Date of Award

7-10-2007

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jerry G. Gebhard, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Miriam S. Chaiken, Ph.D.

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.

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