English Language Essays - English Second Language

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English Second Language

The Benefits of and Drawbacks of Allowing English as Second Language Programs In Elementary Education


There are thousands of immigrant children throughout the United States enrolled in ESL (English as Second Language) programs throughout hundreds of elementary schools. ESL programs cover content areas like math, science, and social studies. The goals of ESL programs are to develop a child’s social language, academic language, and sociocultural knowledge.

While many say that ESL programs help students to flourish, some studies have shown that ESL students are not being adequately taught and do not meet set standards (Gomez, 2007). By examining what is required by the state, teachers, and students in ESL programs, a better understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of having these ESL programs in elementary schools will be determined, along with whether or not these programs should be available to children.

The issue of ESL programs in elementary schools is important to look at because of the many children enrolled in these programs. They are the ones that are immediately impacted from having these courses. Many policy makers, community leaders, and even Congress have agreed that ESL programs are in need of a change. Congress has recognized the fact that there are too few ESL programs.

They also agree that the ones in place are overbooked. Students may have to wait extensive periods of time before being enrolled in these programs (Tucker, 2007). A thorough investigation needs to be conducted to determine whether or not English as Second Language programs are beneficial or damaging to immigrate children in the United States.

The best way for a thorough investigation to be fully conducted is by using an interdisciplinary approach. This issue meets the criteria needed for an interdisciplinary approach to be conducted (Repko, 2005). The subject of ESL programs is complex, which means that it has areas of interest in many different fields. This issue also shows interest from more than two disciplines.

This topic cannot be solved by a sole discipline; it needs to be evaluated from many different areas to be fully understood. Emphasizing on solely one discipline would limit the information needed to solve this topic. This issue is also broad. Finally, ESL programs in elementary schools address a societal problem or need.

There has been a lot of research conducted to determine whether or not ESL programs are beneficial or more damaging to children. The research conducted has had to deal with many different disciplines. The disciplines involved with this issue pertaining to ESL programs are Spanish, English, Communications, and Sociology. The disciplines that are of high importance are Spanish, English, and sociology.

Both of the disciplines of Spanish and English are important to this investigation on ESL programs because they are the primary forms of communication. The study of each language also reveals the cultural differences represented by the languages. Spanish is the primary NL (Native Language) for most Hispanic immigrant students. This is the most popular primary language that is being spoken among students. English is primarily the second language among Hispanic immigrant students (Calderon, Hertz-Lazarowitz, & Slavin, 1998).

This discipline deals with a lot of hot button issues throughout the entire United States. There are a large number of people who want to see English be the sole source of communication for teaching. By enforcing this language, the need for ESL programs would be eradicated. The discipline of sociology deals with the individual student themselves. This discipline looks at the effects on the student as well as the families of those students in ESL programs. Sociology also looks at the societal consequences of allowing some students to tae ESL courses, while others are being taught solely English (Zhou, 1997).

The method of research that will be conducted for this paper will be a thorough literature review of peer-reviewed sources from the disciplines Spanish, English, and sociology. The purpose of this paper is to determine whether or not ESL programs are beneficial or more damaging to children in elementary schools. This is an important issue because of the large number of children that are involved in these courses. This paper will also focus on three disciplines to answer the topic: Spanish, English, and sociology.


English as Second Language courses were originally intended for immigrant adults. Teaching immigrant children English was not viewed as a top priority. English as Second Language courses have evidence of being linked to British intercultural control.

The teaching of English became important because of it being the direct answer to a political obligation. English was viewed as a huge factor for the infrastructure that was needed for the spread of British neocolonial control (Auerbach, 1993). By the 19th century, public schools were allowing bilingual education, as long as it was in agreement with the political power of ethnic groups.

Towards the end of the 19th century, bilingual education was declining. This decline was caused by the rise of nativism and antiforeign political outlooks spreading throughout the country (Auerbach, 1993).

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Any man who comes here must adopt…the native tongue of our people…It would be a crime…to perpetuate differences in language in this country” (Mitchell, 2005, pg.253). The sentiments of nativism are being felt to this day. The United States still has a large percentage of its population that wants no foreign influence in any important aspect of their life, including what is being taught in schools. For this paper, only these types of external factors will be discussed.

These factors include the influence of the culture/society, the family, the education level required to be achieved by the students in the state of Texas in elementary schools, and the education required to be taught by the state of Texas in elementary schools.

Although English was being taught throughout the 18th century, this paper will focus on the 19th and 20th century.By World War I, there was a large increase in the number of immigrants coming into the United States. Immigrants were beginning to have a bigger role in the labor movement. This was an added cause for the rise of xenophobic attitudes in the early 20th century.

The problems that America was facing, politically and economically, were blamed on “foreign influence”. The Americanization movement was starting to gain a strong influence because of these problems (Auerbach, 1993).The Americanization movement was started during the first quarter of the 20th century.

The immigrants in the United States were persuaded to conform to American speech, ideals, traditions, and ways of life. Fear and suspicion of the immigrants gave motivation to the movement. Social workers and heads of businesses began to create organizations to help raise the living conditions that immigrants were facing.

These organizations were formed at the municipal, state, and federal level to receive aid to help assimilate the immigrants into American customs. World War I only helped to strengthened the movement.

The Federal Bureau of Education (FBN) and the Federal Bureau of Naturalization (FBN) joined the movement. Rallies, patriotic naturalization proceedings, and grand Fourth of July celebrations were typical throughout the movement.

When the United States entered World War I, Americanization was made an official part of the war effort. Some states passed legislation providing for the education and Americanization of immigrants. By 1921,every state that had a large immigrant population had provided education facilities for the immigrants (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2007).

ESL courses were used to promote faithfulness to America , as well as to a person’s job.English was connected with having patriotism. When you spoke proper English, you were considered a good American. Children, during this same period of Americanization, were encouraged to have language loyalty through oaths they were required to memorize and correctly pronounce. For example, I love the United States of America. I love my country’s flag. I love my country’s language. I promise:

1. That I will not dishonor my country’s speech by leaving off the last syllables of words.

2. That I will say a good American “yes” and “no” in place of an Indian grunt “um-hum” and “nup-um” or a foreign “ya” or “yeh” and “nope” . (Robbins, 1918, as cited in Baron, 1990, as cited in Auerbach, 1993, pg. 13)

During the first part of the 20th century, ESL courses and instruction were a direct result of the Americanization movement. During this period of time, the teaching method of using oral English was used. This meant that the use of a student’s native language (NL) was no longer accepted, and English only in ESL courses began (Auerbach, 1993).

During this period when English only was being used, the immigrant children were expected to change their names or the pronunciation of their names. This was done to help the school administrators easily pronounce their names. The cultures of the immigrant children were not entirely accepted in the schools at that time either.

Their native language and cultures were not taken into consideration for exams. As a result, a lot of students were deemed as mentally challenged because of the failure rate of their exams (Christian, 1976, as cited in Simoes, 1976, as cited in Retzak, 2003).

During the early 1920’s, adult ESL courses were started to help teach practical English for everyday life. These courses included teaching the immigrants how to open bank accounts, ask for directions, go to doctor visits, and make purchases. Teachers were warned not to allow cliques in the classroom that would stop the Americanization process. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, five basic principles were beginning to emerge.

First, English is taught better monolingually. Second, the English teacher should be a native speaker. Third, the earlier English is taught, the better the results from the students are. Forth, the more English is taught, the better the results. Finally, if other languages (NL) are used too much, the standards of English will drop (Auerbach,

As we have seen throughout the last several centuries, the issues and concerns with ESL education are ongoing. This important topic still needs to be explained with the disciplines of English, Spanish, and sociology. Two things need to be accomplished before this issue is fully understood and answered.

Each discipline needs to be individually evaluated and studied. By looking at each one individually, we can determine how each discipline answers the question of ESL course benefits and drawbacks. In order for each discipline to fully explain and show the full picture that ESL courses entail, the disciplines need to be studied in a particular order.

For the purpose of this paper, the disciplines will be studied as follows: sociology, English, and Spanish. The disciplines need to be studied in this order because, as mentioned earlier, sociology explains the conditions of society. This discipline will also explain the demands that immigrant and American cultures are facing. Once all the social needs are explained and studied, the disciplines of English and Spanish can be examined.

Both of these disciplines will have similar justifications for their reasonings. Each one will show how beneficial/damaging they would be as a language in ESL classrooms. After becoming fully educated in what each discipline explains, the three will need to be combined to find one set of possible solutions. After being synthesized, the complete picture will be clear and an answer will be evident (Repko, 2005).



Gomez, E. Parents guide to the ESL standards for Pre-K-12 students: Introduction and common

questions. Tesol.com. Retrieved November 28, 2007, from


Retzak, A. (2003). Teacher allocation of turns to limited English proficiency students [Abstract].

University of Wisconsin-Stout.


Auerbach, E. (1993). Reexamining English only in the ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 27(1),

9-32. P

Calderon, M., Hertz-Larowitz, R., & Slavin, R. (1998). Effects of bilingual integrated reading

and composition on students making the transition from Spanish to English reading. The

Elementary School Journal, 99(2), 153-165. P

Mitchell, C. (2005). English only: the creation and Maintenance of an academic underclass.

Journal of Latinos and Education, 4(4), 253-270. P

Tucker, J. (2007, Spring). Waiting times for ESL classes and the impact on English learners.

National Civic Review, 96(1), 30-37. P


Columbia Encyclopedia. (2007). Americanization. Columbia University Press. Retrieved

March 1, 2008, from http://www.bartleby.com/65/am/Amer-izatn.html

Zhou, M. (1997). Growing up American: The challenge confronting immigrant children and the

children of immigrants. Annual Review of Sociology, 23(1), 63. P

Additional Sources

Repko, A. (2005). Interdisciplinary practice: A student guide to research and writing. Boston,

MA: Pearson.