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Language Acquisition

Running head: LANGUAGE AQUISITION Language Acquisition Kim Jarvis Grand Canyon University ESL 523 December 22, 2010 Abstract Learning a new language can be difficult for anyone. It is especially difficult for students who are expected to learn a new culture and different subjects at the same time. The article this paper references discusses ways teachers can help their students learn a new language and the stages those students experience as they become proficient in their new language. Introduction

This paper summarizes the article, Changing Lives: Teaching English and literature to ESL students, in which Gisela Ernst-Slavit, Monica Moore, and Carol Maloney discuss how teachers can help secondary school students, whose first language is not English, learn to speak and write English. It also discusses the stages of language development and cultural adaptation that everyone learning a second language goes through and how teachers can use the information from the article in their own classrooms. Language Acquisition

The authors state that the purpose of their article is, “to provide teachers with selected background knowledge and strategies that enhance the learning process for English as a Second Language (ESL) students in secondary classrooms. ” (Ernst-Slavit, Moore, and Maloney, 2002). All students who are learning English as a second language have similar needs. They need to build their oral English skills as well as developing their skills in reading and writing English. Developing English language skills has to occur at the same time ESL students are continuing the learning process in the other content areas.

It is important to note that not all English Language Learning students are familiar with the Latin alphabet. For example, students whose first language is Arabic or Chinese have a writing system that is much different than ours. This can make it harder for them to learn to speak, read and write English. According to the article, the student’s first language plays an important role in helping them learn a second language. The more proficient the student is in his or her native language, the easier it will be for that student to learn a second language.

For example, foreign exchange students tend to be very successful in American high school classes because they are already at a high school proficiency level in their own language. The article goes on to state that, educational programs should include what “students bring with them”. (Ernst-Slavit, Moore, and Maloney, 2002). Teachers should concentrate on what these students have instead of what they do not have. Teaching and learning can be expanded and enhanced when the students’ language and experiences are mixed with the content being taught in schools.

It is a long and difficult process for anyone to learn a second language and students whose first language is not English will have to work harder to learn a second language. Educators also need to realize that it can be emotionally challenging for both children and adults to adapt to a new culture and language. Teenagers especially, may tend to be shy and/or embarrassed around others when they are first trying out their new language skills. The article also points out that just because a student seems to speak fluent English in the hallways, does not mean that they are proficient in the classroom.

A student who has good conversational skills does not necessarily have good literacy skills. While it usually only takes one or two years to become proficient in everyday usage of a language, it can take up to seven years for a student to become proficient in the language needed to succeed in content area classes. This is especially true when academic reading and writing are considered part of the fluency process. Everybody has different ways of learning things. This is also true with learning a second language.

Students who are outgoing probably will not worry about making mistakes as they begin to imitate phrases and expressions that their classmates are using. Students who are more introverted may observe and listen to others until they are more confident of what to say. Teachers need to understand that the outgoing student may not be as fluent as he or she seems to be and that the more introverted student may be more proficient in their second language than they appear to be. Although it will take time, both types of students will learn to speak their second language proficiently.

While these students are learning, they will make mistakes. The article states that if teachers correct the mistakes directly, it may discourage students from trying out their new language skills. Modeling the correct language is a much better way of correcting mistakes then using direct correction. One of the best ways to help students learn a second language is to use a variety of settings that promote talk and interaction. These not only help students understand new concepts, but they also help to provide a foundation for learning through reading and writing.

Since literacy is part of language, reading and writing develop alongside speaking and listening. Students who spend time talking and listening to each other and working on reading and writing activities are able to develop more proficiency in all language modes. There is are predictable stages of linguistic and cultural processes that students who are learning a second language go through. The teacher needs to be able to identify the stage the student is in so that they are both able to communicate effectively during the language acquisition process.

The amount of time a student spends in each stage depends on their age, language background, how proficient they are in their first language, their personality and how motivated they are to learn their second language. Some students will progress through all four stages in one year, while others might take two years to reach the third stage. The first stage of language development and cultural adaptation is called Preproduction. In this stage, students listen and watch others carefully. They do not speak much and tend to communicate with gestures, actions and some verbal phrases such as, “No thank you or yes please”.

Some activities that are effective in this stage are face-to-face conversations, lessons or units that use key words several times, using a tape or compact disc player to listen to a literature lesson, breaking literary works down into smaller pieces and using visuals and manipulatives. In this stage, it is important for the teacher to realize that the student’s silence does not necessarily mean that they are unwilling to participate. They are learning by watching and listening. The teacher needs to provide a stress free environment and offer support and encouragement. The student should be able to pass and not respond during this stage.

By keeping the amount of stress and anxiety in the classroom to a minimum, teachers will be able to lead their students to the next stage. The second stage is called Early Production. In this stage, students are in the process of catching on to basic vocabulary and understanding that English, just like their own language, is a system made of rules, patterns and sound-symbol relationships. Students will also begin to use one or two words in English. They may also begin to speak small pieces of social language. Once again, students will make mistakes and teachers should model the correct language rather than using direct correction.

Helpful activities in this stage include prediction guides before reading to allow students to identify and think through their feelings on abstract concepts such as love, war, truth and honor. Giving students a list of key terms before reading and providing opportunities for they to use the terms, audio recordings of the reading lessons, lecture and class activities, Venn diagrams and graphic organizers are also helpful to students learning English. During this stage, students often become frustrated with their new language and culture. The article calls this, “adaptation fatigue”. (Ernst-Slavit, Moore, and Maloney, 2002).

This occurs because they are absorbing a lot of information that they basically have no way of responding to. It takes a lot of emotional energy to make their first attempts at participating in their new environment. It is very important for teachers to understand their students’ frustration and provide them with a lot of support and encouragement during this stage. The third stage of language development and cultural adaptation is called Speech Emergence. During this stage, students’ language acquisition has increased so that they are now able to participate in small group discussions and activities.

Their comprehension has also increased and they are now able to use their new language to do things such as clarify, request, refuse, apologize, etc. Teachers can now use lessons that focus on key concepts rather than just key terms. They are able to discuss abstract concepts such as love, ambition, betrayal and idealism while reading literary works such as Shakespeare. Students are now able to answer open-ended questions that motivate language production. Students no longer experience adaptation fatigue but begin to feel a sense of relief during speech emergence. Although they are still under a lot of pressure, English

Language Learning students have more control over their lives and can now participate in the school setting. During this stage, teachers need to be aware of the fact that teenagers need to invent and reinvent themselves constantly. Teachers need to provide an environment in the classroom that encourages the students to explore their own identities in the context of the themes expressed in some of the world’s great literature. The fourth and last stage is called Intermediate Fluency. Students can now participate in conversations and produce narratives that connect.

Some of them begin to see reading and writing activities as a way to gain and process new information. Teachers should begin to teach basic study and note taking skills to their students. They should also begin to teach students how to determine the main ideas in the readings. Students should now be able to answer questions such as, “How do you think this story will end? ” or, “What do you think about this situation? ”. Graphic organizers, semantic maps and outlines are excellent tools to help with writing essays. English Language Learning students in this stage are able to function well in school.

They have succeeded in learning a new language, have made friends and can now ask for help, share insights and offer their own opinions. Teachers should celebrate the fact that their students have progressed to this level. My Opinion I think that this is an excellent article. It did a thorough job of explaining the different stages that students who are learning English or any second language go through. It also provided excellent examples of things I can do to help my students as they progress through the four stages of language acquisition and cultural development.

It also points out that teachers will not always recognize the stage their students are in as they are unique individuals and may exhibit traits from several stages at the same time and it will take careful observation on the part of teachers to determine which stage a student is in. Conclusion Students who are learning a new language and culture progress through four unique stages and not all of them will progress at the same rate. During this transition period, students may become frustrated with their attempts to use the language they are learning.

With a lot of support and encouragement from teachers, English Language Learning students will successfully progress through the four stages and learn to speak, read and write English fluently. References Ernst-Slavit, G. , Moore, M. , & Maloney, C. (2002). Changing lives: Teaching English and literature to ESL students. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46(2), 116. Retrieved December 21, 2010 from EBSCOhost. Walqui, A. (2000). Contextual Factors in Second Language Acquisition. WestEd. San Francisco, CA. Retrieved December 20, 2010 from http://www. cal. org/resources/digest/digest_pdfs/0005-contextual-walqui. pdf.