Second Language Learners

Essay by amanda67College, Undergraduate February 2008

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A major and continuing challenge for American education is the poor academic performance of the growing school population of English language learners. Because learning the type of English needed to do well in school requires several years, an important focus of many educators is to find ways to improve and speed up these children's knowledge of English and their English literacy in order to support adequate school achievement. The question for this paper is: How do immigrant second language school age children differ from Americanized children; and what can be done by our educational system to improve the transition of immigrant second language learners and bring those children up to their age-level education?English language learners are often the least successful group of children academically. English literacy, a skill built from the youngest grades in American society, is crucial because the content learned increasingly depends on good reading and interpretation skills.

Many students in the United States are only just learning oral English skills in their elementary school years at the same time that they are having to learn to read and write in English. Research on second language development has shown that it takes approximately three to five years to develop oral proficiency for informal settings, and as much as four to seven years to develop the kind of language needed for problem solving, analysis, synthesis, and applying their learning (Cummins, 1991). These more complex uses of the English language in schools point out the challenges facing young second language learners and it is clear that second language learners must learn both the new language, including its academic forms, and at the same time keep up in other subject areas with native English speakers who are also further developing their language skills.

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