Acquisition of a foreign language: A study on the process of learning English in a language school

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BEZERRA, Marta Joelma [1], ROCHA, Leonardo Manuel das Neves [2]

BEZERRA, Marta Joelma. ROCHA, Leonardo Manuel das Neves. Acquisition of a foreign language: A study on the process of learning English in a language school. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 04, Ed. 09, Vol. 05, pp. 05-21. September 2019. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link:


The present study focused on learning English language in a language school in the city of Natal, Brazil. For this, we worked with ten teachers and forty English language students in the units of the language school investigated. English is in all areas of science, the arts and the job market. This research was carried out through observation in classrooms, informal conversations and questionnaires with the respective teachers and students, so that we could detect how these students are taught. The results indicate that teachers have an adequate methodology and offer quality education for students. More than half of the students surveyed have a sufficient level of English language proficiency to communicate in the language.

Keywords: Methodologies, learning, English language.


The study on the acquisition of a foreign language is a complex theme and can be considered from multiple aspects, our purpose is to entice the reader to reflect on some theoretical approaches and at the same time think about the reality experienced by a language school, whose teaching units are located in the East and South zones of the city of Natal , capital of the State of Rio Grande do Norte.

For this, we will identify, through research instruments, the factors that can stimulate high performance in the acquisition of the English language and discuss the teaching practice, analyzing the theories that underpin the theme.

Thus, we use the thought of authors such as Chomsky (1986a), who claim to have a theory of language acquisition called Universal Grammar. Its main feature is that each person supposedly possesses this so-called grammar in his mind from birth. This universal grammar is a device in people’s minds, necessary to acquire the language, called “Language Acquisiton Device” (LAD). According to this author, this grammar is identical in the mind of each person.

In turn, Larsen-Freeman & Celce-Murcia (1999), confirms that in the production of second language students there are processes of transfer from one language to another, overgeneralization, reduction, redundancy, and different communication strategies. There are always strategies in learning any knowledge, it could not be different in learning a second language. Although there has been numerous research in this field, Mitchell & Myles (2002) states that these have advanced a lot only in the last two decades, and have come to an understanding of the process of acquiring second language.

We know that the aforementioned school is a franchise of a language school, so in this there is no evasion, low attendance to classes or repetition because it is a high investment financially, and students tend to seek a high performance, to be able to develop satisfactorily the skills and skills that the study of another language requires.

Therefore, we decided to investigate the situation in order to obtain possible returns for the following questions:

1 – What is the importance of acquiring a foreign language?

2 – How does the cognitive process in the acquisition of a foreign language according to existing theories happen?

3 – What is the level of language proficiency of language school students?

4 – What type of English insum to which subjects have access in classes?

5 – How are subjects encouraged by teachers to learn English?

6 – What is the use of english students?

7 – How do subjects react to English classes?

8 – What are the pros and cons of teaching English in language schools?

We learn that the above questions characterize the general points of our research on foreign language acquisition, as it is a fact that the English language has extended and become an international language, we decided to emphasize that learning at least one foreign language can bring nothing more than benefits to those who acquire or study it.


From the 1970s on, studies on foreign language were inserted in the area of Applied Linguistics. Since then, studies on language teaching and learning in Brazil began to change their focus, initially encouraging the study of texts in order to be able to start to produce narratives and descriptions according to the students’ needs.

According to Castro (1998), some theories were elaborated in relation to the acquisition of the foreign language. The author takes a look at the research published so far, and emphasizes that certain theories that study language acquisition consider the first language as an object materialized, starting from the first language as a study for the second, as advocated

It would not be an exaggeration to say that one often considers the mother tongue – in certain theories in Language Acquisition and, especially in studies in the acquisition of a second language – as an object whose reality seems certain and precise. Almost always exclusively defined on the axis of a chronology, it is recognized there as the first language. Castro (1998, p. 135)

This research is theoretical-empirical in nature, based on bibliographies and data collected in the field. It presents some statistical data, but this is a quantitative/qualitative research, since it describes, as in more detail as possible the process of learning English language of students of language students in the city of Natal-RN.

The research has as its general objective:

Describe the skills that foreign language acquisition develops in learners.

The specific objectives are:

  • To characterize the importance of the acquisition of English language in the contemporary world;
  • Describe theories and strategies on language learning.
  • Outline the teaching work and learning outcomes of English language learners in language schools.

The current research is limited only to language schools, because we emphasize again that the objective of this work is to investigate the skills developed in students in the process of teaching English learning. We choose language schools for the success attributed to them. We couldn’t get foreign language speakers in regular school. Therefore, the corpora raised in this study does not necessarily represent english learning in normal education schools. It is noticed that the learning of this language in courses obtains significant results in terms of income and performance of students.

According to the data obtained, we found that in the studied language school, most teachers are male, with the reservation of three teachers, who are over 30 years old, the others are between 20 and 29 years old, which proves a very young faculty in school, and in informal conversations with some of them, with many ideals to put into practice. Regarding the time of teaching, with the exception of only one teacher, all the other teach from 6 months to 1 year and a half, that is, there are no teachers tired of the profession, because they have been in this for a very short time.

It is noticed that 100% of the teachers surveyed have traveled or lived some time in another country, which is extremely beneficial personally and professionally. Traveling or living in another country is an experience that adds a lot of learning to anyone’s life, especially when they are a language teacher.

It is understood that there is nothing more enriching and pleasurable with regard to versatility in the world of work than living everyday life in a foreign country. If living abroad was already a knowledge that added a lot of cultural learning to any professional, currently, with the lack of confines thanks to ICT, getting used to another country is a differential factor for a curriculum or for a candidate in the selection process.

According to the teachers, most students are interested. This is due to the dynamism of the classes and always with a lot of conversation, playing with day-to-day situations. Classes are always in English, i.e. there is an immersion in the culture of the target language while in the classroom. With the methodology very interactive plus the use of technology and overtrained teachers, students get involved in classes. According to P4’s testimony:

“You begin to understand and speak English on the first day of school. ”

The grammatical content is expressed in a contextualized and significant way. The student is encouraged to discuss and proclaim his own ideas, a basic category to achieve the mastery of the language, thus avoiding pure and simple memorization.

In fact, if teachers start from the assumption that every learner wants to learn, even when this will is hidden in the unconscious, then it can complete that it must present as many captivating activities as for the disciple to acquire learning. The absence of pleasurable activities that wake up the desire for knowledge in the courses begins to have effects when the student begins to lose the intrinsic will to want to learn, which over time becomes a boredom.

The conduct of the students can then have serious consequences not only for the student himself but also for society, among them, violence, crime and even drug involvement. “Indiscipline is one of the greatest difficulties faced by teachers to develop pedagogical work.” Parrat-Dayan (2008, p. 21). The skills of managing, directing and supervising students during the learning process are the indispensable components for effective teaching and learning.

It is noticed that in the school studied, all the work is developed collectively, there are no cases of anarchy. There is a lot of dialogue, study and cooperation, instruments used that serve as a means in the search for discipline that considers respect as a main condition in the relationships existing in the school.

As Parrat-Dayan (2008) “[…] it is more effective to calmly approach a student and ask to resume their work than to draw their attention aloud in front of everyone.” […]. (p. 64).

The researched school presents a significant learning, by using, above all, an interactionist expectation, for the preparation of data, in which the person is firmly provoked by reality. The Educational System should always have as its scope the development of people, in a complete way and, at the same time, that leads them to their personal fulfillment.

The intention is that the student is able to communicate effectively with the nativespeakers of the language fluently. In addition, in its general conception stage, the course: Teaches the student to think in English; enables the student to communicate in English in practical situations common to the daily lives of ordinary people.

It is not addressed here the privilege of grammar or communicative functions, but of requiring science and the importance of oneanother and the other, translated into different forms of enlightenment of the world, concrete in the activities of oral and written production.

We have told the teachers the proposed time for each content. According to them, we obtained the following statements:

P4 “Learning is continuous.”

P7 “It depends on the student. There are students who pick up the same day.”

Through these excerpts it is perceived that teachers have different appreciations about it, but in a result, everyone has a respect for the student. P7 emphasizes that one must respect the pace of learning of each one. In order to defend the hypothesis that there is no learning rhythm, we affirm that what exists are files more or less received in the intellectual diagrams of the apprentices and that it is the quality of this archived material that is determinant in the action of learning and not the time lived or the quality in which it was collected.

Regarding the learning rhythm Madalena Freire (2003) stated that the letters conceptualize us.

The learning of the record is the most powerful instrument in the construction of the pedagogical and political awareness of the educator, because when we record, we try to keep, hold fragments of the time lived that is significant to us, to keep him alive. Not only as memories, but as a record of part of our history, our memory. (p. 6).

According to Grossi (1998) the situation in which we live is very comfortable, since we have the right to live after Piaget, Vygotsky, Wallon, Paulo Freire, among others, creators who gave expressive data to understand how learning occurs and leave us with many advantages to try to understand this complex phenomenon. Before them, we explained only two understandings to explain knowledge – inatatism and empiricism, and the idea of learning rhythm, prior to these theorists, is typically inattista, because

… in this conception, learning has a speed that is associated with age, maturation, “natural” development, almost biological evolution, which justifies the organization of classes by age group and the expectation that, even with acceleration mechanisms, students access what would be proper to their age group – which is underpind by the idea of cycles. (Grossi 1998, p. 9)

In learning, affective and relational aspects interfere, besides cognitive aspects, and they do not settle in the void or in the margins of other aptitudes. They must have meaning for the learner, because if he is not soon lost in thoughts or conversations parallel to the class. When learning, the learner is globally involved in this task, and the process, as well as its outcome, resonates globally.

Affability can even slow knowledge, but it can also strengthen it, because there is a close relationship between intelligence and affectivity: the difficulty of reasoning can be damrested, or even destroyed, by the deficit of emotion or by its excess, which can generate defense mechanisms and lead to intervention in the acquisition of knowledge.

We consider it essential to genuinely assess the teaching methodology used. To do so, we ask teachers about their teaching methods and will highlight some answers below.

P2 “The methodology of the school”.

P3 “I use the methodology of repetition of contents, soon after contextualization with reality”.

Reflecting on teaching method is a stage with many variables. But here, we learn that the professors covered claim to use the school’s technology. It is based on the communicative approach. This approach is based on the principle that the second language is learned through communication. You learn the foreign language better when the student tries to communicate something they really want or need to say.

In the communicative approach, all four linguistic skills of reading, writing, listening comprehension and speech are practiced and developed. Techniques are used so that reading, writing and listening comprehension skills are used as support for the most important skill: speech.

To understand the use of the language, the student needs to analyze the language within a context. The classes allow the student to be exposed to language in situations so that he establishes a personal relationship with the subject. Teachers encourage the student to be more active in classes, through discussions and comments on the subject, before the formal explanation is presented.

Students commonly measure their linguistic resourcefulness in “how much they can speak.” In the school examined, the student begins to speak from the initial class, with unified audio and reading activities to animate the dialogue, so that he can architect meanings with appropriate answers, in contexts of real situations. That is, the classes present situations similar to real life situations. The goal is to prepare them for real situations, whether for work or in personal life.

It is remarkable that in this school the emphasis on the variant of American English predominates. It is important to realize that the English language, for a long time, has ceased to be the property of this or that nation, this or that country, but there is still a hegemony of the American variant. As Widdowson (2003) rightly says, a language like English can only be characterized as international because it has ceased to be a nation’s monopoly. “It remains an internationally intelligible means of communication quite simply because the community that uses it is international”. (p. 45)

That is, in its international language, what we call “World English” expression used by Rajagopalan, (2004, 2005a, 2005b) has no “native” speakers, that is, according to the current booklet. It is extraordinary to emphasize that “World English” does not exclude anyone, much less those who find themselves their only owners. Thus, English, according to Cruz (2006 apud Pereira, 2010, p. 47) “refers to the English used in interactions between non-native speakers who have different mother tongues”.

Hybrid is the trademark of this new “language” (or, linguistic event). Another attribute of English today is what Blommaert, Collins and Slembrouck (2005) outline as multicentricity, that is, the experience of multiple centers, and consequently, multiple standards. In multilingualism, advocated by these authors, we see that this is the fruit of globalization, through which they claim “Issues of globalization, and more particularly with the question of the production of locality under conditions of globalizations.” (p.230).

The author himself explains that the first circle are the speakers of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The speakers of the second circle would be the peoples of India, West Africa and East Africa. And the third group belongs to the speakers of English as a foreign language, among this group would be the peoples of China, Japan, Greece and Poland.

Faced with this new reality, we question whether the methodologies used are efficient for teaching the four skills in the foreign language. We will cite answers from some of the teachers surveyed.

P2 “As long as the student pays attention to the classes the methods are efficient”.

P9 “Yes, the methodology is efficient, but it is extremely important for students to devote time and will to learning.”

According to the teachers, the methodology of the course is efficient in teaching the four skills of the target language, but it is necessary to return the student. Without each other’s efforts for their own learning there is no progress. Teachers reinforce the self-discipline that the learner must have with their learning.

In order to raise their own potential and minimize the time spent with these tasks, each apprentice must, above all, have a well-illustrated study plan for their own use. And above all, disposition and discipline are two factors based on studies.

The questionnaire was launched for the students of the English course, so that we had an accurate sample about the learning and interests of the students.

The majority of the students who answered were male, i.e., 52%, against 48% females.

These percentages confirm that in the language school investigated, the largest number of students, contrary to a trend of Brazilian regular schools that have an expressive attendance of female students.

Men only exceed women in the older age group, 60 years or older, when they declared to study 4.6 years, while women are only 4.3 years old, this fact is due to the time they lived and the access they had to school.

Regarding the age group of the interviewees, we emphasize that the majority is formed by young people, aged between 11 and 20 years, while the sum of students aged 21 years on wards reaches 25%, confirming the fact that the student who is dedicated to learning another language in courses that usually require a high purchasing power are young people who have not yet entered the labor market.

As the research of the cognition of the English language is evident the importance of knowing the level of learning of the target language of the students. The result was that 45% understand almost everything and even manage to exchange ideas. 25% understand, but don’t know enough to talk.

Only 23% of the students answered to understand everything in the target language and speak fluently. This proves that it is not enough for the school to have a good methodology allied to good teachers, the exercise is subject mainly to the will and discipline of the learner. To have a real range of the language it is necessary that the student keep in mind that the beginning of everything is learning to learn, have to seek in himself and by himself the imperative motivation for learning.

According to the interviewees, the vast majority emphasize career and travel as the main reasons why it is worth learning another language. Then the culture was also emphasized. It is understood that apprentices know the importance in the world of work in relation to learning the English language. In fact, the practicality of resolving routine circumstances confirms the crucial function that the English language has in contemporary times.

With the unification of the exercise of English in corporations around the world, cultures, technical terms and languages merge more and more and all companies speak practically the same language, regardless of the locality on the planet, there is a predominance of English. Therefore, there is uninterrupted a latent design of those who learn another language to visit at least one of the countries that speaks the language that is studied.

Of the students interviewed, 82% watch movies or cartoons with audio or English subtitles as a personal methodology for language learning. It is entirely possible and recommended to learn English through movies. The teacher can use this mechanism and the learner himself must choose a pleasurable way of learning.

It is undeniable that the new techniques help students who have access to them to improve their cognitive process. In fact, these technological resources, the famous ICT, develop in the apprentice the imperative motivation to take possession of the construction and improvement of their knowledge in the language under study.

Music is proven to be one of the most pleasurable environments for learning in any area of knowledge. Studying with music is very practical, because it incites the human being to the soul, to emotion, causing students to disconnect from everything that is currently harming mentally. The students interviewed, mostly, are in adolescence.

Only 37% of respondents read books in English, although the school library has an abundant collection. To learn another language, it takes a lot of inclination on the part of the student. There is no learning if the student is not interested. It is possible that this is one of the opportunity of terms among the interviewees only 23% of learners with fluency in the language.

The act of interpreting a reading in another language provides the possibility of a free social participation of man in society, transcending reflexively, growing progressively and expanding his understanding of the things that surround him and acting on them. In this respect, reading represents a device of great power in the hands of those who seize it.

Continuing our questionnaire, we ask students if they talk in English with Brazilians and dialogue in English with native speakers as a complementary part of their learning. As a result, 52% talk in English with Brazilians, but only 30% talk to native English speakers.

As not everyone has a perfect fluency in the language, some students feel stuck to speak English and exercise their practice. We know that to speak another language, it is not enough a lexicon, and science of grammar and accent. The peculiar knowledge of the language, colloquialism and idiomatic expressions, elocutions, phrasal verbs and dictations of common use, which if translated to the letter foot loses its meaning, become imperative. No language would be rich without its idiomatic expressions. They are imperative to speak and write well.

In a literate society, according to Penny your, “it’s as if speech includes all kinds of knowledge.” (1996, p. 120). Speaking a foreign language is then the aptitude desired by most language learners. This skill requires tenacity, a lot of willpower, calm and dedication, to be developed, in addition to several factors that interfere so or intervene in learning.

In today’s world there are two types of motivation for learning: one’s and the job market. The first part of the educating, of his longing, of his willingness to learn. While the second comes from the external obligation to learn, which can be: pass exams, in competitions, selections, get a good job, have the opportunity to travel to a region where you speak the target language. Finally, of the questions that we addressed only the question about vocabulary acquisition, it obtained 100% positive return.

All interviewees answered always seeking to acquire new words. Learning new vocabulary in English is a great way to study the language because words form blocks of language and through it we express our thoughts. According to our interview, most learners use all the techniques within reach. From Readings in English to watching movies and series to improve oral and visual comprehension. From listening to songs to perfecting the oral part to using games that help activate memory. With these techniques the apprentices who strive will acquire the four skills required.


We made a bibliographic consultation related to the theme studied. And it was also of essential importance the information of the teachers and students of the school, the object of our research, who presented, through the questionnaires, their answers and opinions, which turned into data that cooperated expressively to answer the questions of this research and confirm or not the presumptions raised.

It was found that the school offers a teaching in which the student has contact with the culture of the countries of the studied language, because the vast majority of students have a general knowledge training, especially a dip in the culture of the English language. Thus, when completing the course, the student feels more confident of a better qualification to face the labor market, as well as serve as a support to face new horizons and take more root in later studies.

The school also works with a staff of excellent teachers with a high mastery of the language they teach. Through these teachers students have access to the important contents for their training.

The common justifications indicated by teachers and students for high performance are based, among other points, on pedagogical performance, especially when it can meet the student’s perspectives also to economic factors, since these students do not have an occupational activity that can limit the time for studies.

In addition to the high performance, we note that the good frequency, explained initially, due to the cost of restarting the classes, also contributes to the student having more effort in the search for learning, because in this way he does not stop having access to the systematized content daily, but also does not lose the chance to architect his knowledge in partnership with his peers.

Therefore, if the student of the course has willpower, learns the language he wants, because the classes are very playful, taking place a true learning in the contents exposed, the students already communicate in English throughout the class, in short, exercises their right to communicate in the target language.

Therefore, this research made us have a new vision about the theme addressed here, because we realized that even attending English classes throughout school life is insufficient to learn this language if we do not have the opportunity to take a course in a language school, with a small number of students per class, so that the teacher can offer a more individualized care , with appropriate teachers and methodologies, or the experience of an exchange. Also competing for this is the age at which they propose to acquire the target language.

It is proven that both the authors who defend the inatista theory were not wrong, nor those who advocate learning in exposure to the environment also do not. All languages are accessible and learning depending only on the situation of the learner and a favorable environment.


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[1] Degree in Letters/English Language, Specialization in English Language Teaching, Master in Educational Sciences.

[2] PhD in Educational Sciences.

Submitted: August, 2019.

Approved: September, 2019.

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