Teachers vary in their understandings of bilingualism and the processes of second language acquisition. Some teachers are bilingual or multilingual themselves and have a wealth of personal experience to draw on. Others may be very familiar with multilingual school environments. Some may have limited contact with bilingual or EAL learners.
Here we outline aspects of bilingualism and the development of first and additional languages which can inform teachers’ approaches to bilingual and EAL learners in schools. Teachers should, for example, be aware that:
- The learner’s first or home language plays a significant role in the learning of the additional language in terms of cognitive, linguistic and socio-cultural influences.
- Learning a second language will not necessarily proceed in an orderly and systematic fashion. Learners will use prior linguistic, learned and world knowledge. They will learn when there is a need to communicate and to learn.
- Most EAL and bilingual learners will develop a functional level of English in the first two years of schooling in English but they will need continued support to develop the cognitive academic language proficiency necessary for academic success.
- Bilingual education can be very beneficial in the development of the second language
- Learning a language and becoming bilingual is also about learning and living in different societies and cultures. It is not just about acquiring a new language, but also about understanding another culture and developing another identity.
These materials provide an introduction to bilingualism and second language acquisition and its implications for the classroom.
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