How does language develop?

  • When acquiring a language there are five principles that apply:

    1. Language is learned by using language
    2. The focus in language learning is meaning and function (not form)
    3. Language learning is non-anxious, personally important and concretely-based
    4. Language is self-directed, not segmented or sequenced
    5. The conditions necessary for language are essentially the same for all children

    Stages of Second Language Acquisition:

    Silent/Receptive Stage-NEP1

    At this stage, the student will need time to become comfortable in the classroom/school. The student will respond to communication non-verbally. They may recognize words but not verbalize them. The teacher should include the student in activities and games. The student may respond best with peers. As they move through this stage the student will begin to respond with one word answers.

    Early Production Stage-NEP2

    At this stage, the student will move into two/three word responses and begin to use frequently heard words. In the Early Production Stage a student will continue to develop listening skills and build vocabulary. The teacher can continue to introduce new vocabulary while practicing previously taught vocabulary. Teachers could start a sentence with one or two words and have the child complete it.

    Speech Emergence Stage-LEP3

    The student will begin to respond with simple sentences when comfortable in their environment. This is the time of the shift from language reception to language production. Students may mispronounce words -- this is OK. Everyone around the student should listen and praise any attempts at speech. It is important that no one discourages or makes fun of any attempts at speech. Teachers can ask how and why questions at this stage. Do not correct mispronunciations; rather model back the correct pronunciation in your own sentence.

    Intermediate Fluency-LEP4

    At this stage, the student will begin to make the transition to more elaborate speech. The student will make grammatical errors as they attempt the new language. “The best strategies for the students in this stage are to give more comprehensible input, develop and extend recognition vocabulary, and to give them a chance to produce language in comfortable situations” (Colorado Department of Education, Handbook on Planning for LEP Students Success). At this time students should be engaged in speech production and not absolute correctness. Teachers should provide high interest topics for the students to discuss, for example feelings, likes, dislikes.

    Advanced Fluency-FEP5/6

    The English language learner begins to make fewer grammatical errors. He or she will have basic interpersonal language proficiency, but may not have advanced enough for all academic language. This is the time to focus on grammar instruction, idiomatic expressions and reading comprehension. Teachers will want to use a higher level cognitive, thinking and vocabulary skills.