The concept of dual language learners (DLLs) refers to children not older than five years and at least one caregiver who uses a foreign language at home. This way, such children speak English at school and outside and master their native language at home. In addition to that, DLLs are children who learn another foreign language and, at the same time, are in the process of developing their mother tongue (Issi, 2019). Currently, at least one parent of every 4th child in the US was born abroad (Issi, 2019). What is more, less than 20 percent of American immigrants speak English, and most of them speak Spanish (Issi, 2019). The present essay discusses the major point of the video Socioemotional development of dual language learners and children of immigrant families and provides several suggestions on supporting DDLs for high academic achievement at school.
One of the major problems faced by DLLs is their weak academic performance. As it is stated by associate professor Qing, most Latino DLLs at the age of 4 and 5 “scored 1 to 2 standard deviations below monolingual norms in English receptive and expressive vocabulary and listening comprehension” (Issi, 2019, 7:35). In addition to that, the academic achievement of Latino DLLs, in comparison with their “non-Hispanic White” peers, is significantly lower (Issi, 2019, 7:37). This problem could be explained by their poor English language proficiency (Issi, 2019). Apart from the language proficiency, the gap in academic performance results from socioeconomic disparities between white and non-white families (Issi, 2019). Besides, children face difficulties because, at school, they are immersed in an unfamiliar culture that differs from their own (Issi, 2019). From this, it could be inferred that it is necessary to introduce a comprehensive approach to improve the academic results of DLLs.
In the video dedicated to the socio-emotional development of DLLs, professor Qing provides several ideas on how to support such children at school. The major idea behind these suggestions is that one language should not be prioritized over the second one. Qing Zhou recommends educators “make connections with home language and culture” and “provide children with systematic vocabulary instruction” (Issi, 2019, 46:59). In addition to that, immigrant families should be provided with the ability to participate in the cultural orientation program (Issi, 2019). The logic behind this recommendation is that if parents are familiar with the host country’s culture and have successfully adapted to it, their children will be adopted too. This way, it will be more comfortable to study in American schools, and the academic performance is more likely to be higher in contrast to one of not-adapted children.
Other experts support the ideas proclaimed by the Associate Professor of Psychology Qing Zhou. More precisely, Edyburn et al. (2019) argue that it is necessary to use such a language of instruction in early childhood settings that would be culturally and linguistically responsive. Another curious finding was made by O’Neal (2018), who argues that the academic performances of DLLs are better in classes with high peer grit. This way, it might be useful to promote self-regulatory skills among DLLs to close the school success gap.
To conclude, the gap in academic success between DLLs and their monolingual peers is a significant problem that requires decisive action. Overall, the primary way to solve this issue is to adapt children to the new culture and gradually improve their English language proficiency. Therefore, teachers in classes with DLLs should establish an environment coherent with these children’s experiences and backgrounds at cultural and language levels.
Edyburn, K. L., Quirk, M., & Oliva-Olson, C. (2019). Supporting Spanish–English bilingual language development among Latinx dual language learners in early learning settings. Contemporary School Psychology, 23(1), 87-100.
Issi (2019). Socioemotional development of dual language learners and children of immigrant families. [Video]. YouTube. Web.
O’Neal, C. R. (2018). Individual versus peer grit: Influence on later individual literacy achievement of dual language learners. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(1), 112-119.