English Learners (ELs)

“Normal” phenomena seen in students who are acquiring English as a second language

by Jennifer Alicandri

When considering what’s typical and what’s not when it comes to acquiring English as a second language, Roseberry-McKibbin and Brice (2005) provide some guidance.

• Literal Translations: Students may be literally translating from their first language into English, which creates mistakes when the structures between the two languages are different.
• Silent period: Students – especially younger ones- may go through a phase called the “silent period”, when they focus on listening and comprehension as opposed to speaking. In some younger learners, the period may last for a year or more, whereas in some older learners it may last a few weeks or months.
• Codeswitching: This is exhibited when students switch between languages while speaking.
• Subtractive bilingualism: If a student’s first language is not reinforced or maintained, they may lose skills and fluency in this language.

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