Come and study in the Philippines with me Teacher “ALVIN”
Acquiring the kind of language required in academic settings is a far more challenging task than learning a language for merely conversational purposes and takes much longer. L2 learners are often at a disadvantage because they are faced with the task of acquiring and using English at the same time they are trying to learn academic subjects. Classroom lectures in, say, science or social studies are given in English; a report for science must be written in English; and assignments in mathematics courses often require both sophisticated reading and writing skills in English for the student to offer a solution to a problem. Thus, in instances where their English -speaking peers have only to accomplish one task, L2 learners have to confront two types of learning tasks – one in acquiring a new language and the other in gaining content mastery. In classrooms where the language of instruction is English, much of what many L2 learners who lack sufficient English skills hear and even more of what they are assigned to read may be ultimately incomprehensible to them. Students are often asked to read tests that are far beyond their language capacity to understand. They can derive meaning from such tasks only when specifically designed activities accompany the assignment to make tests comprehensible. For example, teachers can preview the material and attempt to activate students’ background knowledge and help to fill in the gaps by explaining and defining words and helping students understand concepts. Further, teachers can also help students monitor their listening and reading and teach them to ask for help when they do not understand what is presented in class or in a textbook. Without this kind of assistance, L2 learners, even when surrounded by spoken and written English, will “tune out” learning, and their exposure to English will contribute little or nothing to their language development.
TIME AND PROFICIENCY
Two important issues in language acquisition are the length of time it takes to acquire proficiency in a second language and how proficiency is defined. Recent research conducted in four states on thousands of students representing over 100 primary languages supports the claim that on average it takes five to seven years for students in the most effective programs to reach the norm on nationally standardized achievement tests such as the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills. Education in the first language reduces the amount of time required and improves ultimate second language proficiency. Students with no schooling in their first language take an average of seven to ten years and sometimes more to reach the norm, while in that same period students with the greatest amount of academic language development in L1 (first language) achieve, on average, above the national norm set for English speaking students.
Understanding the length of time required to attain proficiency in a second language is important for all educational professionals because of a tendency to allow L2 learners to move too quickly through a school’s language continuum. Students often feel social or parental pressure to complete their studies, especially in English, quickly. At the same time, schools often feel hesitant to hold L2 learners in an English language program back until they attain adequate proficiency in English to succeed in the next level. Failure to provide enough time, however, has too often proved ultimately detrimental to the L2 learner.
Of course, many variables influence the process of language acquisition, including the amount and quality of instruction learners receive, their opportunities to communicate in the language, their age, their personality and learning styles, their first language literacy level in L1, and their motivation and attitude towards the new language and culture. Even at advanced levels, L2 learners may not demonstrate the proficiency of a native speaker of English. They may speak with an accent and write with the written equivalent of an accent, still exhibiting second language traits, although they will be able to perform academic tasks alongside their native-English-speaking peers, often with great distinction.
As important as ESL faculty are in serving ESL students, they cannot begin to do the job by themselves.
In most programs, ESL students spend only a small part of their school day with ESL teachers, if they spend any time at all. Most of their time is spent with teachers in other disciplines. Therefore, developing academic language skills for ESL students must be viewed as the task of teachers in all disciplines and at all levels, since L2 learners remain engaged in the process of language development throughout their academic lives.
In order to serve L2 learners, content-area faculty need the following information about second language students:
_ Amount and kind of education they received in their home countries
_ Length of residence in the Philippines.
_ Educational experiences in the Philippines.
_ Results of assessment.
Other curricular issues affect the content-area faculty when dealing with second language learners are as follows:
_ Background in second language acquisition and multicultural communication.
_ Help in designing instruction that will be useful to the L2 learners in their classes.
_ Help in providing instruction that contributes to these students’ language development comprehension
_ Interactive teaching techniques that will make the second language students in their classes be active users of English
_ Useful assessments that evaluate fairly the learning of second language students in their classes.
ESL teachers are an excellent resource for classroom teachers who need help and guidance in effective teaching strategies for L2 learners. ESL teachers can help design lesson plans, provide appropriate materials, and adapt content to make it comprehensible to L2 learners. Close collaboration between ESL teachers and classroom teachers will result in more success for L2 learners in content-based study in the classroom.