An Idiosyncratic Case of Multilingualism: The Effect of Autonomous Learning

An Idiosyncratic Case of Multilingualism: The Effect of Autonomous Learning

Ersen Vural
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-3738-4.ch018
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


This chapter presents an autobiographical account of socio-cultural surroundings and motives that shaped the author's journey to becoming a multilingual language learner. The contexts that occasioned the need to learn new languages are described along with affective considerations that underlay his sustained interest in multilingualism. Although the naturalistic and autonomous language learning settings are characterized by idiosyncrasies which do not lend themselves to generalizations, the account of multilanguage learning experiences in the chapter can offer insights as to how the most unlikely contexts and opportunities to multilingualism may come about. In the chapter, the vivid descriptions of how his enthusiasm to become multilingual helped him refine and hone his language learning skills are presented in anecdotal tone. The strategies and individual techniques he devised to cope with the complexities of languages in the process of language learning are presented in detail in the study.
Chapter Preview

Unsuccessful Initial Attempts

My first encounter with foreign languages came when I started my post-primary education at a district school in central Turkey. As I started to attend language courses at school, I made no distinction between the English course and other subjects. I regarded English simply as subject to study rather than a means for communication. Obviously, my conception of English at the time was radically different from the present one. My motivation for studying English was to ‘survive’ the exams and move on to an upper level in the course. I was obviously too immature to foresee the benefits of learning English for my career plans. Also, I lived in a very isolated social and cultural milieu in which my window to the outside world was limited to what I could glean from TV and read in the books. As a result, I had no idea that knowledge of English would have practical implications in real life as a lingua franca. I attended English courses without any specific learning objectives in mind during my first year at post-primary school. Like other classmates in English classes, I was motivated to study English instrumentally i.e., my interest in the English course was to meet school requirements. Therefore, any learning gains from the course were short-lived and disappeared completely by the end of the school year.

Although I somehow managed to meet the requirements for evaluation, the language instruction at school didn’t contribute substantially to my communicative skills. This was the result of the conduct of instruction in language classes. The courses were designed to teach sentence structures and verb tenses mostly in decontextualized manner, where we were supposed to rote learn. As passive language learners, we had to internalize linguistic elements and forms through mechanical tasks and explicit explanations without regard to communicative aspect of language. This resulted in our studying the language for its own sake rather than for communicative ends. At the beginning, my classmates were motivated to participate in tasks involving rote learning, but soon the language practice without communicative content gradually fell into disfavour. Although that type of teaching would contrast sharply with the current notions of language instruction today, it was the common feature of classroom language teaching at the time. Besides mechanical tasks, we were also expected to memorize lists of grammar rules in textbooks and regurgitate them in exams. Ignorant of the fact that language is a means for communication, we all attempted to learn lists of words and grammar rules.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Contrastive Analysis: Systematic study of two or more languages with the goal of indentifying any structural and lexical similarities and differences.

Autonomous Learning: A learner’s control of his/her own learning process.

Lexico-Grammatical Features: Language elements that bear syntactical and/or semantic information.

Chunking: Grouping together of words so that they are committed to memory and processed as single units.

Instrumental Motivation: The practical or pragmatic reason to study and learn (a language) in order to get good grades from tests or exams.

Multilingual Learning: Syncronous/asyncronous learning of additional languages following L1 acquisition.

Integrative Motivation: A positive attitude to study and learn (a language) with the goal of adapting to target language culture by using the new language.

Lexicon: Stock of words existing in a language.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: