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Learning English as a Second Language?


San Francisco is home to many languages. There are many benefits to teaching your child more than one language. It's helpful to know some typical phases that children go through when learning a second language so you know what to expect.

Different languages use different sounds and grammar. Children might use what they already know to learn a second language.

Below are the typical phases children go through when learning a second language.

Silent Period: Some children, when exposed for the first time to a new language do not talk much, and only listen. This period can go from a short period of weeks, to months or even a year.

Your child might understand a lot in English but might not be ready to speak. It is important not to pressure your child to speak. Asking yes/no question, and allowing your child to nod is a way for you to know that he/her understands.

If the teacher does not speak your language teach her a few sentences. It will help your child feel safe in the classroom, and will motivate her/him to speak. Ask the teacher to pair your child with another child who is speaking both languages.

Interference: We might transfer what we knows from our language or dialect to English, using literal translation.

Example, grammar structure:

In Spanish, "mi jugete es mas grande que el tuyo"means "My toy is bigger than yours:. However, the child would say, "my toy is more big than yours".

Language loss: When learning a new language, we tend to loose some of the vocabulary we know from our first language.

Code switching or code mixing: Occurs when we use more than one language or dialect to communicate within a conversation. When bilingual children engage in code switching, it may be a strategy to replace what they do not yet know in one language with their knowledge in another.

However, when a bilingual person can switch between two languages, it means that their skills are proficient enough to be able to manipulate the languages in different ways.


Example of code switching between Spanish and English.

Wife: Dime, when will you be home from work?

Husband:No se, mo amor. I'll call you when I get on the train.

Wife: Bueno, Have a good day y hablamos mas tarde.


Indication of limited skills in a language does not confirm the presence of a disorder.


More info: (Acquiring English as a Second Language: What is "Normal," What's Not). In Spanish/English. (Second Language Acquisition) In Spanish/English

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