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The purpose of this paper is to research articles that are based on Language Acquisition written by professionals that are considered as experts in the field. You will find what language acquisition means while also looking at different aspects of the topic. Other topics we will be reviewing in this paper are: English Language Learners, balanced literacy programs for English language learners, linguistic studies, phonetics, syntax and morphology. The main focus will all be based on English language learners. Through research we find that the school districts have adopted specific programs to put in place that will ensure the improvement of our ELL students when striving toward proficient in listening, speaking, reading and writing of the English language. During this journey we are still working on incorporating innovative methods that not help our students but also their families.
English Language Learners
When you think of the term English Language Learners what is the first thing that comes to mind? I know that until I furthered my education and learned more about the different children we service in the school system I always thought English Language Learners only came from Mexico. Much to my surprise that ELL students come from all across the world. We find that English Language Learners are students whose parents migrated from another country to the United States. Research stated that after administering a survey the results clearly state, "in 2000-2001, more than 4 million students with limited proficiency in English were enrolled in our public schools across the nation, making up almost 10 percent of the total pre-K through 12th grade public school enrollment." (Kindler, 2002) By looking at the results from the surveys, Kindler said, "the population of the students who are English language learners has grown 105 percent, while the general school population has grown only 12 percent since the 1990-1991 school year." Therefore, a question that also comes to mind is how many different languages are being spoken around the United States in the school system who has limited English? Research found that 490 languages are spoken by students who are not fluent in the English language. Due to this number of students who have limited English in our classroom teachers are finding it very difficult to meet the needs of all children in the classroom including the ELL, special education and general education students. Their goal is to find strategies to help the students with limited English be successful in the classroom while challenging the students in the class who are proficient. When working with the ELL students it is very evident that there is a huge gap between them and their peers. States have been required by the law to design a curriculum to help meet the needs of the English language learners, which means they have had to create standards and benchmarks a long with proficiency tests that are geared toward the ELL population. The purpose is to make sure that the students are making progress and will be able to comprehend the content being taught in the classroom. Looking at our school district in Area 2 we have been required by the area superintendent to include ELL classes in our schedules so the students with limited English have a class they can attend to help them become fluent in listening, speaking, reading and writing. After studying and reading about English language learners we find that there are two ways our ELL students are being educated, which include: English immersion and bilingual education. English immersion provides instruction in English, while bilingual education teaches language-minority students subjects in both English and their native language." (Gandara, 1999) Bilingual education was first introduced as an opportunity for students with limited English to be enrolled in a class where they would be taught in their native language and along the line they would be introduced to English which would give them the opportunity to be exposed to the English language and not be left behind in their academics. Throughout the years schools have found that enrolling students in the bilingual classes was not helping them make any progress toward learning English instead it was making them more dependent on their primary language rather than improving their English language acquisition.
Language Acquisition Theories
Let's begin by identifying what the term language acquisition actually means. Language acquisition is "the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive, produce and use words to understand and communicate."(Wikipedia) When dealing with language acquisition we must first understand that there are four basic components of human language. We have found not only through articles but also our videos that human language includes both receptive and productive use. What is the difference between receptive language and productive language? According to Elisabeth Jimenez receptive language use occurs during the comprehension or understanding of words and sentences. Productive language use idea generation and the articulation of words in speech. While learning about receptive and productive language we find that there are four domains of language. These domains include: listening, speaking, reading and writing. The four basic structural components of language are: "phonology- the system of the sound segments that humans use to build up words. Each language has a different set of these phonemes, semantics- the meanings that are expressed by words and phrases. In order to serve as a means of communication between people, words must have a shared meaning, grammar- the system of rules by which words and phrases are arranged to make meaningful statements, and the last stage is pragmatics- the system of patterns that determine how humans can use language in particular social settings for particular conversational purposes."(Answers.com) We find that children usually start to pronounce their first words between nine and twelve months. By the time children reach the age of six their vocabulary more than likely contains 14,000 words. Imagine how many words are in a person's vocabulary by the time they are an adult. Research states that by the time we reach adulthood we have somewhere around 40,000 words in our vocabulary which we can access on a daily basis. This means that from the time a child is born they are exposed to learning new words every day. We also need to take into consideration the social interactions our students are engaged in from the time they are born. This type of interaction will have an enormous impact on their language and vocabulary development. Throughout the years we find that researchers have came to the same conclusion that both nature and nurture play an important role in language acquisition.
Second Language Acquisition Theories
When talking about the second language theory people are referring to the different stages of learning a language. Research shows that there are five different stages a human goes through when they are learning a language. The five language acquisition has been divided into five different stages. These stages include: silent stage, early production, emergence of speech, intermediate ability and advanced fluency. "Stage one, which is the silent stage the child is not able to speak the language, but they do have the ability to respond to new words that are being introduced to them. Stage two-early production, learners are able to develop an understanding of 1,000 active words and they begin to have the ability to speak a few words and use some simple phrases of the language. During this stage you will find the students making common mistakes while learning the language. Stage three, which is the emergence of speech, is where the students begin to speak their second language. They begin to speak in simple terms and work towards reading and writing in their second language. Stage four, intermediate ability is where the students begin to speak using more complex terms and use their new language. Finally stage five, the advanced fluency, involves the development of a separate vocabulary of that language and the attainment of a confidence expressing oneself through their second language."(Oaks, 2010) Oaks also stated that "through the second language acquisition theoretically ends at the fifth stage, the enhancement of the language skills and the expansion of the language vocabulary is a continuous process."
Balanced Literacy Program
When talking about a balanced literacy program for our English language learners we must make sure that the instruction for our children needs to have standards, instruction in both language because if they do not have a strong foundation in their primary language it will be very difficult for them to learn English, and we must have in place an assessment to determine what they know when they come through our doors and ongoing assessment throughout the year to ensure that our ELL children have being successful in their learning. If we find that our students are not being successful then we need to include interventions to help them succeed. "Instruction for English language learners should include reading and responding to literature, writing, and the development of skills, including instruction in phonics, phonemic awareness, and vocabulary. Beginning literacy instruction in students' primary language should also be balanced and meaning-centered." (California of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) Writing also plays an important role when balancing the literacy program for our ELL students.
While learning about the English language learners through the videos, research and classroom experiences on a daily basis we find that there are a lot of myths out there floating around such as educators thinking that our ELL population all learn the same way and that they come into their classrooms with the same experiences as those students who are proficient in the English language. When teaching our English language learners to read we need to realize that Spanish phonics and English phonics are not learned in the same way. Elisabeth Jimenez stated "when dealing with Spanish phonics we need to realize that syllabic awareness develops before phonemic awareness since syllables are defined-boundary and rhythmic sounds units. English phonics begins with phonemic awareness." (Jimenez, 2010) States need to ensure that they have the appropriate curriculum, materials, educators, and appropriate opportunities for our English language learners to be successful in our learning environment. We have found that over the years the population of our ELL students has increased due to more and more people migrating into the United States. When these children come into our schools, we are finding that a majority of them are coming to us as children without any exposure to the English language or very limited skills. We find out that some of the reason these children coming to our schools have such a difficult time at learning a new language is because they are not yet fluent in listening, speaking, reading or writing in their primary language. If a person is not fluent in their primary language they will struggle trying to learn and become fluent in another language.
Finally, when teaching our ELL students it is important that we differentiate the instruction. When differentiating, teachers are not writing a different lesson plan for each child in the classroom using different concepts. We are actually taking one concept and using a variety of methods and strategies to teach the material to the variety of learners in the classroom. Differentiation is now being considered as one of the best practices for teachers in the classroom. Elisabeth Jimenez states, "that when teaching English Learners we need to know each student's proficiency level, examine the textbook and standards to be taught, determine the vocabulary, language functions, and abstract concepts that might perplex English learners, and plan for how to teach key vocabulary."
Answers.com. (2010). Language Acquisition. Retrieved November 2010 from
Catesol.Org. (1998). CASTEOL Position Statement on Literacy Instruction for English Language
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Jimenez, Elisabeth. (2010). Linguistic Foundations-Expressive (Spoken and Written) Language
Structure and Use. Retrieved November from http://kdsi.org
Jimenez, Elisabeth. (2010). Foundations of Programs for English Language Learners-Content
Instruction. Retrieved November from http://kdsi.org
Oak, Manali. (2010). Second Language Acquisition Theory. Retrieved November 2010 from