Second Language Learning

Culture Shock Impedes Language Development

  • The stress of entering a new culture often leads to children “blocking” the new language
  • The child’s curiosity is diminished
  • Their interest in peers is diminished and so there is little motivation to understand
  • Their interest in peers is diminished and so there is little motivation to understand
  • Their anxiety on separation makes the new language uninteresting
  • The language of the caregiver is often too complex to understand – turning out
  • Others do not seem to understand the child’s speech – soon lose interest in trying
  • Often period of no speech in a child care even if a caregiver speaks the child’s language
  • Regress in the first language and in skill level (vulnerable to being assessed as delayed)
  • Stress level affects child’s ability to listen and absorb new information
  • Children learn English faster when first language is maintained and strengthened at home


  • Reduce the stress by doing gradual separation
  • Match new child to caregiver with the child’s first language
  • Learn key phrases in child’s first language, e.g. “Mommy’s coming soon.”
  • Scaffolding the children’s language greatly aids language learning – animation, gesture
  • Scaffolding the children’s language but use real speech, spolen more slowly
  • Do not overwhelm the child with language but use real speech, spoken more slowly
  • Label the child’s action, e.g. “You put the cow inside.” “Bye, bye cow.”

Before Referring a Child for Speech Delay

  • Find out about the child’s ability in their first language, milestones, utterance issues
  • Find out about changes to the child’s ability in their first or second language
  • Find out about changes to language use at home, e.g. switch to only English
  • Make sure that the agency knows about the child’s fist language use
  • Make sure that the agency uses a family centred model of intervention, e.g. involvement

Children Learn Language Differently

  • Before 6 yrs, children absorb the 1st and 2nd language in the same location in the brain
  • Young children learn to think and process information simultaneously in both languages
  • Each language processes information slightly differently depending on importance, e.g. if intonation is more relevant than context
  • Children learn language fastest when there is motivation – an immediate use of language
  • Early 2nd langage learning has many advantages including, increased plasticity, language capacity, cultural understanding…
  • Children learn a second language best through peers, through real situations and play
  • Young children do not go through the process of translation as an intermediary stage

The Advantages of Bilingualism

  • Every day there are new discoveries about the advantages of being bilingual/multilingual
  • The onset of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive deterioration is delayed by 6 yrs.
  • Young children keep their direct connection and bond with the family
  • Communication becomes more interactive instead of cursory with family
  • The child’s brain use is enhanced with bilingual children – more synapses

Prepared by Julie Dotsch, One World

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