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Language acquisition

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Language acquisition

Post by caffeine needed on Tue Sep 18, 2012 5:36 pm

there's been a couple of queries about this in nvq so thought I'd post my nvq answer to this in here.
There are five stages of language acquisition for children learning a second language. The main factor which will hinder the language development will be trying to move on to the next stage too quickly and over facing the child. At all times children should be encouraged to talk and write in their home language as they ‘think’ in this language and then ‘translate’ into English. Learning a new language is a very tiring experience especially when the language is heard all the time. A child who is learning an additional language but who also has special needs requires careful planning of lessons and work set. If a child has no English at all it can be difficult to recognise any S.E.N. at first. However this does becomes apparent with time and this is one of the occasions when careful handling of the situation and an interpreter is vital. Basic interpersonal communication skills (B.I.C.S.) are learnt first usually achieved in two years and cognitive, academic language proficiency (C.A.L.P.) follows later this can take from seven to ten years. Children can be fluent in B.I.C.S. but still struggle with C.A.L.P. this is when problems with behaviour often occur as the child feels frustrated when they are unable to answer questions or do the work set.
The five stages of language acquisition are:-

Stage 1: Pre-production.
Also known as the silent period. Learners may have up to 500 words (or none at all) in their receptive vocabulary, but they are not yet speaking. Although some repeat everything said to them, they are not really producing language but parroting. These children will listen attentively and may even copy words. They will be able to respond to pictures and other visuals e.g. gestures. They can understand and copy gestures and movement to show comprehension e.g. nodding and shaking of head, pointing. To promote development attention should focus on listening comprehension activities and building vocabulary (starting with basic communication and classroom equipment). Watching what is happening around them and being given the opportunity to join in games etc. There should be lots of repetition of English and new learners benefit from a ’buddy’, if possible one who speaks their home language.

Stage 2: Early production
This stage may last six months or more and during this stage they develop a receptive and active vocabulary of about 1,000 words. During this stage they can usually speak in one or two word phrases. They use short memorized language chunks although these chunks may not have been remembered correctly! During this stage learners benefit from:
Been asked yes/no and either/or questions.
Answering with one or two word responses.
Participating in some whole class activities.
Use of pictures to build vocabulary and support questions.
Visual display work with dual language labels.
Modify content information to the language level of learner.
Focus on key vocabulary and concepts.
Use simple books with predictable text.
Begin to foster writing in English through labelling, short sentences and frameworks to scaffold writing.

Stage 3: Speech emergence
At this stage a vocabulary of approximately 3,000 words have developed and communication is through simple phrases and words and questions. These may not always be grammatically correct. Learners will also initiate short conversations with classmates. They understand easy stories read in class with the support of pictures. They will be able to do some content work with teacher support. To promote development use the following:
Stories which can be sounded out phonetically
Word banks with pictures
Matching games e.g. vocabulary to definition
Listening activities
Partner reading
Two step directions
Discussion of ‘jargon’ and vocabulary before a lesson begins.
Modified text in content area subjects
Dialogue journals - these give the children chance to write about any subject that interests them using their emerging speech. They are a ‘conversation’ between teacher and child where the teacher can read about the child’s thoughts and feelings which can be written at the child’s own level and pace.

Stage 4: Intermediate fluency.
By stage 4 learners have a vocabulary of 6,000 words. They are beginning to use more complex sentences when speaking and writing and are willing to express opinions and share their thoughts. They will ask questions to clarify their learning. At this time these learners should be able to work well in maths and science with some support. Strategies from their own language will be used to learn content in English.
To help children at this stage focus on learning strategies.
Introduce more complex ideas (slowly at first).

Stage 5: Advanced fluency
It can take up to 10 years to reach cognitive academic language proficiency (C.A.L.P.) By this time students are near-native in their ability to work in their additional language. They will probably no longer be on E.A.L. support programs however they still need continued support from classroom teachers especially in some curriculum areas e.g. history, geography and writing.

During all stages we must never assume the child understands the work set. Careful planning and discussion with the child will show if the child is able to understand the work planned or if more careful scaffolding is required.
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