Posts Tagged ELL

Learning English differently

Young dual language learners with language impairments always amaze me. I love to observe how they negotiate communicative needs, ideas, and understanding of the world with the mind tools they possess. Some of them have maintained their home language; others let it behind. Some have a strong desire to use and live in English while others appear to drift between their home language and English. You can never tell.

I find this variability, these differences, fascinating. What do these children pay attention to when they are learning English? What do they do to learn new words and new ideas? What do they do to make friends, in their emerging English, for example?

This week, I observed a young 3rd grader from a Spanish-speaking family. In the school system, he is considered an English language learner at the Beginning stage of English Language Development. His parents shared that he understands Spanish but he rarely, perhaps never, uses or used Spanish. He may ask for “agua” or “pollo”, but that’s it! Mamá and Papá speak to him in Spanish, he responds in English, and life goes on. The child is also a child with a language learning disability. How does he manage to learn at school, to have fun, to be another kid in the playground?

I was lucky to observe a fascinating interaction the child had with a graduate student I was supervising. My student “read” him a frog story and after the retelling and other comprehension questions, he asked the child what part of the story was the most unbelievable. He was attempting to assess the child’s comprehension skills. My student also asked “Do you know what unbelievable means?”
And this is what the child said: “Yes, awesome!” As my student started to say “No, that is not the right meaning”, the child provided an alternative: “Excellent!” The child, of course, did not explain frogs cannot be pets or frogs do not wave their little “hand” to children. But, of course, unbelievable is many times awesome and excellent!

What do we do with this type of observations as clinicians? What is the child showing us? He has definitely (at least partly) acquired the word “unbelievable”, he also knows that there are synonyms in the language. How is this little interaction aligned with the Beginning stage of English Language Development? He did not appear to use his home language to learn the word “unbelievable”. Perhaps more importantly, how can we acknowledge his insights and guide him forward?

Have you ever asked yourself these questions before?

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Second language learners in Utah

I am on my way home from teaching a two day seminar at the University of Utah Collage of Health. We covered a lot of ground in two days. From culture to contrasts between languages; bilingualism, assessment, and intervention. I learned a lot and the grad students were great. Nice discussions, creative applications of the principles we studied and good detective work. Read the rest of this entry »

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Visiting Indiana

I’m giving one of the talks this year at the Crossroads Conference (tomorrow) at Purdue University. It’s an annual conference sponsored by NSSLHA. Anyway, I usually like to look at the demographic changes in ELL enrollment when I visit a state. I think it helps me to situate what the needs might be concerning bilinguals and helps me to see the challenges that some of the speech-language pathologists might be facing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Research, Policy, and Education on English Learners

One of the interesting and fun benefits of doing research on a given topic is that you get asked to consult. Like most academics I often review papers, grant proposals, theses and so on. These are really interesting and I usually learn a lot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of work and it takes hours and hours of time (usually over and above my time in my job– teaching and doing research)– but, this is a part of the job as well. I enjoy getting to meet and interact with other researchers and practitioners who are interested in many of the same issues I focus on in my work. It’s nice to know I’m not alone and that other folks are grappling with some of the same challenges.

I’m currently on the technical work group for the Center for Early Care and Education Research: Dual Language Learners (CECER: DLL). Dina Castro is the Principal Investigator and Director of the project. I haven’t been able to go to the meetings for one reason or another (the meetings are once a year). But, I have been able to keep up with what’s going on via e-mail and review of materials. One of the outcomes of the working group has been a series of research briefs. Read the rest of this entry »

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English Language Acquisition and Special Education

The Spring 2011 report of the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition is dedicated to the question of how to work with ELLs who have special needs. And yes, we have an article in this issue, but ours certainly isn’t the only one.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Bilingual Literacy

This article in the Santa Rosa Democrat brought to mind the notion of bilingual literacy. What is bilingual literacy?  Bilingual literacy or biliteracy is the notion of going beyond being orally proficient in two language to becoming highly fluent in speaking, reading, and writing and learning about other cultures. It also emphasizes strong skills in both the majority language– English and a foreign language. In the context of the “bilingual path” that the Windsor schools are going to recognize it’s about cultural, spoken, and written knowledge in two (or more) languages.

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Catching up despite divided time

This article in the El Paso Times along with the post in language log on word gaps by SES brought to mind arguments about teaching English as a second language and the assumption that more is better. In bilingual education, there is ample evidence that children who learn in dual language environments can and do “catch up” to their monolingual peers on measures of language. Yet, well-meaning school personnel persist in telling parents to switch to English because that will help children learn English better. It doesn’t. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can it be too late?

Usually, my applied work focuses on limiting OVER-identification (false positives) of language impairment in children who speak English as a second language. But, there’s another side to this too and that’s UNDER-identification of language impairment in this same population. I see these patterns in some of the national schools data. From year to year sometimes it looks like preschool English language learners (ELLs) are less likely than average to be identified with language impairment while school-age ELL children are more likely to be diagnosed with language impairment. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cognates are wicked cool!

Tami Gollan wrote that in an e-mail discussion we were having about cognates and I love the line, so I borrowed it as my title–  and I agree, cognates are wicked cool! Read the rest of this entry »

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New Book on ELL Children

The Guilford Press is releasing a new book edited by Marilyn Shatz and  Louise C. Wilkinson called: The Education of English Language Learners: Research to Practice. Lisa Bedore, Karin Boerger, and I have a chapter in it focusing on semantic development in bilinguals. Here’s a list of the chapter titles and authors (we think we’re in good company and we’re looking forward to seeing the book in print): Read the rest of this entry »

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