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Second Language Acquisition - Oral Narrative - Assessment Answer

December 05, 2018
Author : Sara Lanning

Solution Code: 1AJEC

Question: Second Language Acquisition

This assignment is related to ” Second Language Acquisition” and experts at My Assignment Services AU successfully delivered HD quality work within the given deadline.

Second Language Acquisition

Case Scenario/ Task

Language development over time: analysis of an individual at 4 times

Assignment information:

  • You will analyse transcripts of oral data from Spanish learner of English at 4 times.
  • You have to talk about vocabulary acquisition which in this case there are nouns but you can see the list of words the learner uses from time to time.
  • Task for the learner: The oral narrative task was elicited from a series of six pictures at which the subjects could freely look before and while they were telling the story in the presence of the researcher. In the story there are two main protagonists, a boy and a girl, who are getting ready for a picnic; a secondary character, their mother; and a character that disappears and later reappears, a dog that gets into the food basket and eats the children's sandwiches. The task is the same at all time points.

Information for question

The male Spanish learner of English started learning English at age 8. He was recorded at 4 times:

  • Time 1 = After 200 hours of instruction, age 11 years 9 months
  • Time 2 = after 416 hours of instruction, age 12 years 9 months
  • Time 3 = after 726 hours of instruction, age 16 years 9 months
  • Time 4 = after 826 hours of instruction, age 17 years 9 months

Information about the learner

The student was instructed in a typical foreign language classroom in Spain. They generally take a communicative approach.


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Solution: Second Language Acquisition

Recent studies in the field of second language learning have put a major emphasis on the previously ignored area of vocabulary acquisition. A sound knowledge of vocabulary in a second language facilitates language use and sharpens other lexical skills in the concerned language. However, vocabulary building in the second language comes with continued interaction and exposure, often taking years to build up. This essay seeks to analyse the vocabulary acquisition in case of a Second Language Learner of English with a Spanish mother-tongue. The learner was recorded four times in a time span of six years. In the overview of Stages of development, the investigator will present a synopsis of the learner’s vocabulary growth over these four stages. An evaluation of the possible first language (L1) transfer will also be done with respect to the learner’s age. In the analysis section of the essay, the investigator will evaluate the data available from the transcripts of the learner’s recorded interactions. The mean length of utterance of the speaker will be calculated across these four stages, and the use of graphs and tables will be made to demonstrate the procured data efficiently. Lastly, the conclusion section will assess the major findings from the data analysis.

Overview of Stages of Development

The learner, who was studied for this research was a male person with a Spanish mother tongue. He began his second language learning of English in a Spanish school at the age of eight. The Foreign Language classroom that he was enrolled in followed a communicative approach to teaching.

The investigator recorded this second language acquisition of the learner at four different points of his life through a simple oral narrative task (Moskovsky et al. 2013, p.42). The investigator kept the task same at all the four points of time, which spanned across six years. The task involved the learner in reading out a story to the investigator by looking at six pictures. The vocabulary acquisition and formation mostly consisted of nouns. The investigator implemented the theory of Vocabulary development through Context by using this method. The employment of visual presentations, like pictures, in this case, aid facilitate the development of vocabulary, as also claimed by Ajideh et al. (2013) in their research work on motivational strategies, task effectiveness and incidental acquisition of second language vocabulary (Granena, 2013, p.686). As the male learner saw the pictorial representations of everyday objects before him, it became easier for him to identify, relate, and draw words like ‘bread’, ‘butter’, ‘mountain’, and ‘tree’ from his mental lexicon of the second language (L2) (Ortega, 2014). An overview of the findings across these different stages is presented below.

Time 1:

When the learner was recorded for the first time, he was 11 years and 9 months old. This refers to the fact that he had already received 200 hours of instruction. The learner uttered a total number of 16 sentences during this recording. There are numerous repetitions at this stage, and the learner employs a number of Spanish words during the recording. Moreover, there are numerous instances of prompting by the investigator, and the recording is filled with instances of pauses and training off. The learner manages to utter a number of nouns by looking at the pictures, such as, ‘dog’, stick’, ‘map’, etc (Madeira, 2016, p.581). There are no complete sentences, but the learner does try uttering phrases such as ‘good look at the map’. Some words like ‘map’ were highly accented. There was one instance where the learner did not utter anything in spite of promptings from the investigator.

Time 2: The second recording took place at a one-year’s interval from the first one. By this time, the learner was 12 years and 9 months old and had received 416 hours of instruction in English. In this stage, there are occurrences of the learner trailing off, not speaking at all in spite of promptings, and saying things ‘I don’t know’ in Catalan for questions he could not answer (Gass, 2013, p.84). There are more instances of limitations compared to the earlier stage.

Time 3: The third recording took place after a time gap of nearly 4 years from the last recording. The learner had turned 16 years and 9 months old by the time and had been exposed to 726 hours of instructions in English. The age gap and the increased hours of instruction are clearly apparent in the transcript, as a growth in the learner’s vocabulary is noticed. There are lesser promptings from the investigator’s end, and the learner is reported to speak more words. The phrases are longer, and use of newer words like ‘surprised’ and ‘mother’ are observed (Ellis, 2012, p.19). The learner seems more comfortable with the use of English compared to the previous stages.

Time 4: The fourth and final recording took place after one year from the last recording. By this time, the learner was 17 years and 9 months old and had received 826 hours of instructions in English. The phrases are longer, though the inappropriate use of pronouns can be seen as exemplified in ‘this family are preparing his breakfast’ (Lantolf et al. 2015, p.215). This is one of the L1 transfers. The other possible L1 transfers in these stages can be seen in the mispronunciation, incorrect use of pronouns, and badly framed sentences.


Time 1: The learner in this recording uttered a total number of 16 sentences. The total number of English words employed was twenty-one. The investigator is excluding expressions like ‘hmm’, ‘ah’ from the calculations. Repeated words, however, have been included.

Graph 1

Based on these calculations, one can measure the mean length of utterance of this child. The linguistic productivity of children is usually analysed using MLU or Mean Length of Utterance, as also remarked by Jegerski & VanPatten (2013) in their study. The mean length of utterance for ‘time 1’ is 1.3125

Time 2: In the second recording, a total number of 16 sentences were uttered by the learner. In these sixteen sentences, the total number of English words uttered amounted to twenty. There were too many Spanish and Catalan words in this recording.

Graph 2

Based on these findings, the mean length of utterance of the learner for ‘time 2’ is 1.25.

Time 3: In ‘time 3’, a total number of 17 sentences were uttered by the investigator. In these 17 sentences, the total number of English words was 90 (Birdsong, D., (2014, p.46). This is a great improvement from the previous recordings.

Graph 3

Based on these calculations, the mean length of utterance of the speaker in case of ‘time 3’ is 5.29.

Time 4: In the last and final recording, the total number of sentences uttered by the learner was 15, but the number of English words uttered by him amounted to 128.

Graph 4

The mean length of utterance of the learner for ‘time 4’, then, is 8.53.

On comparing all the mean lengths of utterances in the four points of time, we can see that, while there was not much growth from stage 1 to stage 2, there was a massive leap of growth in stage 3, which continued to stage 4.

The higher the number of MLU, the better is the language proficiency of the learner in the language. The initial decrease in the mean length of utterance from Time 1 (1.31) to Time 2 (1.25) can be attributed to the early problems of lexical development among L2 learners due to lesser speech perception and restricted phonological awareness in the second language. As highlighted by Nicolay & Poncelet (2013) in their research on second language acquisition, such ‘regressions’ in the early phases of language acquisition and vocabulary acquisition are not uncommon. The leap from Time 2 to Time 3(5.29) is quite substantial. This can be attributed to the commonness and familiarity in phonological awareness and speech perception due to a relatively greater period of exposure (Sauro, 2012). Again, the leap from Time 3 to Time 4 can be attributed to a similar trend of increasing familiarity, exposure, and awareness.


Understanding language acquisition is often a window to the cognition of the individual. Vocabulary acquisition in second language learning is a rather complex yet fascinating part of second language acquisition studies. It was quite enriching to see the development of English vocabulary in Spanish speakers across the time span of six years. The gradual improvements at the level of pronunciation implied the growing familiarity with the sounds of the foreign language. The investigator was greatly restricted in this study to the mere acquisition of ‘nouns', and perhaps, a few basic propositions. The learner also continued to utter Spanish and Catalan words all through the recording, using it to bridge the gaps in the acquisition of L1.


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