Teaching English Language Learners - a Review

Topics: Teaching English as a foreign language, Language acquisition, Steven Pinker Pages: 4 (1002 words) Published: July 13, 2013
A review of “Teaching English Language Learners What the Research Does – and Does Not – Say” Anindita Shome Vikram Bhat

Educating English language learners (ELLs), that is, a student who does not speak English at all or with enough limitations so as to significantly hamper his or her participation in mainstream English instruction has been a matter of great debate for some time now. There are several issues to consider when attempting to ensure that ELLs keep pace academically with their peers who speak English natively and for most of these there are no definitive answers. This article aims to provide guidelines on the most effective practices for teaching ELLs based on the major findings of two reviews of the research on educating ELLs. It concludes with some specific suggestions on how this could be achieved but also lists out some critical questions that have not been answered conclusively and which will require further research.

The challenge faced by ELLs is immense. The fact that they have to learn academic content and skills while learning the language of instruction itself makes their position extremely unenviable. Additionally, the English they have to gain proficiency in is “academic English”, a term referring to the more complex and difficult language that is used mainstream classroom instruction. As if this were not enough, they need to understand and produce academic English both orally and in writing. It is no surprise that enabling ELLs to achieve academic parity with non-ELLs is the Holy Grail for most educators and a topic that generates charged debates. Like Steven Pinker claiming that language is an ‘instinctive’ evolutionary advantage that humans possess and that “people know how to talk in more or less the sense that spiders know how to spin webs”, a theory that has been vigorously opposed by many linguistic experts. It is also an issue that should be of great interest to education researchers, practitioners...

References: Pinker, Steven (2007) The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, Harper Perennial Modern Classics
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