Understanding Second Language Terminology

Understanding Second Language Terminology

by Judie Haynes

Do you need to teach ESL methodology to your mainstream teachers and administrators? There are some essential terms that they need to know in order to understand basic second language acquisition theory.

Terms for our students or programs

Here are some of the essential terms used to talk about our students or programs. All of these terms are used to describe students who are learning to understand, speak, read and write in English.

Terms for understanding second language acquisition

Culture Shock is a normal stage in the acculturation process that all newcomers go through. Being in a strange place and losing the power to communicate can disrupt a personís world view, self-identity, and systems of thinking, acting and feeling.

The Silent Period is a varying period of time during which a newcomer is unwilling to speak in the second language. Nearly all students go through a silent period. This stage could last for as long as one year. English language learners should not be forced to speak until they are ready to do so.

Comprehensible input means that the spoken or written message is delivered at the learnerís level of comprehension. The concepts being taught should not be simplified, but the language used to present the concepts must be made comprehensible. Basic concepts should be presented in a variety of ways.

Affective filter is a "wall" a learner puts up if his/her anxiety level is high. The lower the anxiety level, the lower the filter. ELLs must have a low affective filter in order to learn English. The more comfortable students are in their school environment, the more ready they will be to learn.

BICS are Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills. These are the language skills needed for everyday personal and social communication. Second language learners must have BICS in order to interact on the playground and in the classroom. It usually takes students from 1-3 years to completely develop this social language. BICS are not necessarily related to academic success.

CALP is Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency is the language associated with native language literacy and cognitive development. These are the language skills needed to undertake academic tasks in the mainstream classroom. It includes content-specific vocabulary. It may take students from 5 to 7 years to develop CALP skills. CALP developed in the first language contribute to the development of CALP in the second language.


Related Links

Pre-production and the Silent Period
If your new English language learner is not speaking, don't worry. Most newcomers go through a stage during which they do not produce language. This doesn't mean they are not learning.

Organizing and Assessing in the Content Area Class
How do you help mainstream teachers accurately monitor for student comprehension, organize the content class, and design realisitic assesments? These questions will be addressed in this article, which is the second part of "Meeting the Challenge of Content Instruction."

Meeting the Challenge of Content Instruction
Discover how the standards movement currently sweeping the US will have a positive impact on the education of ESL students, while also presenting instructional challenges to ESL and mainstream professionals.

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