A significant number of world’s population who are interested in learning and using English as a second or alternative language have their native language which they use to communicate. In countries like the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and other Anglophonic colonial countries, although English is the national and official language, other languages like French, German, and Spanish dominate certain regions and areas of these countries.
There are also languages from minority and immigrant groups used in small community clusters. These are the first languages a child learns as their mother tongue before going to school. The use of primary languages when teaching students in any education system has its advantages and disadvantages.
Use of primary languages to teach students make it easier for them to connect with the content material in a theme such as the organization of more than one inter-disciplinary aspect. It also provides different ways of focusing and attacking the education problems and assignments especially in non- scientific fields such as graphics, literature, writing journals and social studies. It is easier for the students to find support from peers in group and team projects as well as gathering information and data within their communities.
The primary languages also help in connection of content material with real experiences especially for younger children who still hold on to their mother tongue for understanding. The students are able to utilize their talents and abilities which are not included in learning like in sports, music, art and drama and which are not dependent on English learning and proficiency (Garcia, 2005 p.62).
One of the main arguments against the use of primary languages in teaching is that English language is the predominant means of instruction and academic content writing and reading and students do not get exposed to it and so they are never proficient (Williams,2009).
There is adamant necessity of knowing and efficiently excelling in English proficiency since it is the most common language not only in the US but also in the world today. The lack of a good understanding and knowledge of English in the early years of learning leads to confusion and slow progression when learning it later.
Another challenge is that the native language speakers are mostly from minority groups living in poor suburban communities. They have negative community stereotypes from parents and society. The lack of English knowledge can lead to their isolation and a sense of cultural conflict immerges. Their languages are not spoken expansively and so communication, even between within the minority groups is difficult if they do not have English as a common alternative language.
The question of whether English language learning instruction should replace native language can be argued for or against. One of the main arguments is that English should not completely overtake native language as the preferred language of learning, since student understand their primary language better than it.
Bilingual education could be an alternative with the instruction content being offered in both languages. In some academic fields like arts and reading native languages can help the student relate and exploit their potentials more easily. When a student acquires reading skills in their primary language, it is easier and quicker to transfer that to English with better achievement (Garcia, 2005 p.62).
The first experiences in a child including the language greatly influence their individual and cultural molding and the use of the native language can help in the child easily adopting to other languages and academics. Language in this case might not apply to just words and syllables, but also character manifestations, object and process description, among others. Students feel more comfortable and independent when they develop content in their native language and transfer the applications to English language.
Students feel free to communicate and discuss in class if they feel accepted whatever their backgrounds, level of language or reading. They develop the language necessary for content and reading when they are encouraged to participate in a subject debates which they relate with or experience either personally at first- hand or in their families, this helps the child to integrate their world with the classroom.
They can unleash their full knowledge and contribute when they are a part of and relate with the group. When every student is include in discussions without interfering with their comfort zones crossing boundaries of attitudes and cultural perspectives, they bring in diverse view points from their back grounds and help enrich ideas in learning (Cappellini, 2005).
English-language learners can be identified as students in need of special education depending on their various capability levels. There is need to know whether the student has undetected or untreated medical issues, or whether they are receiving proper educational services with and effective curriculum. Student problems should first be discussed and analyzed by teachers, parents and other mainstream stake holders.
There should also be efforts for appropriate intervention and if the problem is persists then action should be taken. However students should be given time to adjust to language learning, school and classroom surroundings and then they can demonstrate there learning capabilities over time. It is not every English learner that needs much attention, some of them receive additional support from family and friends or have a background of English that makes it easier for them to learn and develop their language skills fast and easily.
A small proportion of these students have proved to be in need of special education especially those from immigrant communities whose education level even in their native language is very poor. A number of characteristics can appear as indicators for students who need such attention.
Physical or cognitive problems might necessitate special care. There is also retardation or stagnation of progress that was previously witnessed. If a student cannot speak or engage in basic communication they cannot engage in class discussions and the normal system and learning can be stressful and testing. However a student who does not answer questions, whose recall is poor, with a poor flow of ideas and comments inappropriately might be in need of support or might be exhibiting language difficulties which fade away with time.
Social cultural aspects should not be indicators of need for special education, since different cultural behaviors are perceived differently e.g. some cultures do not encourage personal opinions or debates. Gender issues in some communities can also limit student performance where learning is not a priority for women or they can not take some disciplines in because they are meant for men.
The ideal program for such an English-language child would be one that promotes bilingual education and the literacy of the child in both the native and English languages (Wingerd, 2001). Such a program will foster cultural and language diversity. In this program students are instructed both in English and their primary language, there will be efforts to enhance the student’s native language skills and then correlation is developed between English instructions and development of the native language.
As students develop their first language, they also acquire better levels of English proficiency since they can express the skills, ideas and knowledge acquired in their native language through English. When student are successfully English proficient they join the general education classes where instructions are entirely in English.
An ideal learning program should also respond to the child’s cultural heritage, since preparation for learning is different among cultural groups. Conversation and information exchange differs in various groups together with cultural practices and preferences like greeting methods, dressing codes, eye contact and methods of forwarding complains and enquiries. The value that is put on education also depends on religion, beliefs and morals.
Depending on how a child is reared most of them have a clear understanding and relate to all this aspects by the time they are of school going age that is from five to six years. Teachers should strive to understand these developments and identify the cultural differences. They should not have particular standards or necessities to use in measuring student performance nor should they expect all children to learn, communicate or behave in the same way as those from English speaking families and cultures (Wingerd, 2001).
The use of primary languages when teaching students instead of English has been an issue of debate, especially in English speaking countries where it is the main stream language. It is important to note that if the welfare, comfort and confidence of students whose first language is not English are to be taken into consideration, then all efforts should be made to reach out and help them even if it means using their languages along with English as instructor content.
Cappellini, M. (2005). Balancing reading & language learning: a resource for teaching English language learners k-5 .Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers
Garcia, E. (2005). Teaching and learning in two languages: bilingualism & schooling in the United States. Columbia: Teachers College Press copyright
Williams, M. (2009). U.S. Bilingual Education Controversy Continue. Retrieved March 29, 2011, from http://www.suite101.com/content/us-bilingual-education-controversy-continues-a148086.
Wingerd, D. (2001). New Teachers for a New Century: The Future of Early Childhood Professional preparation. Washington, US: National Institute on Early Childhood Development and Education, Department of Education.