some believe that intelligence could play a less important role in acquisition that focuses additional on communication and interaction. So, the person who has more ability to learn, remember, reason, solve problems, and make sound judgments would obviously acquire L2 much faster and effortlessly though it has been said that without cognitive intelligence one can acquire L2 too but my point is that is it as effortless as it is for intelligent people? So undoubtedly it is one of the most influential individual difference in terms of second language acquisition.

Aptitude: Aptitude refers to the ability to learn quickly and is thought to predict success in learning. It is hypothesized that a learner with high ability could learn with larger ease and speed. Every learner does not have learning aptitude. Some learners are blessed with learning aptitude which is actually the potential for learning language that includes also the ability to manage sounds, grammatical structures, infer rules, and memory. People with higher aptitude can understand the function of particular words in sentences and figure out grammatical rules from language samples very easily which help them in the long run of second language aptitude. So, aptitude difference in people influences our L2 learning as it determines whether someone can acquire earlier or not and how well they are performing based on their aptitude level. Every one’s aptitude level is not same and this is something we can not do anything about, this is that extra beneficial kick in the journey of second language acquisition. However, to some people performance on language aptitude tests seems irrelevant to L2 learning with the adoption of a more communicative approach to teaching. Learners’ strengths and weaknesses within the different elements could account for his or her ability to reach different types of tutorial programs. For example, 2 learners are learning through same style but one learner learnt faster than the other it is because that person has higher aptitude in learning. Those who catch music lesion faster has higher aptitude in music. This sort of individual difference leaves a great impact in L2 acquisition.|

Personality difference: Personality difference is very crucial as it influences a lot in terms of second language acquisition. There are a number of personality characteristics that may affect L2 learning, such as extroversion, introversion, lack of self-esteem, risk taking and inhibition. Each and every point mentioned here are closely linked with our personality.

As for having that proper communication skill in second language we need to communicate a lot in L2 with people surrounding us it is very important that one does not hesitate to communicate and Shyness, on the other hand, comes down to a fear or dislike of social interaction. Because lack of communication influences bad communication skill for any learner and as introverts are quite shy or do not participate in communicating tasks, people believe that for introverts it is quite difficult to get that proficiency of second language and extroverts can do better in this section as they tend to socialize a lot more. So here we can clearly see that people believe that our personality difference plays a very important role in L2 acquisition and the outcome of learning is definitely affected by one’s personality trait. It is often argued that an extroverted person is well suited to language learning. However, research does not always support this conclusion. Learners’ success in language learning is associated with extroversion such as assertiveness and adventurousness, while others have found that many successful language learners do not get high scores on measures of extroversion. To me yes of course this type of difference is very much visible and can influence the acquisition of second language but Introverts and extroverts just don't function the same as each other. As a result, trying to force an introvert to study like an extrovert or vice versa is never going to work as well as finding a learning style that's tailored to how that person learns best.

Inhibition vs risk taking: The influence of inhibition vs risk taking is also a very visible in l2 learning. As we all know risk taking is sometimes important to acquire a new language and one person’s inhibition actually discourages risk taking which is a total disadvantage. Inhibition is commonly thought of to be a specific downside for adolescents, who are a lot more self-conscious than younger learners.

On the other hand the learner who takes risk can overcome his fear and learn second language quite easily. For example, a learner does not know how to communicate in English properly or we can say that his vocabulary is very weak but he chose to give presentation in English so that he can overcome his fear and by taking risk he could judge his capability and from next time he won’t be nervous while speaking in English and this is a very important step in L2 acquisition. So, this type of quality is actually influencing one’s L2 learning.

Motivation: Motivation is a vital think about specifying the readiness of learners to speak. Motivation refers to the mixture of try and want to get the target of learning the language and fascinating attitudes towards learning the language. Our motivation is the most crucial key to acquire any L2. The person who is not motivated enough can never give the effort that is acquired for L2 acquisition. As motivation is the most used and influential concept for explaining the failure or success of a language learner so one needs to have that motivation in terms of acquiring a language that is not mother tongue. The difference in motivation among learners determines whether that person is serious enough about acquiring second language or not.

There are also differences in motivation level, such as integrative and instrumental motivation. In integrative level the learner actually wishes to learn second language for his own personal growth and cultural enrichment. For example: One person’s father is learning second language for his own growth not that he has to learn or it is compulsory for him. In instrumental motivation the learner learns L2 for his personal goal like for carrier or study purpose. For example, an employee is asked to learn L2 properly as he needs to make deals with foreign clients and that is why he has this instrumental level of motivation in order to acquire second language.

Attitude: Our attitude towards something defines how we actually see it or are we taking that matter seriously or not. If we are not serious about acquiring second langue and if our attitude towards L2 is not positive. Suppose one person does not like the concept of acquiring any second language and it seems too much of a hard work to him, he just learns just for the sake of learning then that attitude of his is influencing his L2 learning negatively. On the other hand, if someone is positive with learning L2 and has great vision and wants to learn it for better future will tend to learn more faster and his attitude is a positive influence. It is like some children dive right in and are soon paddling around the deep end. Others take their time for it, dipping a toe in the water and gradually venturing out from the shore.

Learning strategy: How one learner chose to use learning strategy shows what sort of learning strategy actually works for him. Same type of learning strategy does not work for everyone and it differs person to person. What is our purpose of learning or what type of strategy works best for us or even our age in terms of L2 acquisition are strongly influenced by our different learning strategies. Language learning designs visit psychological feature variations in learning a second language. Learners from different culture or countries can use different strategies to learn second language. For some learners it is suitable to practice in class and they tend to focus more on grammar and for some learner they need real life experiences or conversations on L2 in order to learn properly. Children learn through imitating and some like taking notes, some learn through inferencing which is guessing meanings by using available information. So what works for one might not work for another person.

Cultural Background: Finally difference in cultural background is the most influential in L2 acquisition. Cultural background is a factor which actually deals with the use of language and communication. We tend to learn more than one language for the satisfaction of communicative needs and also for our academic and professional career. Acquiring a second language requires not only practice but also the need to become familiar with the culture of target language in order to interpret intercultural communication. So, someone from village or slum would not get the view of needing to acquire second language like civilized people do. If our culture is not giving L2 priority then obviously we will not drown into L2 acquisition that much.

Anxiety: Anxiety is another factor which is closely related to inhibition and risk taking. If someone is suffering from anxiety or not determines the progress in second language learning as this is also one sort of individual difference among many learners. It comes with the emotions of uneasiness, frustration, self-doubt, apprehension, or worry. A learner’s willingness to speak has additionally been associated with anxiety. For example, in a debate competition in which the learner needs to speak in l2 got anxious and messed up his speech. So, we can say that individual anxiety can lead to unsuccessful second language acquisition. Second language learning outcomes are highly variable, due to a variety of factors and individual difference is one of them and quite important as it has great influence over L2 acquisition. Factors mentioned above are very common and we can notice these types of differences in our daily lives and if we try to notice as a learner’s view we can understand that these factors are influencing their learning progress or motive frequently.

Conclusion: It is very important to consider these factors to explain how these factors influence both the rate/success of learning and the processes involved. In this essay I tried to explain individual differences of learners which influence the second language acquisition process and outcome. The identification and classification of the various individual factors has known to be problematic. The difficulty is that it is not quite possible to observe directly these factors, specially aptitude, motivation and anxiety. Teachers can take student’s individual differences into account and create proper learning environment according to that for them as we all are different and our requirements don’t match as well as learning styles.