Quick Facts

  • First language acquisition is a complex life-long process.
  • Second language acquisition is a complex, life-long process, with many parallels with first language acquisition.
  • Many error patterns are predictable across all learners, regardless of their first language or their formal instruction given to them in their second language.
  • English Learners (ELs) pass through general developmental stages common to second language learners. This process is not linear.
  • Formal teaching does not speed up this development process. Consequently, sequencing teaching materials according to grammatical complexity does not help speed up the process.
  • Second language acquisition is a dynamic, creative, innate process, best developed through contextual, meaningful activities that focus on language use, combined with guidance along the way from the teacher, and sometimes a focus on language forms.
  • How we plan to use the second language determines the level of proficiency that we want to reach and the length of time that it will take to reach this level.
  • Social language provides extra help to the second language learner through non-verbal communication and other contextual clues to meaning.
  • Social language includes the development of basic literacy for use in everyday situations, including simple writing such as a letter. Meaning is negotiated in social language.
  • It takes 2-5 years to acquire social language and a minimum of 7-10 years to acquire academic language when schooled all in the second language.
  • One of the reasons it takes this long is because native speakers are standing still waiting for ELLs to catch up with them.
  • All students, when schooled in a second language, in a quality bilingual program, reach and surpass native speaker norms in the second language across all subject areas after 4-7 years of instruction.
  • Bilingually schooled students typically sustain this achievement and outperform monolingually schooled students in the upper grades.
  • Cognitive and academic development in the first language has a positive effect on second language schooling.  This has to do with uninterrupted cognitive development.
  • During the initial years of exposure to English, continuing cognitive and academic development in the first language is considered to be a key variable for academic success in second languages.
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