Language and Vocabulary Instruction in Two Languages
The ever increasing number of children who come from homes where English is not the dominant language presents a challenge for educators in effectively teaching language and vocabulary instruction in two languages.
Let’s hone in on reading for a moment. It’s been recognized that teaching students to read in a language that they’re not yet proficient in constitutes a risk factor for reading difficulties. It should also be mentioned that English language learners (ELLs) are often among the students having challenges with math, reading and overall educational achievement.
A study that looked at pre-kindergarten children learning English and Spanish revealed that their vocabulary was significantly lower than monolingual kids. A journal article in the NCBI, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, states that some schools, in response to these findings, now spend more time on vocabulary development, home literacy environments and the cross-language effects in forecasting English reading capabilities of Spanish and English-speaking students.
Good instruction for kids, in general, tends to be good instruction for ELLs too. More specifically, according to the American Educator journal, all school kids benefit from clear objectives and learning goals, motivating lesson plans, opportunities to apply new learning, as well as time using their evolving language skills with other kids.
How to best teach ELLs language and vocabulary instruction in two languages is a common discussion among educators. At this point in time, there’s not tremendous data to say that literacy instruction should be confined to either just the native language (L1) or the second language (L2). However, the educational website, Colorín Colorado, indicates that the link between L1’s phonics awareness and L2’s reading success suggests that developing literacy skills in L1 does assist in L2’s literacy development. There’s also evidence to suggest that not only does L2’s vocabulary contribute to stronger English reading comprehension but so does L1’s. Based on this data, ELLs studying two languages will benefit from explicit vocabulary instruction.
Finding educational programs that support ELL students’ first language, such as The Latino Family Literacy Project, can make an enormous difference on their academic and language acquisition success.