Elementary English Language Learners: Misconceptions About Second Language Learning and Teaching Practices

Elementary English Language Learners: Misconceptions About Second Language Learning and Teaching Practices

Khanh Nguyen Bui (The University of Georgia, USA) and Isabel L. Balsamo (The University of Georgia, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3123-4.ch005
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During the last decade, the United States has witnessed an influx of multicultural and multilingual students, especially the dramatically increasing number of students at elementary level, which accounts for 85% of native born (). However, most of teachers still lack professional developments in teaching those increasing population. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is to synthesize different studies to address the most common misconceptions on how elementary English language learners learn English as a second language and teachers' pedagogical practices. This chapter ends with some recommendations, solutions, and future directions for researchers to advance teachers' pedagogical practices, so they can best serve this increasing population in the U.S. school system.
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Misconceptions of How ELLs Learn a Second Language

There is not any doubt that teachers (both language teachers and non-language teachers), administrators, parents and in some instances student themselves possess certain beliefs or commonly referred as misconceptions about the learning and/ or acquisition of a second language. Moreover, ELLs are usually depicted as a homogeneous group, when in fact they are extremely diverse. They are diverse not only linguistically, but also academically, culturally and economically. There are some who come from households where English is not spoken at all, while others come from families where the parents speak their native language and older siblings speak English. Likewise, there are some who identify themselves with American culture whereas others consider themselves bicultural or multicultural. In any event, these are issues that play a significant role in their language learning process. As Bialystok (2001) states, “The constellation of social, economic and political circumstances of life have a large bearing on how children will develop both linguistically and cognitively” (p. 7). Therefore, it is a reality that there is not a unique profile for ELLs nor a general or exclusive method to address their needs. Nevertheless, people tend to make generalizations quite frequently, which leads to establish myths or misconceptions regarding the language learning process of non-English Speakers. Some of the most common misconceptions among practitioners seem to be: (a) young language learners are more successful in learning a second language, (b) the language acquisition process can be accelerated c) native language interferes with the learning of a second language, (d) the more children are exposed to a target language the faster they will acquire it, (e) many ELLs need special education services.

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