James Crawford’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition

We conclude our look at some of the most prominent voices in the second language learning community with James Crawford, who has long been an activist for more effective bilingual education policies. A former editor of the online magazine, Education Week, Crawford has written numerous essays and books discussing language policy in schools, advocating for sensible language-learning legislation, pushing for reforms of education legislation particularly with respect to the current No Child Left Behind mandates in place, and exposing the bigotry and ignorance behind “English Only” movements that seek to tamp down progress in the implementation of bilingual education programs in American schools.

Crawford has tackled many subjects around the diversity of language, but his most passionate seems to be the issue of promoting greater acceptance of incorporating bilingual education in U.S. schools. He has written extensively against making English the prevalent language in education and debunks many popular myths and theories that fuel “English Only” sentiment around the country.

Crawford has written in support of Krashen’s and Cummins’ theories, in that the exposure to a new language doesn’t lie within the repetition, but from the quality of the exposure, or input, that the learner is receiving. He advocates in support of immersion within that language for more successful acquisition.

But he also points out the shortcomings with policies such as No Child Left Behind in that the law doesn’t adequately address all of the challenges that second-language learners face with respect to setting goals for academic excellence that are too difficult to achieve because schools are ill-equipped to help these students reach the prescribed accomplishments. He feels that the mandates in place under the law are too “one size fits all”. While they may prove effective to native language students, they don’t take into account the difficulties second language learners face in not just understanding English, but succeeding with their studies in other topics and subjects. Crawford has argued that second language learners need particular assessments that are more in tune with their needs, but they are woefully under-served in this regard. They need unique instructional programs, alternative teaching models, comprehensive diagnosis and monitoring procedures in place to determine proper proficiency levels in a bid for greater accountability for their academic success. For these children, social and economic development could become greatly stunted and, as a result, they will fall behind in the American experience as adults.

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