According to Walters K. and Brody M. , second language can be learnt in late childhood or adulthood for a certain purpose and will be used regularly in students’ daily life. Usually, second language is learnt by immigrants “to the United States or other countries, or people who, for personal or professional reasons, communicate frequently with speakers of another language. ” (Walters and Brody 2005) Istvan Kecskes and Tunde Papp in their book Foreign Language and Mother Tongue (2000) argue that there are two important factors which help to tell the difference between the notions of foreign language and second language.
These factors are: the linguistic background of the learners and the socio-cultural environment of the acquisition process. “In the second language environment (SLE), language learners have full exposure to the target language (not only to the language system, but to its frame as well) because it is the dominant or the only language of the community. This is not the case in the foreign language environment (FLE) where students’ experience and activities in the target language are almost always restricted to the time spent in the classroom,” (p.1) the researchers explain in their book. Another term, which needs to be defined for the purposes of the research, is ‘Standard English. ’
Although many researchers, including Nicholls, doubt, that the term ‘Standard English’ can be clearly defined. (Nicholls 2002) Walters K. and Brody M. propose their view on the meaning of the term in their article What’s language got to do with it?. In particular, the article holds that ‘Standard English’ is “the variety of English that is taught in schools, used in formal writing, and often heard on radio and television.
” (Walters and Brody 2005) The associates then add, however, that standard, or correct, or proper English is not that same in every country where it is spoken: “In the United States, for example, the words labor, color, and center are correctly spelled as written here, while in Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, and other parts of the English-speaking world—in fact, nearly all of it— the same words are correctly spelled labour, colour, and centre. ”
(Walters and Brody 2005) In this way, Walters K. and Brody M. suggest the idea that there are many variants of standard English which function in different countries, and most probably were created as adopted versions of the standard English of the United kingdom. Nevertheless, the point of view of Walters K. and Brody M. can be doubted if the question of the Standard English is addressed to the official sources of Great Britain. Encyclopaedia Britannica points out that Standard English is fixed in two dictionaries, which so to say can help to find out where a certain version of English spoken in a certain country is proper or not.
These two dictionaries are: A Dictionary of the English Language, published by Samuel Johnson in 1755, and Noah Webster’s dictionary, published one century later – in 1828. Thus, Britannica opposes the idea that Standard English can be American, or French or Maldivian. It is the language which either fits the rules approved by the Standard English dictionaries, and in this case it can be called correct and proper, or not. Certainly, while teaching the English language as a foreign language, educators set Standard English as a model to be followed by students and as a level to be looked upon as the highest.
However, can students achieve native like competence? Schachter ( 1988) writes that some students can appear to be native like in their second language, but at the same time their linguistic knowledge will significantly differ from what a typical native speaker knows about his/her language. In contrast, Gass ( 1990) states that in most cases “non-native speakers (NNSs) never reach a point of being indistinguishable from native speakers (NSs) of a particular linguistic community.
” (from Kecskes and Papp 2000, p. 5) Also, another controversial point can be found here. What is the difference between the ‘foreign’ English of a learner, full of mistakes, and the mistakes produced by native speakers? Diane Nicholls agrees in her article that everyday language of English native speakers is far from that level approved by the Standard English dictionaries, however, nobody considers it to be foreign, and moreover, “this is a, perhaps cheap, but certainly common, source of comedy.
When portraying non-native speakers, comedians and comic writers do not just rely on the pitfalls of accent for jokes of the ‘Shaddap-a-ya-face’, ‘this chicken is rubbery’ or ‘peace on you’ variety, but they also mimic the strange, unmistakably foreign constructions produced by different nationalities, creating, for example, an Indian librarian who says ‘Please to be quiet please’, or a Spanish waiter who says ‘Is no rat. ” (Nicholls 2002)