Bilingual Learners

Information regarding your bilingual student

Learning English

Learning English is tough, especially if it is not your first language. There are so many rules, exceptions to those rules and a myriad of words being added to it every year. However, learning a new language, like English, can expand your world. That is why learning the basics of English is very important.

Easy as ABC

Learning the English alphabet is necessary when learning to read and write in English. Each letter has its own sound, and every combination of letters has a new sound. Learning the alphabet is just the first step. Learning the phonetic alphabet is the next, and larger, step. Phonemes are individual parts of the language that correspond with a new meaning depending on the combination of letters and/or the addition of letters and other phonemes.

Since every letter has a distinct sound (some have more than one sound), it will make reading in English easier. Applying the learned sound of each letter to the letters found in a phoneme, is the basis for learning how to read and write in English.

Teaching Bilingual Learners

There are many theories out there that discuss the language acquisition of children and second language learners. Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to recognize and comprehend language, as well as to produce and use words and sentences to communicate. Scientists use these theories to explain how bilingual students can learn a new language.

One theory of language acquisition is the “imitation hypothesis.” This hypothesis states that “children acquire language by imitating the people around them.” Children develop their native language by copying the sounds that they hear. Eventually, children learn that different sounds, in different combinations, can refer to different people, places, objects or actions. This is where they start to obtain language proficiency. Learners of a second language can approach the new language in the same way. Hearing people use the second language and imitating the sounds they hear is a great way to learn a new language. Once bilingual students start to get the hang of imitating the sounds of the new language, they continue in the same direction as when they learned their first language; they start to associate those sounds with people, places, objects or actions. The same process of imitation can be applied to both the first and the second language.

Another theory of language acquisition is the “interactionist hypothesis.” It states that “children acquire language by their innate language abilities to extract the rules of the language from their environment and construct the phonology, semantics, and syntax of their native language.” What that means is that children learn the rules of grammar and meaning from interacting with others. By playing, talking, listening and observing others who speak the same language, children are able to speak in grammatically correct sentences in their early stages of language development. Bilingual learners can learn the new language through the same process. Through practicing the sounds and words of the new language in conversations with other people who speak the new language, bilingual learners can pick up on the syntax of that new language and apply it to the vocabulary they have been learning. Through interactions with the people around them, these students will have opportunities to practice and learn through others’ reactions to their messages. Interaction is a key part of any person’s language development.

You Can Help, Too!

Learning does not only occur at school. Learning continues at home, too. Students learning another language need a lot of support in order to master the new language as well as their native language. Every language has its own grammatical rules, its own myriad of words as well as its own cultural influences. Having a strong foundation in students’ first language can benefit them when learning to read and write in the new language.

Storytelling: Telling your children stories in their native language allows them to get a sense of story structure, developing their vocabulary and inspiring them to come up with their own stories.

Library Trips: Taking your children to the library is free and allows children to pick out books that interest them, practice reading in their native language as well as the new language.

Read Books Together: Read with your children. You can read in your native language or choose bilingual books that have English on one side, and another language on the other. This allows for instant comparison between the two languages as well as a quick translation of what you are reading.

Keep Tabs: Contact your child’s teacher and ask them what their children’s homework is. That way, you can make sure that your child is completing the required material for their class.

Every little thing you do can make a big impact on your child’s language development. You are an important part to their learning.