Language Acquisition

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Language Acquisition
Kim Jarvis
Grand Canyon University
ESL 523
December 22, 2010

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...
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