ELL Language Acquisition in English Term Paper

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First, Spanish sounds different from English in terms of vowel sounds, sentence stress, and timing. (Shoebottom, 2007, Spanish). In addition, Spanish speakers can confront grammar problems when learning English, "although Spanish is a much more heavily inflected language than English, there are many aspects of verb grammar that are similar. The major problem for the Spanish learner is that there is no one-to-one correspondence in the use of the tenses. So, for example, a Spanish learner might incorrectly use a simple tense instead of a progressive or a future one." (Shoebottom, 2007, Spanish). Moreover, because these issues reflect basic differences between the two languages, progressive learning in Spanish does not translate to better English ability.

In addition, the fact that English and Spanish share a common base language should make some aspects of English acquisition easier for the Spanish speaker than for the Arabic speaker. In fact, there are several areas of vocabulary overlap between Spanish and English, and the close relationships between Mexico and the American southwest and between Cuba and Florida have resulted in the integration of Mexican and Cuban words into American English. However, this overlap does not guarantee success. In fact, "since the Latin-derived words in English tend to be more formal, the Spanish student will benefit when reading academic text. He or she may sound too formal, however, if using such words in everyday spoken English. Conversely, phrasal verbs, which are an essential aspect of colloquial English, are difficult for Spanish learners and may obstruct listening comprehension." (Shoebottom, 2007, Spanish). In addition, Spanish is a very phonetic language, with:

strong correspondence between the sound of a word and its spelling. The irregularity of English in this respect causes predictable problems when Spanish learners write a word they first meet in spoken language or say a word first met in written language. A specific problem concerns the spelling of English words with double letters. Spanish has only 3 double-letter combinations cc, ll, rr. English, in comparison, has 5 times as many. Spanish learners often reduce English double letters to a single one, or overcompensate by doubling a letter unnecessarily; for example hopping for the present participle of hope. (Shoebottom, 2007, Spanish).

In direct contrast to Spanish, which has lingual, literal, and cultural similarities to English, Arabic is very different from English:

Arabic is from the Semitic language family, hence its grammar is very different from English. There is a large potential for errors of interference when Arab learners produce written or spoken English. Arabic has a three consonant root as its basis. All words (parts of speech) are formed by combining the three-root consonants with fixed vowel patterns and, sometimes, an affix. Arab learners may be confused by the lack of patterns in English that would allow them to distinguish nouns from verbs or adjectives, etc. (Shoebottom, 2007, Arabic).

In addition:

Arabic has 28 consonants (English 24) and 8 vowels/diphthongs (English 22). Short vowels are unimportant in Arabic, and indeed do not appear in writing. Texts are read from right to left and written in a cursive script. No distinction is made between upper and lower case, and the rules for punctuation are much looser than in English. Unsurprisingly, these fundamental differences between the Arabic and English writing systems cause Arab learners significant problems. They usually need much more time to read or write than their English-learning peers from the Indo-European language families. (Shoebottom, 2007, Arabic).

Regardless of their linguistic background, the tremendous variety of immigrants to America and the sheer number of people comign to the United States makes it clear that the success of future ELL programs depends upon their ability to teach to students from a wide variety of backgrounds. However, cultural background is not the only variable that impacts the success of ELL programs. Student age has an impact on English language acquisition. While innate language skills are assummed to be the strongest in one's early childhood, learning multiple languages in the home differs from learning one language in the home and learning a different language in the educational environment. As a result, some ELL educators question introducing kindergarten students to ELL classes. Instead, they suggest that students should receive their educational foundation in their native language, and be introduced to English after their educational foundation basics have been established by native-language education. Other educators believe that the advantages that youth lends to language acquisition should not be squandered, and that ELL students should be introduced to English at the first available opportunity, by making ELL programs part of kindergarten education. The proponents of kindergarten ELL education acknowledge that early secondary-language instruction may contribute to early educational confusion, but has the best long-term results, not only for assuring English acquisition, but also for crossover effect into other subject areas.

However, most scholars have ignored the interrelationship between native culture and language acquisition. It may be that the different opinions are not due to different results, but due to different interpretations of results. Some students may have better long-term results from kindergarten ELL education, while other students may have better long-term results from delayed ELL education. This study examines the interplay between Latino culture and the grade of ELL instruction as well as the interplay between Arabic culture and the grade of ELL instruction, to determine whether culture influences the most appropriate age for English language acquisition. In addition, the studies seeks to determine the best overall grade to introduce students to ELL instruction and bilingual education.

Problem Statement

Do ELL students acquire English acquisition faster if placed in a bilingual kindergarten rather than being introduced to English in a later elementary class?

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to determine the best grade to initiate English language instruction for ELL elementary students. The study also seeks to determine the impact that culture, especially native language, has on the acquisition of English as a second language. In order to examine that impact, the study looks closely at two native languages, Spanish and Arabic, to determine how they impact learning English as a second language.

Significance

The number of Latino and Arabic immigrants is skyrocketing, which means that U.S. schools are faced with the challenge of teaching an ever-growing number of non-native English speakers, with diverse ethic backgrounds. Educators are divided on the best way to approach ELL education. Most educators advocate ELL classes as early as possible, with non-English speakers beginning bilingual classrooms in kindergartens, or even pre-kindergarten in Head Start programs. However, some educators advocate delaying directed ELL classes, under the theory that students will be able to apply skills learned in their native languages to their attempts at English acquisition. If a child's native language has an impact on the best age to begin ELL instruction, educators need to be aware of this impact. The practical significance is that ELL programs may ideally need to be tailored to individual groups of students, with speakers of different native languages beginning ELL instruction at different ages and in different ways. Unfortunately, very little of the prior research has concentrated on the relationship between a student's primary language and the impact, if any, the native language has on a student's ability to acquire English.

Research Question

Do ELL students acquire English acquisition faster if placed in a bilingual kindergarten rather than being introduced to English in a later elementary class? Does native culture and a child's primary language, whether Latino/Spanish or Arabic, have an impact on the best grade to begin English language instruction?

Review of the Literature

When young children learn language, they may do so simultaneously, but they usually do so sequentially. (Gonzalez, 2005). This means that they generally establish one language and then transfer the skills used in that language to the acquisition of a second language. Furthermore, they believe that English language learning should be additive, "meaning that the new language should expand the child's overall linguistic capabilities. While the new language is being learned, the home language should be maintained -- the ultimate goal is bilingualism. In fact, research indicates that having a strong foundation in the home language is an advantage while a child is learning a second language." (Gonzalez, 2005). If taught in this manner, the skills learned in each language can be used to enhance and maintain learning in the other language, increasing overall literacy and language-specific literacy in the first and second languages.

In fact, there are some real similarities between first and second language acquisition. This should come as no surprise, since, "the process of first language acquisition is basically the same in all languages." (Gonzalaz, 2005). If the first language acquisition process is uniform across langauges, it stands to reason that the second language acquisition process is also uniform across languages. Therefore, educators, parents, and caregivers can encourage language acquisition, for both first and subsequent languages, by: "talking frequently with children, especially about activities and objects at hand; listening to the child's communicative intent and…[continue]

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