Second Language Learners Essay

4390 words - 18 pages

A major and continuing challenge for American education is the poor academic performance of the growing school population of English language learners. Because learning the type of English needed to do well in school requires several years, an important focus of many educators is to find ways to improve and speed up these children's knowledge of English and their English literacy in order to support adequate school achievement. The question for this paper is: How do immigrant second language school age children differ from Americanized children; and what can be done by our educational system to improve the transition of immigrant second language learners and bring those children up to their age-level education?English language learners are often the least successful group of children academically. English literacy, a skill built from the youngest grades in American society, is crucial because the content learned increasingly depends on good reading and interpretation skills. Many students in the United States are only just learning oral English skills in their elementary school years at the same time that they are having to learn to read and write in English. Research on second language development has shown that it takes approximately three to five years to develop oral proficiency for informal settings, and as much as four to seven years to develop the kind of language needed for problem solving, analysis, synthesis, and applying their learning (Cummins, 1991). These more complex uses of the English language in schools point out the challenges facing young second language learners and it is clear that second language learners must learn both the new language, including its academic forms, and at the same time keep up in other subject areas with native English speakers who are also further developing their language skills.Volunteering at the YWCA has greatly altered my perception of this phenomenon. I was able to work directly with children whose first language is not English and who are suffering from the lack of efficiency of our school system. It was a consistent problem that the children were not up to par with the grade level they were placed in; these children are just thrown into the expected grade level, even if their abilities are not sufficient with what the class is learning. I find this to be a huge problem with our educational system today. My supervisor explained how this tragedy facing our youngsters could be escaping the attention of our educators; she said that this struggle is being put onto these children purposely by the schools because they need to reach a quota of children advancing to each grade level. If they fail to pass a certain amount of children, they will get fined or written up. I find this to be so horrific. The children, who can't even read well, are being taught how to multiply and divide. I once encountered a child who had to do simple multiplication, but barely knew how to add. This is such a misfortune in our...

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