Second Language Competence Beneficial but often Misunderstood
Second language learning has associated with it many types of benefits. Among them include: social, economic, intellectual and linguistic. Children who engage in second language learning typically outperform their peers in the area of vocabulary development as well as intellectual development. As important as learning a second language is, learners can be viewed as experiencing difficulties with language development when in reality they are displaying linguistic differences.
There is often a period of time when a second language learner is viewed to not speak much, this is due to their processing information in the new language and has been termed as the silent period. Additionally, speaking with an "accent" is a normal part of second language learning because the person is using the sounding system of the first language while speaking the new one. Often, help is required so that the person can enjoy positive communication interactions with others in the second language.
Children who come from homes where English is not the primary language also are at risk within the educational system of being labeled as special and deficient when in reality they have not acquired enough English to be able to succeed in school. Specialized support is often needed for children like these and is not always provided by school districts. The topic of second language acquisition is one that needs to be better understood and supported in our social, educational and business communities.
Clearly, this help is available to those who seek it out. When doing so, please make sure the professional you choose has a background in second language learning and has access to research and experience in best practices relevant to providing language support to English language learners. This can make the difference between a child receiving the help they need when they need it or being referred to a restrictive setting like special education. For accent training, it is important to look for a professional with a background in articulation, sound systems, and second language learning which will enable them best to understand your situation and tailor a program that will suit your needs.
Deborah Chitester MS CCC SLP is a bilingual Speech Language Pathologist who has extensive expertise with second language learners and provides accent training services as well. Her practice is Second Language Literacy and Learning Connection, LLC. She is working on a book and a tutorial to be used by teachers in schools so as to minimize the amount of second language children being referred to special education due to the presence of second language differences. She also provides supports and education to parents in order that they learn valid information concerning how to raise bilingual children.Please see our website http://www.slllc.org
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