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Family influence on children's second language literacy building: A case study of Korean families

Dissertation
Author: Hak-Sun Han
Abstract:
This qualitative case study aims to explore the effects of family influence on children's second language acquisition (SLA) by investigating Korean parents' perspectives on early English education and their strategies for the children's second language literacy building, both in Korea and in the U.S. The data collection depended primarily on interviews and observation. For the triangulation of this data collection, children's artifacts were also analyzed. I applied triangulation to the development of a theoretical framework. I studied socio-cultural theory, input theory, and the critical period hypothesis to support parents' arguments and perspectives on their children's SLA. The result showed a very positive relationship between family influence and the children's SLA when the parental influence started very early (since infancy) and was consistent. Among strategies employed by parents, mother-child reading of English books was indicated the most effective. For older children who arrived during secondary school, background knowledge in various fields provided support for their academic success, and knowledge in English grammar and structures facilitated their spoken English in the U.S. The study also included children exposed to two or three years of English since elementary school in Korea via private language institutes or worksheets, and those who did not have that exposure. The result showed that both groups had similar difficulties in speaking and listening in the U.S. for the initial six months to a year. The children who arrived in the U.S. before elementary school showed fluency in speaking within a year without any exposure to English in Korea. The children who arrived in the U.S. right before their puberty showed two different results: (1) active and social children showed fluency in English after overcoming their initial language barrier, but (2) quiet and unsocial children did not show fluency in English after two more years in the U.S. which did not show a strong relationship with their academics. Finally, this study calls for a shift of perspectives on second language learners who lack fluency in speaking, from deficient and handicapped L2 learners to multi-competent language users.

viii TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter Page

One INTRODUCTION.....................................................................1

My Experience regarding English...........................................1 Perspectives, Practices, and Experiences regarding My Children’s SLA........................................................................2 Koreans’ Perspectives on Early English Education.................5 Korean People’s General Views on Early English Education...........................................................................8 Parental Strategies for L1 and L2 Literacy.......................16 Background and Research Questions...................................18 Purpose of the Study.............................................................21 Significance of the Study.......................................................23 Terminology of the Study......................................................27 Second Language............................................................27 Second Language Acquisition and Learning...................27 Second Language Literacy..............................................28 Family Influence...............................................................29 Socio-Cultural Theory......................................................29

Two REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE.................................31

English as a Global Language..............................................31 The Number of Students Leaving Korea to Study Abroad....33 Comparision of the Cost of Study Abroad to Total Travel Cost.......................................................................................36 The Number of Korean Students in the U.S..........................38 Rationale for the Sharp Increase in the Number of Korean Students in the U.S...............................................................39 Theoretical Framework.........................................................41 Theories Supporting Parental Perspectives on English...43 Variables Affecting Children’s SLA..................................54 L2 Learners not as Deficient, but as Multi-competent......56 Studies on the Effect of Age for SLA...............................58 Studies on the Effect of Input for SLA..............................65 Socio-Cultural Perspectives on Literacy Building..................70 The Origin of Socio-Cultural Theory................................70 Socio-Cultural Theory and Language Learning...............73 Vygotskian Perspectives on Literacy Building.................75 Bakhtinian Perspectives on Literacy Building..................87 Beyond Dichotomy toward Unity...........................................90 Problems of Dichotomy....................................................90

ix Chapte Page

Debates...........................................................................92 Multiple Theories.............................................................94 Studies on the Effect of Individual Variation for SLA.............95 Rationale for Consideration of Variation..........................95 Motivation, Aptitude, and Attitude....................................96 Other Factors...................................................................98 Studies on the Influence of Background Knowledge...........100 Children’s Education in Korea.......................................100 Overviews on Studies of Korean L2 Learners...............101 The Effect of L1 Background Knowledge on L2 Literacy..........................................................................102 Studies on the Post-Method Perspective on SLA...............104 The Birth of Process......................................................104 Process and Its Problem................................................105 The Birth of Post-Process..............................................106 Postprocess and Vygotskian Socio-Cognitive Theory...108 L2 Learners’ Position in Postprocess.............................109

Three RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS..............................113

Introduction.........................................................................113 Research Questions............................................................116 Discussion of Research Types............................................117 Comparison of Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods.........................................................................117 Rationale for Qualitative Research................................119 Rationale for Ethnographic Research............................122 Protection of Human Subjects.............................................124 Participants.........................................................................126 Method of Participant Selection.....................................126 Setting of the Research.................................................126 Population of the Research...........................................127 The Stance of the Researcher............................................129 Methods for Data Collection................................................130 Semi-structured Interviews............................................130 Questionnaire for Demographic Survey.........................132 In-depth Individual Interview..........................................133 Focus Group Interview...................................................133 Participant Observation.................................................135 Studies of Children’s Written Artifacts............................137 Methods of Data Analysis...................................................137 Data Management.........................................................137 Process of Data Analysis...............................................138 Data Interpretation.........................................................139

x Chapter Page

Four DATA ANALYSIS................................................................141

Introduction.........................................................................141 Procedure of Data Analysis.................................................142 Categories for Family Influence.....................................143 Categories for General Issues regarding Children’s Language Development.................................................143 Demographic Information of Each Family...........................144 Data Analysis by Category..................................................146 Category I: Parent-Child Interaction through Reading Books..............................................................147 Category II: Parent-Child Interaction through Direct Instruction............................................................175 Category III: Parent-Child Interaction through Audio-Visual Tools.........................................................193 Category IV: Parent-Child Interaction through Utilization of External Facilities......................................205 Category V: Parent-Child Interaction through Socialization and Acculturation......................................216 Category VI: Perspectives on Early English Education.......................................................................228 Category VII: Background Knowledge...........................242 Category VIII: Children’s Personal Characteristics and Language Aptitude.........................................................254 Category IX: American Community, School System, and Adaptation.....................................................................263 Category X: Identity, Motivation, and Retention of English...........................................................................273 Data Comparison................................................................284 Category 1: Parent-Child Interaction through Reading Books..............................................................285 Category II: Parent-Child Interaction through Direct Instruction............................................................287 Category III: Parent-Child Interaction through Audio-Visual Tools.........................................................289 Category IV: Parent-Child Interaction through Utilization of External Facilities......................................291 Category V: Parent-Child Interaction through Socialization and Acculturation......................................293 Category VI: Perspectives on Early English Education.......................................................................295 Category VII: Background Knowledge...........................297

xi Chapter Page

Category VIII: Children’s Personal Characteristics and Language Aptitude.........................................................301 Category IX: American Community, School system, and Adaptation.....................................................................307 Category X: Identity, Motivation, and Retention of English...........................................................................309

Five FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION...........................................312

Research Findings..............................................................312 Discussion...........................................................................332 The Influence of Age on L2 Literacy..............................332 Family Influence on Children’s L1 and L2 Literacy........336 The Influence of Background Knowledge on L2 Literacy.....................................................................338 The Influence of Personality on L2 Literacy...................340 How Should L2 Learners Be Perceived by TESOL Scholars and Educators as well as How Should They View Themselves?.................................................................342 Limitations of the Study.......................................................347 Limitations of Population................................................347 Limitation of Observation Sites......................................348 Limitation of Methodology..............................................349 Reflections on the Research...............................................350 Conclusion..........................................................................353

REFERENCES.................................................................................................354

APPENDICES..................................................................................................378

Appendix A – Informed Consent Form (English).....................................378 Appendix B – Informed Consent Form (Korean)......................................382 Appendix C – Questionnaire for Family Demographics...........................386 Appendix D – Questions for Individual Interviews (English).....................387 Appendix E – Questions for Individual Interviews (Korean).....................390 Appendix F – Questions for Individual Interviews for Children (English).394 Appendix G – Questions for Individual Interviews for Children (Korean).396 Appendix H – Questions for Group Interview (English)...........................398 Appendix I – Questions for Group Interview (Korean)...........................399

xii LIST OF TABLES

Table Page

1 The Development of Early Study Abroad.................................................36

2 Monitary Ratio of Studying Abroad within the Total Travel......................37

3 Demographic Information of Each Family..............................................145

4 Summary of Data Description for Category I: Parent-Child Interaction through Reading Books.........................................................................174

5 Summary of Data Description for Category II: Parent-Child Interaction through Direct Instruction.......................................................................192

6 Summary of Data Description for Category III: Parent-Child Interaction through Audio-Visual Tools....................................................................204

7 Summary of Data Description for Category IV: Parent-Child Interaction through Utilization of External Facilities.................................................215

8 Summary of Data Description for Category V: Parent-Child Interaction through Socialization and Acculturation.................................................227

9 Summary of Data Description for Category VI: Perspectives on Early English Education..................................................................................242

10 Summary of Data Description for Category VII: Background Knowledge.............................................................................................253

11 Summary of Data Description for Category VIII: Children’s Personal Characteristics and Language Aptitude.................................................262

12 Summary of Data Description for Category IX: American Community, School System, and Adaptation.............................................................273

13 Summary of Data Description for Category X: Identity, Motivation, and Retention of English...............................................................................284

14 Pseudonyms of Participant Children in Each Family.............................285

15 The Comparison of Children’s Written Artifacts.....................................304

xiii LIST OF FIGURES

Figures Page

1 The number of students leaving Korea to study abroad..........................34

2 The number of international students in the U.S......................................39

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION Since the present study was inspired by my own and my sons’ experiences as second language learners, I will cover my story in some detail in Chapter I to help with the understanding of the Korean socio-cultural setting with regard to a second language (English). My autobiographical narrative stories might also help the audience understand why I chose the topic and developed the research questions for the current study.

My Experience regarding English I was born in Korea. I was exposed to English as soon as I entered middle school in 1976 and then studied English for six years until I graduated from high school. During those periods, I had never taken any private English lessons outside school until I entered the university. I was taught by English teachers who adhered to traditional ways of instruction such as repetition and pattern drills. English teachers barely spoke English while teaching students. In addition, there were few native English speakers inside and outside schools in my town. I was taught English in a typical EFL (English as a Foreign Language) setting. I majored in English Education at the national university. Contrary to my expectation, the educational environments of the national university were not much different from those of middle schools and high schools in those days. Most courses consisted of education and English literature. Just a few native English speakers were allotted to the whole student body (over 300 in our 1

2 department), which meant that we had few opportunities to take English courses conducted only in English. To make up for the low quality of English conversation and listening, some students registered for courses in private language institutes outside college. Others went to the American army base in the city to take private lessons from the soldiers’ wives. My friends and I took English conversation lessons from one of them for a couple of months. As soon as I graduated from the university, I became an English teacher. Since then, I have taught English for almost fifteen years in public and private middle schools and high schools, and in a university and a college as an instructor. The more experienced I became as an English teacher, the more I felt the limitations of English knowledge and ways of instruction. Especially when I lectured at the university, I indeed felt the necessity of something refreshingly new to make my students more aware and stimulated. In my forties, I made up my mind to study abroad. I had two reasons for this decision. First, I hoped that study abroad would satisfy my academic thirst and help overcome my limitations as an English educator. Second, I did not want my two sons to tread the same road that I had regarding second language acquisition (SLA). I wanted them to acquire the mood and culture of English as well as the linguistic forms in a natural setting of the host country.

Perspectives, Practices, and Experiences regarding My Children’s SLA Before I came to the U.S., I had two strong beliefs regarding SLA: (1) Children can acquire a second language in the same way that they acquire their

3 first language and (2) The earlier they are exposed to English, the more naturally and rapidly they acquire it. Without any theoretical background of SLA, I educated my sons following my beliefs in Korea. When we arrived in the U.S., my older son was 14 years old and my younger son was nine years old. I paid more attention and exerted more effort toward my older son’s English in Korea. Right before we came to the U.S., he took an English grammar lesson instructed by me at the university language institute. Before taking my lesson, he had often taken English lessons for conversation and grammar with his peers or older students at home by me. However, I paid little attention to my younger son’s English except for the English alphabet. I had two reasons for this. First, I wanted him to acquire a native-like accent without any involvement by non-native English speakers. Second, I strongly believed that younger children would be able to acquire English for their daily communication within six months once they were exposed to the mainstream culture. Many stories from parents whose children had been to elementary school in the host countries were enough to support my beliefs. In 2004, when my doctoral coursework had just started, I experienced extremes of both happiness and frustration regarding my sons’ SLA. I was extremely happy when my older son adapted to the American school and showed high achievement at school as a ninth grader. His successful achievement and quick adaptation were beyond my expectation. I remember the first day that I took him to the American middle school. I could not resist tears when I had to leave the school following the advisor’s encouragement that he

4 would be fine. I was so worried about him because he was very introspective and his English speaking was not so good. However, in my younger son’s case, I left the elementary school smiling and feeling relieved. This was because he was young and relatively outgoing compared with his brother. I was convinced that he would easily enter the mainstream because he was young, although he did not have any knowledge of English except for the English alphabet. However, within a month, I realized that my two sons were exhibiting results contrary to my expectations. My older son could speak English within a month and had little difficulty at school. However, it took almost a month for my younger son to even say ‘hi.’ He refused to speak English to his peers and to his teachers. I believed that he would be able to greet in English within a few days and to speak simple English with his peers within a month. However, the two boys’ responses to English contradicted my expectation. I conducted a small-scale study in the fall of 2004 about the phenomena that my older son showed. The study indicated that for my older son, his background knowledge in all subjects that he had studied in Korea, along with his grammatical knowledge of English, functioned as a facilitating factor. I compared his school records in the U.S. and those in Korea. Regarding the subjects that he had learned in Korea and was studying in the U.S., he showed high academic achievement. However, regarding the two subjects (biology and health) that he had never studied in Korea, he experienced academic difficulty and showed relatively lower results. Since then, I have become convinced that L1 (first language) and L2 (second language) background knowledge acquired in the

5 home country can be an essential factor influencing SLA and schooling in the host country. In this study, I explored Korean parents’ perspectives regarding L1 and L2 background knowledge for SLA in the U.S. I discuss what perspectives Korean people have regarding early English education in the following section.

Koreans’ Perspectives on Early English Education Until recently little research has been conducted to investigate the beliefs and perspectives parents have regarding their children’s SLA. Most studies have been conducted quantitatively to know how L2 learners acquire certain linguistic elements. For example, researchers have focused on how L2 learners acquire grammars and what behaviors they show while they acquire them. It has not been so long since researchers began to take an interest in individual learners, their peculiar linguistic characteristics, language learning habits, and the influence of individual variations on SLA. The increase in the anthropological and ethnographic way of data collection has contributed a lot to the investigation of individual characteristics of L2 learners. However, parental beliefs and perspectives are areas for which researchers have shown little concern. Under the hegemonic influence of Western perspectives, parental beliefs and perspectives on L2 learners may have been ignored for SLA research. Rather than listening to and reflecting parents’ efforts exerted in their home countries, and strategies provided by parents for their children’s L1 and L2 literacy building, researchers have mainly tried to investigate a certain phenomenon depending on L2 learners’ own experiences regarding SLA in the host country. They have

6 disregarded the long history of L2 learning in their home countries, as if L2 learners are exposed to English after they arrived in the host countries. However, the reality is different. Before they come to the host countries, adult L2 learners already might have at least six years of English education at schools in their home countries. Even numerous children are being exposed to English at an early age depending on their parents’ beliefs and perspectives on SLA rather than their own will. Let’s take my story as a simple example. I had a strong belief that younger children would acquire L2 more quickly and easily than older L2 learners, although I did not have any knowledge of the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) before studying in the field of TESOL. But through my own experiences with my younger son, I realized that my belief was not always right. In some cases the CPH may seem applicable, but in other cases the same theory may not be plausible. For example, regarding the fluency in spoken English, the concept the younger, the better cannot be applied to my younger son. This is because various and complex factors originating from both his personality traits and his English learning experiences in Korea involves his SLA. It is true that he speaks with a more native-like English accent when compared with his older brother. However, he has been making slow progress in other areas regarding English. With my older son, my belief that English grammatical knowledge would facilitate his language adaptation once he entered the mainstream turned out to be correct. The first part of Chapter II covers statistics regarding English in Korea. Part of the statistical data shows that Korea has become the country sending the

7 most students to schools in the U.S. The other data indicates that children accompanied by parents who study overseas are greatly contributing to the increasing number of Korean people in the U.S. Given these facts, I think that now is the time for researchers to turn their concern to parental beliefs and perspectives regarding children’s SLA. The studies conducted until recently have not reflected beliefs or perspectives of parents who strongly affect children’s SLA. Instead, SLA research has viewed L2 learning as phenomena happening in the host countries rather than those that already happened or are happening in their home countries. Regarding what Korean parents have been done for their children’s SLA, Yu and Kim (1983) stated that Korean parents show a strong tendency to be positively involved in their children’s literacy, sacrificing themselves to promote a rich educational environment for their children. Chen (2003) studied factors influencing the academic success of Chinese international students. According to Chen, one of the primary reasons that these students choose to study in the U.S. is “the emergence of English as the primary language of the world” (p. 3). As two other reasons for studying in the U.S., they mentioned “lack of adequate higher education infrastructure in some developing countries,” and the increasing ability of individual families to “support individuals who want to study overseas” (p. 3). Although Chen’s participants were Chinese international students in the community college, their perspectives also reflect those of Korean parents and society because China and Korea belong to the same Confucian cultural band.

8 In Korea, the general public opinion regarding English is the earlier, the better. However, the issue on a critical period for L2 has long been discussed among parents and educators. Many surveys conducted to investigate answers to this issue show opposition to the CPH. Nagai (1997) argued that children’s early exposure to English and rich environments for it do not always guarantee “native-like performance” (p. 7). Marshall (2000) pointed out that learning a foreign language in elementary school is not a magical tool for creating perfect second language speakers. Chipongian (2000) contended that timing cannot explain everything regarding SLA. However, many Korean parents have a tendency to believe that studying overseas at an early age will work as a panacea, allowing their children to overcome various barriers regarding English and difficulties caused during the language learning process. For the current study, I listened to various voices and perspectives of Korean parents regarding early English education. Prior to the in-depth interviews with my participant parents regarding this issue, I investigated how common Korean parents and the public including students view this issue through the study of e-discussions and news articles on the Web in the following section.

Korean People’s General Views on Early English Education A strong but incorrect belief regarding English has been permeated into the deepest part of the Korean society, even into the children’s pure minds: English solves everything. In this study, I listened to the perspectives and

9 experiences of Korean parents who are in the graduate program at a university in the U.S. regarding their efforts to support their children’s L1 and L2 literacy. Through the in-depth interviews with parents and children, I investigated whether the perspectives ubiquitous in the Korean society on SLA reflect those of my participant parents. In this section, I explored Korean people’s views on early English education. Dae-Gone Bang (2006) is a chief vice-district leader of the National Teachers Union of the Seoul Branch as well as an elementary school teacher. He faced this issue directly with his students and strongly revealed his view on the Korean government’s announcement that English would be regulated as a formal curriculum starting from first grade at elementary schools as of September, 2006. The government has said that the regulation for early English education is gradually applied to elementary schools nationwide after trying sample classes in certain areas for a certain period. Bang argued against the superficial educational view of the Ministry of Education in Smallbook, which is a monthly- published magazine in Korea containing various social, political, and cultural news. He pointed out that the government’s plan for early English education would lead to failure without any discussion on the problems of it, which has continued for over ten years. According to him, the first generation students enrolled in English as a formal subject at school in Korea have become college freshmen, but they still have difficulty in speaking even basic expressions of English. He also argued that English education in Korea was beyond being “a strong wind” and had become “a violent gust of wind.” His metaphor of wind

10 represents the boom of early English education in Korea. He boldly argued that parents hold mistaken perspectives on early English education, pointing out that some parents have even forced their children to lie on the operating room table for a tongue operation, expecting them to have a native-like accent. This horrible story indicates how desperately some Korean parents want their children to acquire native-like English. Bang (2006) attributed the failure of English education to the illusion that everybody must speak fluent English, instead of returning its blame to public education itself. He said that the government’s incoherence and rashly implemented educational policy has contributed to the mistaken perspectives on early English education. He also stated that under the worthwhile but illusive name of international competitive power, the children’s sense of identity as Koreans is weakening and Korean language education is being isolated in the context of the current obsessive focus on English. Byeong-Soon Park (2006) is a professor in the English Department of Kyeong-hee University in Korea. He revealed his opinion on the internet under the title “What is the Problem and What is the Solution regarding the Winds of English?” Through this article, he claimed that the wind of English is blowing strongly throughout the Korean society, where various kinds of fake-English educational institutes promote so-called secrets for learning English, attracting students and parents. He stated many people even say that English training overseas is a must and early English study overseas is an elective. However, he argued the matter regarding English is too important to be neglected or evaded because it carries too much weight in the Korean society. To avoid a vicious

11 cycle regarding English education, he carefully warned that early English education as a formal course at school will fail unless it starts with a thorough preparation in infrastructure such as teachers, texts, and educational environments. Finally, he said that for 50 million Korean people to be literate in the Korean language sounds reasonable, but for the same number of people to be literate in English unrealistic and impractical. In-Kwon Lee (2006), a representative of the Korean Voice Culture Center, expressed his view on Korean English education in the Cheon-buk Central Newspaper, reflecting on parental perspectives. He stated that, for a certain person to be considered as a good English speaker or writer, he or she must have the power of expression both in English and in Korean. He suggested that educational authorities have a socio-cultural effect of language learning in their minds when they issue a regulation concerned with English rather than hurriedly deal with the superficial side of English education. In a special issue of the National Policy Briefing, the presidential committee for school policy promotion, Eun-Seok Sim (2006) made five suggestions to resolve problems concerned with Korean English education and to reduce the cost spent on private English education. Her article appears under the title “The Hope of Korean English Education is in School.” Her five suggestions can be summarized as follows: to (1) hire English teachers for the English-only class, (2) increase the number of native English teachers, (3) increase English training and adventure programs, (4) accommodate college and

Full document contains 413 pages
Abstract: This qualitative case study aims to explore the effects of family influence on children's second language acquisition (SLA) by investigating Korean parents' perspectives on early English education and their strategies for the children's second language literacy building, both in Korea and in the U.S. The data collection depended primarily on interviews and observation. For the triangulation of this data collection, children's artifacts were also analyzed. I applied triangulation to the development of a theoretical framework. I studied socio-cultural theory, input theory, and the critical period hypothesis to support parents' arguments and perspectives on their children's SLA. The result showed a very positive relationship between family influence and the children's SLA when the parental influence started very early (since infancy) and was consistent. Among strategies employed by parents, mother-child reading of English books was indicated the most effective. For older children who arrived during secondary school, background knowledge in various fields provided support for their academic success, and knowledge in English grammar and structures facilitated their spoken English in the U.S. The study also included children exposed to two or three years of English since elementary school in Korea via private language institutes or worksheets, and those who did not have that exposure. The result showed that both groups had similar difficulties in speaking and listening in the U.S. for the initial six months to a year. The children who arrived in the U.S. before elementary school showed fluency in speaking within a year without any exposure to English in Korea. The children who arrived in the U.S. right before their puberty showed two different results: (1) active and social children showed fluency in English after overcoming their initial language barrier, but (2) quiet and unsocial children did not show fluency in English after two more years in the U.S. which did not show a strong relationship with their academics. Finally, this study calls for a shift of perspectives on second language learners who lack fluency in speaking, from deficient and handicapped L2 learners to multi-competent language users.