Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stages of Learning a New Language: The Silent Period

Many of us work with English Language Learners (ELLs) and their families. To help us better understand how to help these children, Maggie’s Big Home will discuss the stages of second language acquisition over the next 3 weeks. We will describe the stages and offer suggestions as to how you can support ELLs in your classroom.

Most people (children and adults) who are immersed in a new language go through a Silent Period. This first stage of language acquisition is very important. Although it appears nothing is happening, key connections are being made. A silent period will vary in length. It can last from a few weeks to over a year.

There are several factors that can influence how long a silent period lasts. A child’s personality can play a big role, as some children are more outgoing than others. They feel comfortable in different situations and are not easily intimidated. Other children are naturally shy. We need to take into consideration individual personalities. Culture also plays a role. In some cultures, females may be expected to be quieter. This may influence how long a silent period lasts, too.

An important role for teachers is to realize that the silent period is a natural part of second language acquisition. Children are listening and processing. They are likely striving to understand what is being said to them. As teachers, we need to be sure children have the time they need. We should not force anyone to speak until they are ready. When we give children opportunities to take part in small group activities with peers, they are likely to feel more comfortable in trying out their new language.

Next week we will discuss the Early Production Stage and the Speech Emergence Stage.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.A.04. & 2.D.01.
Head Start – IX. A., B., & C.

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