Learning language is also learning culture : "how language and cultural factors affect students' differences in their acquisition of English?"

Seiko K. Meissner, School for International Training


The goal of my research was to study and understand an English as a Non-Native Language (ENNL) program offered to international students and visitors, permanent residents, refugees, and professional personnel working or training in the U.S. The program consists of courses in three sequential skill levels, Intermediate, Advanced, and Upper Advanced and offers courses in academic reading, writing, grammar, communication, and pronunciation. The major objective of the ENNL program is to assist students to achieve language skills that will enable them to transfer to American colleges and/or begin their career goals in this society. My study seeks students' connections to language and culture, including linguistic differences, learning styles, and previous learning experiences, and analyzes the linking of universal culture and its impact. The following is my research question: What language and cultural factors affect students' differences in their acquisition of English? The research process included reading published literature and conducting field research by using questionnaires and interviews with ENNL students and teachers. By comparing students' cultures and languages to the American culture and to the English language, I have learned that the students' cultures including Asian, Latin American, Russian, and Middle Eastern, and their linguistic differences affected their rates of learning English, particularly in, speaking and writing. I also learned that identifying and clarifying students' learning backgrounds has potential benefits for ENNL curricular development. The results of my research will contribute to the development of new curriculum and awareness of ethnographic studies to deal with both students and teachers' demands in their classrooms within the ENNL program at Portland Community College (PCC) and will assist in overcoming cultural and linguistic barriers in acquiring English as a global language in ENNL classrooms.