"How long does it take to learn English?" Or "How long will my English Learners need my support?"

 

"What if we all got on a shuttle bus, drove to the airport, flew to China, and started studying Mandarin?  How long would it take to you to learn enough Mandarin to be able to read a textbook and write an essay in Chinese?" 
"Forever." 
"20 years!" 
"I have no idea!"

I recently worked with a group of elementary school teachers, many of whom did not know the answers to these questions.  Many were surprised at the length of time students will need support to learn a second language.  It takes 5-10 years for English Learners to get to grade level (Thomas & Collier, 2002).  The wide range in years is because of variables like age of arrival, teaching quality, years of instruction in the first language etc. What does this mean for a 5th grader?  Even English Learners in the 5th grade, junior high, and high school will need specialized instruction to support them to get to grade level in English.  This, we must not forget.


(Thomas & Collier, 2002 can be accessed at: http://crede.berkeley.edu/research/crede/research/llaa/1.1_final.html)


Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen

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