6 Myths About ELL Students—Debunked!

Get the lowdown on the best way to educate English Language Learners.

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Prior Language Development is Irrelavent

Myth: Prior language development and competence of the student does not matter when acquiring English as a second language.

Fact: It is actually key in determining how well a student acquires English as a second language.The child's quality of language when entering international schools influences their second language learning. Adequate linguistic and cognitive ability in their native language will serve ELL students well when learning English.

Linguistic History Is Not A Factor

Myth: Linguistic history is not a factor in second language acquisition.

Fact: Not all ELL children enter schools with the necessary competence already established in another language. Some have multiple language backgrounds, where one or both parents' mother tongue is different from the practiced language at home.and do not have the resources to establish competence in any of the languages they are exposed to. These children may have difficulty developing another language.

Exposure to Native Speakers is Sufficient

Myth: ELL students can learn English quickly if they are exposed to native speakers.

Fact: Mere exposure to English is not enough to ensure native language proficiency. It may help the child speak more proficiently, but their academic competence will develop slower than their native language peers. In fact, there is some evidence that academic competence develops at a faster rate in international schools where children are not simply surrounded by native speakers.

Speaking Ability Equals Academic Competence

Myth: The ability to speak English comfortably means that the student should be achieving academically.

Fact: Conversational competence does not translate directly to academic competence. Focusing strictly on speaking ability has its drawbacks. In some cases, it can even inhibit academic achievement.

Students Can't Study a Subject in a Foreign Language

Fact: ELL classes typically just cover "survival English" (such as the  basics of grammar and vocabulary). These classes don't help students learn an academic subject (such as math, history or science). Academic subjects have their own lingo that ELL students should learn simultaneously while learning English.

Students Should Speak English Only

Myth: Students should stop speaking their native language and speak strictly English.

Fact: Proficiency in the native language can actually help second language development. It is not productive to deny an ELL student their native language. Academic achievement is closely linked to ELL students' native language ability.

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