English as a foreign language and english as a second language.

Language teaching is influenced by ideas on the nature of language (language theories) and learning conditions that make learners to acquire the language (learning theories). Differences in language theories may affect the selection of the teaching materials and differences in learning theories may affect the teaching methods. A method that is based on the assumption that we learn another language as a child learns his native language (L1) will differ from one based on the assumption that learning a foreign language is not the  same as learning a mother tongue. It may be argued that the actual teaching of english in indonesia may differ from the english teaching in malaysia or teaching english in unite states of america, in which people should learn english in the conditions where the language is used for communication in their daily lives. Some people prefer to call the former learning english as a foreign language and the latter learning english as a second language.

Not all people agree with the distinction between second language and foreign language. Dulay, Burt, Krashen (1982) states that second language acquisition includes learning a new language in a foreign language context (e.g. english in Mexico or German in the United States) as well as learning a new language in a host language environment (e.g. German in German). They use the term second language (L2) to refer to both foreign and host languages and the teaching methods apply to the acquisition of both (1982: 11). It implies that the way to teach english as a second language is not necessarily different feom the way to teach english as a foreign language, and wheter english is learned in indonesia or in malaysia, english is called the target language (TL).

Even though they seem not to agree the distinction between second language and foreign language, Krashen (1985: 8) differentiates the two different ways of gaining a target language. He states that there are two ways of developing ability in a target language: “acquisition” and “learning”. Acquisition is defined as a subcinscious process that is idential to the process used in first language acquisition in all importand ways, while learning os defined as conscious knowing about a target language. While acquisition is talking place, language learners are not always aware of the result; they are not very concerned with grammatical rules and error correction. They are gaining a target language bu living in the society where the language is used in their daily lives. When language learners talk about the rules of a target language, they correct errors, and people in the society do not speak the target language, they are learning the target language.

English is learned in indonesia by talking about the grammatical rules of english and errors are always corrected. For language learners in indonesia, whrere english is not spoken in the society, accuracy is teally the focus in learning english. It is not the case when people learn english in countries where english in spoken in the society, such as in the United States or Malaysia. People in those countries emphasize on the ability and fluency in communications  or daily lives; they acquire English because they are exposed to the language in the society. They are not always aware of the process of gaining the language. Referring to the theory of gaining a target language mentioned above, the process of gaining english in indonesia is regarded more as learning while in malaysia more as acquisition. Even though some people may disagree with the distinction between the term second language and foreign language, it is not denied that the status of english in indonesia is different from that in malaysia. In malaysia english is gained in the society where the people speak the language; in malaysia english is a second language. In indonesia english is learned only at schools and people do not speak the language in the society. English is really a foreign language for language learners in indonesia. The discussion on the differences between learning a target language in L1 environment and in L2 environment is also proposed by Els et al )1983: 36), as shown below.

L2 learning in L1 environment

Guided learning

Tutored learning

Formal learning

Foreign language learning


L2 learning in L2 environment

Unguided learning

Untutored learning

Spontaneous/naturalistic learning


Wheter people learn english as a scond language or a foreign language, they are learning a target language. The learning of the target language can take on a variety of patterns. Dozens of factors are involved and it is doubtful whether we can make it possible to propose a complete analysis of all the factor. Nevertheless, there are sorts of opinions and beliefs on what influence language learning. Mackey (1975: 108-124) suggest that there are three main influence that determine the learning, namely linguistic, social and psycho logical influences. The three influences may make the teaching of english as a second language or as a foreign language different. In the following section, the three influences will be discussed and the ideas presented here are adapted from Mackey (1975).


Process and progress in learning a target language may depend on (1) how the target language differs from the mother tongue and (2) how much the mother tongue interferes with the target language.


Each language is unique and each has its own system. A language is always different from others even though the language may be similar to some language. The differences between the target language and the mother tongue may be in the realm of grammar, phonology, vocabulary, stylistics and graphics. Differences in each realm may cause different problem in learning another language. The more different the target language is from the mother tongue, the more problems language learners may face in learning the target language.

Because of differencesin grammar language learners may find it difficult to understand the systems of the target language. Language learners whose mother tongue has no tenses tend to have more difficulties in learning a target language which has tenses. For most indonesians, english tends to be very difficult because the indonesian language has no tenses that are similar to the tenses of english.

Differences in phonology may cause difficulties in producing sounds in the target language and in combining the sounds. For example, some indonesian learners find it dificult to pronounce the word “she”; they tend to produce the pronouciation fot the word “sea” or “see”.

In the realm of vocabulary, the difficulty of a target language depends on the number of words which are similar to the words in their mother tongue. If the mother tongue of the language learners has a large number of words which are similar or the same as the words found in the target language, the language learners may find it easier to learn the target language.

A language learner whose culture is similar to the culture of the target language may find it less difficult to understand the contexts in which the target language is used. Learning another language cannot be separated from learning its culture. Difficulties in understanding another culture may also cause difficulties in learning the language in which the culture lives.

In the field of graphics some language learners are more handicapped than other learners because their language has a different way of how the language is written. There are many ways of how languages are written; some languages are more alphabetical, for example indonesian, and some other language are not alphabetical, for example chinese. In learning english, indonesian learners may find it easier to understand english words than chinese learners.


When people learn another language, their mother tongue sometimes interferes with the target language. This phenomenon is often called interference. Interference is often caused by the similarities between their mother tongue and the target language. How their mother tongue interferes with a new language depends on whether they are learning to speak the new language or simply they are learning to understand the language by listening and reading. The possibility of transfer from LT can be negative or positive interference.

If they are learning to speak the target language, the similarities between the two languages may cause much difficulty. They will use their knowledge of their mother tongue and based on the knowledge they may produce utterances which do not exist in the target language (Dickerson, 1975: 405). The negative interference may result in errors but learners’ errors are not necessarily caused by the interference of their mother tongue. Different people may have proposed different classifications of errors (Corder, 1974 and Dulay, Burt and Krashen, 1982); the following types of errors and their examples are taken from Dulay, Burt and Karshen (1982: 154-162)

  1. Omission: the absence of an item(s) that must apprear in a well formed utterance. Example: Mary president new company*
  2. Double markings: the failure to delete certain items which are require in some linguistic construction. Example: he doesn’t knows my name*
  3. Regularization: applyin the rules used to produce the regular ones to those that are irregular. Example: he eated ten apples yesterday*
  4. Simple addition: the presence of an item which should ot apprear in a well-f0rmed utterance. Example: the fishes doesn’t live in the water*
  5. Misformation: the use of the wrong form of the morpheme or structure. Example: hisself* (himself)
  6. Archi-form: the selection of one member of a class of forms to represent others in the class. Example: this dogs*
  7. Misordering: the incorrect placement of a morpheme or group of morphemes in an utterance. Example: he is all the time late*

On the other hand, if they are learning to understand the new language by listening or reading, the similarities between the two language will make them easier to understand the new language. The similarities can be an advantage for language learners.


Since language is essentially social phenomenon, the social influences on language learning are numerous and interrelated in complex ways. There are some contacts that are classified under social factors that influence the process of language learning; they are home, community, occupation, school, religious meeting, radio/television, and reading matters. These contacts make differences between english learned as a foreign language and learned as a second language, and community seems to be the contact that most differentiates the target language as a second language and the target language as a foreing language.

The people with whom we continually use a target language have some effect on the manner and skill with which we use the language. Language learners can meet with the people and community. The community is very important for the learning and maintenance of a language. A learner of a target language who has no contact with a community in which the language is spoken will have more possibe failur to learn or maintain this/her target language. Learning a target language only inside the classroom is quite different from the natural ways of learning. The process of learning target language in the classroom is dominated by the teacher. The teacher becomes the only member of the community of the target language. Language learners almost find it impossible to be involved in soceal activities where the target language is used. Language teaching classroom spend more time to deal with the knowledge of the target language: grammatical rules and grammar correction. It is different from the conditions in which the target language is learned as a second language; language learner really make use of the target language in natural situations. The naturalness of using the language is one of the importanr factor that plays an important role in the success of learning the target language, and the naturalness is likely to be found in the community in which the target language is used in daily communications.

There is a general assumption that the learning which takes place in natural and educational settings is very different in nature and natural settings lead to higher levels of L2 proficiency than educational setting (Ellis, 1996; 214-215). In natural settings informal learning occurs while formal learning occurs through conscious attention to rules and principles and greater emphasis is placed on the mastery of the language as a subject matter. Consequently, second language acquisition results in native-like use of the target language, while foreign language learning does not.


Second (foreign) language learners can differ in many ways. Skehan (1989: 4) states some of the psychological differences of learners iclude age, intelligence, aptitude, motivation, attitude, personality, and cognitive styles. We will limit ourselves to a discussion of motivation and attitude since the two differences of language learners belong to affective characteristics of language learners (Els et al, 1984: 115). The two affective characteristics are often considered non-innate differences, which can be learned by language learners or conditionaed by language teacher so that language teacher can provide language learners with conditions that are needed for effective language learning.


The role of motivation in learning a foreign language is not in question; many studies of the relationship between motivation and language achievement, for example, Lukmani (1972) and Olshtain et al. (1990) have shown evidence of the relationship between them. Nevertheless, different results have been provide about the role of motivation in language learning and different studies have also proposed different types of motivation. Studies on the role of attitudes and motivation in foreign language learning have been dominantly inspired by Gardner and Lambert (1972). Gardner and Lambert classify motivation in learning a foreign language under two types. The first is integrative motivation, motivation to integrate to another culture, and the second is instrumental motivation, motivation to acquire a language as a means for attaining instrumental goals: furthering career, getting a job, and so forth. Both may exist before the learners decide to learn another language. The studies an motivation, however, have arrived at different presentation of findings in relation to language learning. Some sudies (wen and Jhonson, 1997 and Olshtain, shohamy, kemp and chato (1990) have shown that motivation, with other L2 learners variables, has a direct effect on english proficiency. They have uncovered that the correaltion between motivation and achievement in english is strong and shows that motivation affects achievement on an english test.


Many studies on attitude have referred to the findings of thurstone’s study conducted in 1946. In his study, he defines attitude as the intensity of positive or negative affect for or against a psychological object. Attitude is a relatively constant system of evaluative processes towards an object(s) based on what individuals have learned in previous settings. The affective evaluation towards an object may range along a continuum from positive values to negative values. Baker (1992, p. 29) states that language attitude is an umbrella term, under which resides a variety of specific terms, such as attitude to language groups, to language lesson, and to the uses of specific language. Related to teaching english as a second/foreign language, there are may be three types of attitude: 1) attitudes to english, 2) attitudes to english as a subject to be learned, and 3) attitude to native speakers of english (setiyadi, 1999). Each of them can be separated and measured differently. Attitude in learning a target language may affect motivation in learning the language; motivation can mediate any relation between language attitude and language achievement.

It seems reasonable to argue thar learning english as a second language is different from learning english as foreign language, even though both refer to the target language. Learning english as a second language is often regarded as an unconscious process of acquiring the language (acquisition) while learning english as a foreign language refers to a conscous process of acquiring the language (learning). Two different types of process of acquiring the target language may produce different problems and finally provide different opportunities for learning success. The problems and the progress in learning the language may depend on the factors that language learners have. The three factors: linguistic, social and psychological factors may be the ones that play important roles in determining the success in learning english, either as a second language or foreign language.


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