My second-language acquisition experience

By Maksym Achkasov

Date: 2023-10-18

My journey of Second Language Acquisition

My personal experience of second language acquisition (SLA) is divided into three stages: initial (1996-2000), intensive (2001-2003), and progressive (2004-2023). Throughout these stages, I have studied English as a second language (L2) using various methods and techniques, the majority of which have been related to the Task-based and Communicative learning approaches. Most significant and notable results in my SLA have been achieved in times when I felt high levels of stress caused by lack of sufficient command of L2, fear of failure and sense of responsibility. In this essay, I aim to briefly describe my SLA experience and what conclusions I draw from it. 

1. Initial stage (1996-2000)

The initial stage of my SLA is characterized by tentative trial-and-error attempts to familiarize myself with the basics of L2. In 1996, while working as a firefighter, I tried to study English with a course for beginners called, “Yeshko”. It produced the first noteworthy results, as it seemed to offer logical and coherent structure in delivering the material. The resource consisted of clear and simple audio dialogues and relatively small units. I did a lot of listening, translation into L1 and oral drilling of the new words and phrases. Additionally, I focused on acquiring grammar and vocabulary by using a ‘paper flashcard’ method. 

2. Intensive stage (2001-2004)

A significant leap in my SLA occurred when I pursued my Bachelor's Degree in the UK. This period was particularly stressful due to the high academic standards and my relatively low proficiency in English at that time. It became immediately clear to me that I needed to increase my English level to at least B2 (CEFR) within a short period, or I risked failing. Soon, with the ‘flashcard’ method I could memorize up to 100 words a day. I tried to be consistent and disciplined. The fear of failure made me work on vocabulary and grammar during all my spare time. I used mnemonic methods and tried to find associations to remember words easier and faster. 

Additionally, doing research work, submitting written assignments, and delivering oral presentations were especially beneficial for my SLA. Presentations demanded extensive rehearsal and practice, while written works required careful choice of terms and grammatical structures. The feedback I received from my supervisors on my work was particularly helpful as I could see where exactly my thoughts were weak or did not convey ideas accurately. The use of authentic materials and so-called “real world” tasks significantly contributed to my overall growth in SLA.

Another factor that affected my progress in SLA was self-criticism for almost every mistake I made while studying and social interaction. I felt embarrassed for taking long pauses and making mistakes in my speech. It took me about a year before I began expressing myself freely and relatively accurately.

3. Progressive stage (2005-2023)

Since the time I graduated from university, I worked on my SLA in a variety of different ways. Below I would like to outline only the ones that I consider most effective. First, it has been my verbal communication with students. Having worked as an ESL teacher for more than 16 years, my experience of listening, explaining, asking, and answering questions has significantly enhanced my verbal communication skills. The fact that I have the responsibility before students to find the best possible answers in my capacity has helped me grow in my own SLA.

Second, it has been the recording of video lessons on English grammar and vocabulary that helped me grow in my English grammar knowledge. Rehearsing and practicing (UK/US sp) in front of a camera have notably helped me enhance my knowledge of basic English grammatical structures, popular idioms and collocations. I am not keen on cutting and editing videos, so I try to shoot one episode without any interruptions from start to finish. Thus, I had to reshoot some video lessons many times until I had more or less satisfactory quality.    

Third, it is my preparation for international exams (e.g. IELTS, TOEFL, TKT, BEC Higher) that helped me develop fluency in ESL. Each exam has led to a considerable improvement in my SLA due to its high requirements and standards of assessment. I tried to memorize various chunks of sentence constructions and discourse structures. I trained myself in focusing and concentrating on main ideas and some small details while preparing to do reading and listening tasks.


To conclude, my SLA experience has been diverse in its intensity and efficiency throughout the last 27 years. My key approaches to English learning have been those of Task-based and Communicative. I have learnt best when I was stressed, or faced a risk of failure, or when I felt responsibility before others.

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