Starting to be "Bilingual"

11 de mayo de 2017 / Por Craig Thomas

What Is English as a Second Language in Kindergarten?

Why isn't my child bilingual?  Why can't he understand everything that he hears?  Why doesn't he speak English yet?  Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions about your son or daughter?  You are not alone.  Many parents are curious and these are the most asked questions we hear.  What we need to remember is that the students in kindergarten are starting a new process of acquiring a new language and not all of their advancements are visible or obvious. 

The Process of Acquiring a Second Language

Acquiring a second language is difficult, requiring a comprehension of many elements.  The students are still constructing their first language and now we challenge them in English with new sounds that create new words and meanings.  This is why it is important to recognize that the students have to acquire a second language through a process that is very similar to their process for acquiring their first language.  Even for their first language, kids needed time to construct their language skills starting with ample time to observe it being used and then practice it.   That is why they need even more time to listen to English and become comfortable and confident and only then will they begin the slow process to apply it. 

What is Different for a Kindergarten Student Learning English?

As an adult, have you tried to learn English?  You probably studied in a visual and direct way where you can see the words and structures and a teacher explains everything.  

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After class, you read, study, and memorize the material in order to apply it the next day in class.  Students in kindergarten only use listening skills to acquire English, they don't sit with books and told to memorize a list of words.  This is why the contact with the language is very important.  They need to be able to hear and observe the language used in multiple settings before constructing understanding and becoming comfortable with the language.  This process is slow and varies between each student but generates a natural acquisition of the language that promotes better listening and speaking skills in their future.  


The Student's Ability to Speak English

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As adults-teachers and parents-we think that a child's language ability is based on their ability to speak.  Speaking is actually the last skill that is developed for many students.  Before a student can speak, they have to understand what words are needed in order to express their idea, what sounds are needed to produce those words, and how to form their mouth/tongue/throat in order to produce those sounds.  This means that a student needs to know a lot before they can begin to speak.  The use of Spanglish is a big step for the students.  This allows them to apply what they are comfortable with in English and continue in Spanish to complete their ideas.  

The Reason Your Son/Daughter May Not Speak in English with You

During this process, many parents also ask why their child doesn't speak to them in English.  This may be different for each child but in general, they have identified you, their parent, as a Spanish speaker.  Students look for an easy way out and they know that you speak and understand Spanish.  The teachers in Agora create environments where English is the main means of communication towards the students and therefore the students are able to identify the teachers as English speakers and are more likely to try to use English when possible. 

English in Agora

If we as a school can recognize the important elements that foment comprehension and construction of English, then we can help guide the students in their process.  In Agora, we recognize these opportunities and invite the students to grow as English Language Learners in processes based on the repetition of contents, multiple opportunities for listening and observing, immersion in an English environment, and above all, environments that are fun and provocative.

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Craig Thomas

Escrito por Craig Thomas