Is Earlier Better? Generally, But...

I was reading some work by Fred Genesee, a long-time expert in language learning wherein he was discussing some commonly accepted myths about language learning.  He addressed the myth, 'Earlier is better" and this is what he says:

"WE NOW KNOW THAT:

o yes, overall, earlier is generally better BUT

o earlier is not better for all aspects of language acquisition and, especially, language for academic purposes – children who can read in the home language learn to read English quickly (Genesee et al., 2008; Genesee & Lindholm-Leary, in press)

o earlier is not better if the learning environment cannot support it – parents’ use of English in the home does not necessarily promote English (Riches & Genesee, 2006; Genesee, Geva et al., 2006)

o competence in the L1 can support development of academic language and literacy skills in English-L2 (August & Shanahan, 2006)

IMPLICATIONS

o ELLs and their parents should not be discouraged from using the home language

o ELL parents should be encouraged to use the home language in ways that support literacy and academic achievement" 

(Fred Genesee, Enhancing Practice with English Language Learners, Princeton University, April 29, 2011)

What I take away from Genesee is that we must remember that bilingual education and first language literacy should be supported given they not only support second language acquisition, but also support our nation in becoming more bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural.

Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen

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