Come to the Philippines to learn “ENGLISH”
UNDERSTANDING ESL STUDENTS
This document makes reference to three groups of language learners. The term native speakers of English refers to students whose first language, the language acquired at home, was English. The term, L2 learners (second language learners), refers to all students whose home language during early childhood was one other than English. A subgroup of L2 learners, ESL students are those who have need for ESL programs or classes designed to help them acquire the English language. It is important to understand the dynamics of these three groups because their language education needs are not the same. Such definitions should be integral to any assessment and advising process affecting L2 learners because they will help to distinguish, for example, the L2 learner from most basic skills students whose first language is English. Defining students’ needs by referencing their first language experience will also help educators appreciate the difference between English basic skills instruction for native speakers (remedial English) and instruction designed to assist in the process of acquiring a second/foreign language.
Because L2 learners may not have grown up with the English language or with U.S. culture as part of their primary experience, their educational needs differ greatly from those of native English speakers in our schools. While instruction for native speakers, for example, often tends to emphasize reading and writing, L2 learners at all levels need to learn English as part of an integrated curriculum, which includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing. They need to receive instruction that recognizes language learning as a unique developmental process, one in which what may be perceived as accent or error is actually a natural part of this learning process. To a greater degree than native English speakers, L2 learners need to learn the syntactic structures and organizational pattern of both written and spoken English. They also need to learn about U.S. culture and at the same time receive instruction that validates their primary language and culture. L2 learners who have lived most of their lives in this country are familiar with multicultural America, but they may still need additional language instruction, especially in the areas of academic reading and writing. In addition, efforts to measure L2 learners’ English abilities need to be carefully designed for this particular population. Tests designed to assess native speakers of English are generally inappropriate for L2 learners.