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Observation of Student - Learner: Handan Tekin of Turkey

Shenikah Grandison

EDU 653 - Second Language Acquisition

Dr. Mary Mills


Observation of Student - Learner: Handan Tekin of Turkey

Observing a student in a Second Language Acquisition (SLA) learning environment is integral to

understanding how techniques and strategies are developed to ensure that learning is occurring

and how effective it is. In this paper the student - learner observation of Handan Trekin will be

discussed. This paper will begin with an introduction of the learner, brief physical description

and family background. Then there will be an analysis of the L2 (second language) acquisition

process and their current stage of development. Last, this paper will conclude with final

observations and recommendations for Tekin. The unique circumstances surrounding this paper

is that due to lack of access and resources in the area, the research could not find adequate ESL

programs to conduct an observation. Goodwin College has an ESL program based in East

Hartford, Connecticut. The director was very willing to allow an observation of one of their

classes. It is here that when asked Tekin volunteered to participate as the observed student-


Introduction of Handan Tekin

Handan Tekin is a 30 year old, bright-eyed soft-spoken young Muslim woman from

Turkey with green eyes, regaled in her hijab. She has a warm smile and shows her enthusiasm

for the English language through her excitement for learning. In class Tekin Tekins journey is

unique in her desire to learn her chosen second language. She seems very attentive and is usually

the first to speak in class with a comment, observation or question. Tekins offers information

with little reservation and does not seem as though she is afraid to make a mistake in class.

Compared to her other classmates she seems to be educated which she confirms in her interview.

Tekin takes advantage of opportunities to make conversation with her classmates and instructor.

In class, she expresses that she still needs to understand the cultural contexts and phrases because

it confuses her at times. Overall, Tekin seems to be a very engage member of the class and

contributes as much as she receives.

In the interview Tekin states that her mother is a housewife and her father is a retired

Chief of Police in Istanbul. Her father knows little English and her mother knows none at all.

Tekin states that during her parent's time it was not important to speak English. However, Turkey

has changed in the past 20 years, which has increased a need to learn English. Additionally,

Tekin has five sisters and only one of them is learning English, the youngest sister. Occasionally,

she will speak to her in English so that they may both practice. The need to learn English was

based on Tekins own desire to learn and succeed. Tekin began learning English in high school

and it was not engaging at all. According to Salwa (2016) a lack of motivation can reduce

learners attention while motivated students are likely to concentrate. She relied on acquiring

English mostly through pop culture, movies, music and the like. Eventually, Tekin received a

scholarship to attend the University of Istanbul to become an English to Turkish translator. Tekin

also taught children in Turkey English as well and states how teaching allowed her to learn as

much as her students did. Despite all of this, for Tekin it was not enough. She and her husband

decided to move to the United States to seek out better opportunities and realized that the move

was important for Tekin to acquire the level of instruction she was searching for.


Tekin is a resilient individual whose desire for proficiency has motivated her to cross an

ocean for better opportunities. Speaking two or more languages creates more economic and

social opportunities as it expands the number of people one can communicate with in an

increasing global economy (Barrow and Markman-Pithers, 2016). Psychologically it is an

imperative that Tekin become proficient in English to seek better career opportunities to help

support her family. Tekin stated continuously that from her childhood she understands that

learning English meant opportunity. English was also considered important to learn for survival

because mis-communicating one's intentions can lead to unpleasant interactions. The ability to

communicate efficiently and appropriately as an L2 speak and requires vocabulary knowledge

that contain both the conceptual Semantic and cognitive affective meaning of words used by

conversation partners (Sianipar, Middelburg and Dijkstra, 2015). Her first interaction with

English, however, was not engaging due to the instructors persistence in student learning

grammar rules. To Tekin, class was boring and a little intimidating because she did not want to

fail. Additionally, a teachers classroom behavior could also affect learners motivation; thus

teachers should create a class environment of trust and respect with students (Salwa, 2016). To

this day, Tekin does not feel has though she received the instruction she needed to be successful.

This has changed since she arrived at Goodwin College. Language immersion with instruction is

the best way to learn English because there is a cultural component one does not attain in a

structured learning environment outside the language community.

Considering socio-cultural factors, currently Tekin keeps to family and a few friends. For

Tekins is important that she learn pragmatics of language. Her English is very understandable

but seems to have trouble with pronouns occasionally. As an L1, Tekin wanted to increase her

vocabulary and she did not know much by the time she left High School. In University, although

she had more opportunity to learn English and the instruction was better, Tekin still felt as

though she did not receive enough instruction. What Tekin was searching for is communicative

competence that is defined as what a speaker needs to know to communicate with a particular

language community (Saville-Troike, 2006). At this point she realized that she needed to

understand the culture to accurately translate the language.


Linguistically, Tekin still feels as though she needs to improve her grammar and creating

sentences. She has a desire to write for professionally with complex sentence and with more

sophistication. Learning writing and entails basic familiarity with higher-level sub skills of

planning and organizing as well as lower level sub skills of spelling word choice and mechanics

of writing (Aghajanloo, Mobini and Khosravi, 2016). In her opinion, speaking the language at

times is more important than learning grammar. All components of English are important but

speaking is an everyday occurrence. Again Tekin wanted to learn the pragmatics of English such

as idioms. Tekin acknowledges that the best way to learn this is by living in the country itself.


Tekin is a bright woman with an even brighter future and translating English is an

imperative means for that future. Her beginnings as an L1 were not easy due to lack of

engagement. Although College provided a foundation of language for her, it still was not

enough. Coming to America to seek better opportunities gave Tekin the opportunity to learn

English culturally. It is important to the success of the family that she learns English. As an L2

Tekin feels to achieve the level of writing and speaking, she needs to make some improvements.

I suggested to her to look into taking a regular college/ community college writing course to

improve her writing. Additionally suggestions are to (1) be visible to the instructor, (2) initiate

relationships with classmates and, (3) prepare prior to class (Harrison and Shi, 2016). It will

challenge her in a way she has not been before. I also encourage Tekin to join activities or clubs

she may enjoy with English speakers only. Communicative events cannot be completed with the

a common language in the absence of familiar context and props or when non-predictable

information needs to be conveyed (Saville-Troike, 2006). This will force her to utilize her

English more frequently. If Tekin has the same persistence she has used to achieve this much,

she will increase her proficiency in no time.



Aghajanloo, K., Mobini, F., Khosravi, R. (2016) The effect of teachers writing corrective feedback

(wcf) types on intermediate efl learners writing performance. Advances in

Language and Literary Studies, 7 (3)

Barrow, L., Markman-Pithers, L. (2016) Supporting young english learners in the united states.

Future Of, 26 (2).

Harrison, J., Shi, H. (2016) English language learners in higher education: An exploratory

conversation. Journal of International Students, 6 (2).

Salwa, A. (2016) Are saudi girls motivated to learn english? Arab World English Journal. 7 (4).

Saville-Troike, M. (2006) Introducing second language acquisition.

Sianipar, A., Middelburg, R., Dijkstra, T. (2015) When feelings arise with meanings: How emotion

and meaning of native language affect second language processing in adult

learners. PLoS One 10 (12).



May 31 2017
Observation of Student - learner
Student: Handan Tekin
Country of Origin: Turkey
Age: 30
SLA level: L4

Handan volunteered to be interviewed and

agreed to have photo taken for this project

Prior to meeting Handan the instructor informed

me that Handan would probably be the most
willing to volunteer. And that she seems to be
the most advanced student in class.

Due to lack of ESL students in my town, I

decided to go to Goodwin College for my
observation. With permission of the Director I
was able to observe an L4 course (It seems to
actually be an L2 course, just broken down into
four levels for the College). Although I wanted
to observe an L2 class, it was noted that all the
students were Spanish speakers. The instructor
uses Spanish to facilitate the class but I would
not understand what was happening. Additional
for the interview a translator would be required.
However, in my interviews I was still able to
discuss the L2 experience with the student-learner and the instructor has L2 teaching experience.

Upon observing Handan

- Handan is usually the first to speak for comments and questions
- She offered information with little reservations
- Does not seem as though she is not afraid to make mistakes
- Attentive in class
- She takes advantage of opportunities for conversations in class
- Would still like to understand the language in cultural contexts
- Obvious that she has had some form of education
- Discuss her mistakes when she attempts to translate outside of the classroom

Interview with Handan Tekin

Tell me about your parents educational background, career and experience with English
Mother is a housewife and she only has Elementary education. The father on the other hand was
a police chief in Istanbul he is currently retired. Right now occasionally he works with the police
academy in the states. Mother and father do not know any English. Father Knows very little
mother knows nothing. Both currently residing in Istanbul. HT States that when her parents were
younger English was not important to learn. Istanbul was not as developed as it is now. Over
the past 20 years turkey has quickly changed and conditions have changed to have a global
effect on Turkey. HT was introduced to technology when she was 12 and had a home computer
by the time she was 15.

How about your siblings, do any of them know English and if so do you converse with them
in English?
HT currently has five other sisters. Only she and her youngest sister know English. On occasion
HT and her sister will speak in English and practice.

Did you learn any English in Turkey?

HT Went to the University of Istanbul to study English and Turkish translation on scholarship.
Before University HT learn some English in high school. Although she learned some English in
high school she acknowledges that it wasn't enough information. In fact the teacher was not
engaging and English is very boring period so she did not learn anything. All she remembers is
so many rules to memorize. She actually got a proper opportunity to learn English when she
went to the University of Istanbul for her major.

Why come to America and learn English?

HT and her husband came to America to seek better opportunities. They discovered that
language English language acquisition was Paramount to their success in America. Also HT
could be a more effective translator if she learned English in a English language country. HT
Goal is to pass the TOEFL.

What did you think about English before coming to the US?
She believed since childhood that English was a doorway to Opportunities of the world. And so
she has been learning English from high school to University and now Goodwin College. High
school English and University English were not adequate enough to fulfill her needs.

What was difficult for you to learn English as an L1?


HT Recalls that she had to learn a lot of grammar as though it was a formula in science. The
teacher that she had seen a little scary and boring. Many times she could never figure out words
and tried very hard to pass the class. HT credits her further understanding of English through
watching American movies, listening to music and trying to read English language books. HT
could still not speak a lot of words by the time she left high school for University.

What is difficult for you to learn English as an L2?

HT recalls that further learning English University was difficult. The University was a little bit
better. Yet, in some ways it still was not enough, at this point HT realize that she needed to
understand English language culture as well as the mechanics of the English language. HT
states that because she's learning a second language she had to learn different phrases, idioms
and colloquium. Without understanding the pragmatic components of local language she can
mis-communicate her intentions. In her experience this can be dangerous because when
communication is not done properly one can find themselves in bad situations. Learning the
language is not enough. It is important to her that native English speakers understand her

What is TEFL education like in Turkey?

TEFL education and turkey is very lacking. This is why the best method to learn a language is by
immersing oneself in the country. This is what H2 and her husband decided to do. HT admit that
learning English and turkey may be very different now considering that turkey has started to
become a global City.

What parts of English are you good at? What parts are you not so good at? And what is it t
that you need to improve on?
HT states that her strength in English is speaking. However she has writing difficulties and
grammatical issues for example she has a difficulty differentiating what then in which period she
would like to begin creating complex sentences and advanced her writing. When I asked her
about which component of learning English is the most important she stated that all components
are important but if she had to decide the number one component and the number for component
she states that learning to speak and understand speakers is more important than writing.
Because speaking is used on a daily basis whereas writing is an occasional activity if you're not
in school. As stated before this is an area that she needs to work on period she would also like to
work on idioms and such.

How have you become confident in speaking English?

When I asked HT why she was so confident in speaking English she admitted that she had been a
English teacher in Istanbul for little children. And she had to become confident in her ability to
teach the children two speak English. Additionally HT have a strong desire to learn and to

improve she has very high expectations of herself period She wants to speak to native English
speakers with depth and understanding.

I recommend that HT continue to challenge herself. I encouraged her to take a regular
University course or a community course on writing. Speaking English is adequate to understand
however HT needs to expose herself more to English. I told her that she needs to place herself in
opportunities where all she can do is speak English. Additionally she needs to make friends with
English speakers. But more important than anything else she has to be patient with herself and
challenge herself more.