Second Language Acquisition and Learning Difficulties by cyi13513


									                                 Second Language Acquisition and Learning Difficulties
        Key Concepts                                           General Implications                            Implications for Special Education
1. There is a common underlying language                Speaking a language other than English does         Speaking a language other than English is not
proficiency (language assessment device) for first      not interfere with the acquisition of English       evidence of a disability/learning disability.
and second language acquisition.                        per se.
                                                        Conversational skills (*Basic Interpersonal         Many learners are assumed to be proficient in
2. Second language acquisition is similar to,           Communication Sills—BICS) are acquired in 1-2       English when their BICS are strong (they have
although not identical to, first language               years.                                              acquired conversational English). Academic
acquisition, especially if it occurs later than first                                                       problems—e.g. struggling with reading
language acquisition (after age 10).                    Cognitive academic language proficiency skills      comprehension or content learning or with
                                                        (*CALPS) are acquired in 5-10 years, depending      becoming literate—are more likely to be the result
                                                        on how they are learned and how literate the        of undeveloped or developing CALPS rather than
                                                        learner is at the time s/he begins studying a new   cognitive or learning disabilities.
                                                        Learners must be given adequate time to             Learners will make many errors in the process of
3. Because language acquisition is                      acquire English skills                              acquiring all skills in English. These are normally
developmental, teachers and learners cannot                                                                 developmental errors and are not indications of a
hurry it up.                                                                                                disorder unless the skills fail to improve.
                                                        Teachers should facilitate acquisition rather       Learning problems of ESOL learners may be
4.Language is acquired, (versus taught and              than attempt to teach language as a subject with    pedagogically induced (because learners were
learned)                                                drills and practice.                                asked to do things they were not ready to do
                                                                                                            developmentally or didn’t have the skills to do.)
5. The more critical variable in language               Speakers of another language should be               If learners attempt to use English with others who
acquisition is not which language the learner           encouraged to use English in meaningful             are not proficient in it, they may limit their
speaks, but the quality of the interaction the          situations with native speakers of English and to   acquisition of English. Many adult learners may
learner experiences with native speakers of             continue to use their first language with those     have learned incorrect models of English by
English.                                                who speak it.                                       interacting with others who have not mastered it.
                                                        Learners do best if they have developed             Learners who do not have a dominant language
6. Learners must have a high level of competence        excellent BICS and CALPS in their first             are likely to experience academic and
in at least one language to be communicatively          language.                                           communicative difficulties.
and academically successful. In the case of
limited English proficient learners, the native         Learners may not have developed CALPS for           Learners who have no CALPS because they are
language is the foundation upon which English           many reasons. Years in school are not a good        illiterate or preliterate must develop CALPS for
competence is built.                                    measure of a learner’s CALPS.                       the first time. This will impact the speed at which
                                                                                                            they can become literate.
                                                        Those who have a pre-literate background can
                                                        be considered to have no CALPS at all.              Learners whose first language skills are
                                                                                                            significantly deviant from peers of the same age
                                                                                                            despite using the language throughout childhood
                                                                                                            and young adulthood are far more likely to
                                                                                                            experience significant learning difficulties in
                                                   Language learners do not develop BICS and             Learners who have excellent CALPS in their first
7. The different skills of language learning are   CALPS at the same speed or from the same              language but who struggle to become literate in
impacted by the strength of phonological skills.   activities.                                           English may have a learning disability.
    • Phonological awareness is necessary for
        developing CALPS.                          BICS are normally acquired through normal             Learners who have highly developed BICS in first
    • Phonological memory is necessary for         conversation and listening to native speakers.        language but who have difficulty developing BICS
        developing BICS.                           This process can be aided by direct instruction in    in English may be impacted by poor auditory
                                                   the sounds system of English.                         discrimination, normal in adult language learners.
BICS, or oral/aural skills, are dependent on the                                                         If they cannot discriminate the words of English, it
learner being able to physically hear and          CALPS must be built up through rich language          is difficult to build vocabulary and grammar.
discriminate sounds of language.                   experiences and systematic learning. These are        Direct instruction in the sounds of English is
                                                   supported by instruction in metacognitive skills of   critical.
                                                   language learning.
                                                   Though they are considered too proficient for         If language development support is not provided,
8. Many language minority learners are not         ESOL programs, these learners likely do not           these learners may experience communication or
considered ESOL learners because they are          have the same level of English competence as          achievement difficulties. Such problems are
apparently proficient in English.                  their English-speaking peers. Therefore, these        related to inappropriate instruction, not to the
                                                   learners continue to need support in language in      presence of a disability.
                                                   the classroom or training situations.
                                                   Learners should not be transitioned into ABE          Learners who are transitioned in ABE or GED
9. ESOL learners can transition into ABE as they   until they have CALPS adequate to function            classes without assurance that they have the
acquire (TRUE) English language competence.        comfortably in ABE materials alongside native         communication and academic English to succeed
                                                   English speakers.                                     are likely to experience significant learning
                                                                                                         problems. These are pedagogically induced
                                                                                                         problems; they are not learning disabilities.
                                                   Teachers must accept and respect language             The education of learners with language
10. Many learners will come to adult education     differences. They must also provide instruction       differences is the responsibility of those who
programs with language skills which are            to develop the language skills needed to be           teach them. It learners are not provided with the
appropriate and functional for their speech and    successful in the school context. The need for        language development they need to learn content
language community but which are not adequate      school language development is typical of             material, they are very likely to struggle in
for academic settings.                             students from lower socio-economic settings. It       learning and then may be considered to have a
                                                   may also be true of learners who learn English        learning disability. If they do not actually have a
                                                   from individuals who are not native speakers of       disability, classification as disabled is highly
                                                   English. Language development may be                  inappropriate.
                                                   needed in the native language and/or in English.
                                                                                                    ABE, GED and other non-ESOL teachers must be
11. English language learners have a right to      They should not be exited from ESOL settings     aware of language needs of non-native speakers
expect appropriate education.                      until they are ready to succeed.                 of English and be prepared to support continued
                                                                                                    language development. Learners who do not
                                                                                                    receive such support cannot be considered to
                                                                                                    have learning problems.
Adapted by Robin Lovrien Schwarz, 2006, from Alba A. Ortiz, Dept. of Special Education, College of Education, University of Texas, Austin
* For clarification of BICS and CALPS see the web site

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