Language Acquisition
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Glossary of Second and Primary Language Acquisition Terms  
Term Usage
Additive Model/Common Underlying Proficiency Theory that both acquisition of first and second languages can contribute to underlying language proficiency. Experiences with both languages, according to Cummins, promote the development of the proficiency underlying both languages, given adequate motivation and exposure to both, within school or the wider environment. SUP (Separate Underlying Proficiency) approach indicates that no such relationship/synergy exists between L1 and L2 language acquisition.
Affective Filter Optimal input occurs when the "affective filter" is low (Krashen, 1982). The affective filter is a screen of emotion that can block language acquisition or learning if it keeps the users from being too self-conscious or too embarrassed to take risks during communicative exchanges.
Audio-Lingual Method (Skinner and others) Non-communicative approach that involves heavy use of mimicry, imitation and drill. Speech and not writing is emphasized. It is perhaps unfair to associate this approach with B.F. Skinner whose theories would in no way preclude a communicative approach to second language acquisition instruction.
BICS Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) are those that are cognitively-undemanding and include known ideas, vocabulary and syntax. They are the aspects of communication that are used daily in routine communicative exchanges (e.g., while dressing, eating, bathing, playing, etc.). BICS skills represent the informal aspects of social talk as well as skills that do not require a high degree of cognition (e.g., naming objects and actions, referring to non-existence, disappearance, rejection, and negation, and so forth). Students demonstrating BICS might recognize new combinations of known words or phrases and produce single words or short phrases. When students begin to acquire a second language, they are typically able to develop BICS within 2-3 years. Most importantly, Cummins cautioned that students should not be placed in learning situations in which a second language (L2) is used just because they have adequate L2 BICS.
Bilingual Advisory Committee (BAC) Site level committee composed of parents, teachers and others that monitors school’s bilingual/ESL programs. Required if site has >= 21 LEP students.
Bilingual Education Act (Title V11) Compensatory program to support education programs, train teachers/aides, develop and disseminate instructional materials and encourage parental involvement in bilingual/ESL education. In 1970 the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) informed school districts with more than 5% national origin-minority students that they must provide some kind of special language instruction for LEP students. The OCR also prohibited the assignment of students to classes for the handicapped on the basis of English language skills; prohibited placing students in vocational tracks instead of teaching them English and mandated that administrators communicate with parents in a language they can understand.
Bilingual language User A person who is skilled to some degree in two languages. This might be someone who speaks two languages (e.g., English and Spanish)
CALP Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency, or CALP. CALP takes much longer that BICS to develop; usually about 5-7 years. CALP skills are those that are necessary for literacy obtainment and academic success. CALP enables students to have academic, analytical conversation and to independently acquire factual information. CALP is used to use information acquired to find relationship, make inferences, and draw conclusions.
Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) Instructional approach that provides explicit teaching of learning strategies within academic subject areas. Strategies are divided into three major categories: (1) Metacognitive (planning, self-monitoring, classifying, etc.); (2) Cognitive (note taking, summarizing, making inferences, self-reflection, etc.) and (3) Social-affective (Asking questions, cooperative learning, peer tutoring, etc.).
Communicative Approaches Teaching approach where negotiation for meaning is critical. The teacher becomes a facilitator. Collaborative learning and peer interaction is important. Students and teacher select and organize curriculum contents.
Comprehensible Input Input + 1/Zone of Proximal Development- Input/instruction that is just above the students abilities. Instruction that is embedded in a meaningful context, modified (paraphrasing, repetition), collaborative/ interactive and multimodal.
Cultural Adaptation/Culture Shock Cycle Model of what happens when a person is introduced into a new culture and then must return to their home culture. Stages include: (1) Pre-departure anxiety; (2) Arrival honeymoon; (3) Initial culture shock; (4) Surface adjustment; (5) Mental isolation; (6) Return anxiety and (8) Re-entry culture shock.
Cummin’s Classification of Language and Content activities. Divided activities/modes of instruction and learning along two continuums (context embedded/reduced and academic and cognitively demanding /undemanding). Instruction should progress from context embedded/academically non-demanding to context reduced/academically demanding. Teacher should be aware of where his instruction falls and how it is relating to the needs of his students who may be in various stages of language acquisition and development.
Direct Method (Berlitz) Non-communicative method that involves exclusive use of target/L2 language, uses a step by step progression of material and considers correct translation to be very important.
District Bilingual Advisory Committee Required if district has >= 51 LEP students. Monitors District bilingual/ESL programs.
ELD English Language Development
English Language Assessment Each student with a home language other than English must be assessed in English within 30 days of enrollment.
Enlightened Eclecticism (Wilga Rivers) Communicative approach that pulls from a variety of methods.
ESL (English as a Second Language) As distinguished from true Bilingual education, ESL emphasizes the submersion /submersion + ESL/pullout approach and where the goal is early transition. Instruction in English is looked upon as remedial.
Grammar A theory or hypothesis, about the organization of language in the mind of speakers of that language--the underlying knowledge that permits understanding and production of language.
Grammar Translation Method This is a non-communicative approach that relies heavily on reading and translation, mastery of grammatical rules and accurate writing.
Home Language Survey (HLS) Form completed by parents/guardians that gives information about a student’s language background. Must be on file for every LEP student.
Humanistic Approach (Galyean) Communicative approach that focuses on the whole learner, starts with the individual then expands to group and includes music, art and physical activity.
Immersion Programs Bilingual program similar to double or two-way program. Sometimes also used to describe a program where L1 students are given academic instruction in a non-native language for enrichment.
Input +1 Optimal input must be at a level slightly above that of the learner. Krashen labeled this concept "input + 1". To explain this principle, Krashen uses an analogy of an English speaker trying to comprehend Spanish from a radio program. Those of us who have a beginner's ability to speak Spanish and who have listened to a Spanish radio broadcast know how frustrating (and incomprehensible) it can be to try to attend to input that is just too complex and that lacks a visible context from which we can deduce clues.
L1 Primary language
L2 Secondary language
Language Acquisition Theory (Krashen and others) Acquisition and learning are two separate processes. Learning is knowing about a language (formal knowledge). Acquisition is the unconscious process that occurs when language is used in real conversation.

Language Acquisition Theory embodies the following hypotheses:

  1. Natural Order: Natural progression/order of language development exhibited by infants/young children and/or second language learners (child or adult). (PEPSI)
  2. Monitor: Learning (as opposed to acquisition) serves to develop a monitor- an error detecting mechanism that scans utterances for accuracy in order to make corrections. As a corollary to the monitor hypothesis, language acquisition instruction should avoid emphasis on error correction and grammar. Such an emphasis might inhibit language acquisition, particularly at the early stages of language development.
  3. Input: Input needs to be comprehensible .
  4. Affective Filter
Language Assessment Tests LAS O/R/W (See definition above)

Basic Inventory of natural Language (BINL)

Idea Oral Proficiency (IPT)

Quick Start in English (QSE)

Woodcock-Munoz Language Survey (WML)

Language Diagnostic Assessment Notification Letter Letter sent to parents/guardians of students "diagnosed" as LEP informing them of the test results and the type of instruction their children will receive.
LAS Language Assessment Scales. State approved assessment test to determine language status and appropriate placement for LEP students.

English LAS: LAS-Oral and LAS Read/Write

Spanish LAS Oral and LAS Read/Write

Lau v. Nichols Supreme Court case where the Court ruled that, "There is no equality of treatment merely by providing students the same facilities, textbooks, teachers and curriculum, for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education". Also: Lau remedies.
LEP Limited English Proficient Students
Maintenance Bilingual Program Bilingual program whose goal is to maintain English learner’s native language and culture. Students are encouraged to be proficient in English and their native tongue.
Morphology The study of the meaning units in a language (morphemes)
Natural Approach (Terrell and Krashen) Communicative approach that: (1) Takes into account PEPSI; (2) Uses comprehensible input; (3) Stresses low affective filter and (4) Uses meaningful, authentic communication/activities.
Noam Chomsky Pioneered cognitive/gestalt approach to understanding language acquisition. Mind contains Language Acquisition Device that generates rules through the unconscious acquisition of grammar.
One-Way Bilingual program where native English speakers do not receive instruction in the native language of the English learners.
Phase or Stage Periods of development that are typically used in discussion of language ability instead of ages to refer to a child's process.
Phonology The study of the sound patterns of a language.
Pragmatics The general study of how context affects the user’s interpretation of language.
Primary Language The language of most benefit in learning new and difficult information.
Primary Language Assessment Every LEP student must be assessed for primary language proficiency within 90 calendar days of enrollment.
Redesignation Developmental progress of LEP students is reviewed annually. FEP (Fluent English Proficiency) redesignation will occur based on the following criteria:
  1. Teacher recommendation
  2. SOLM
  3. Oral English Fluency (LAS-O and other assessment tests)
  4. Reading/Writing (LAS R/W and other assessment tests)
  5. Student writing sample
  6. CTBS score of 36 percentile or greater in reading, language and math)
Semantics The study of meanings of individual words and or larger units such as phrases and sentences.
Silent Way (Gattegno) Communicative approach that makes learner responsible for own learning and makes extensive use of Cuisenare rods, color-coding and other manipulatives.
SOLM (Student Oral Language Observation Matrix) Form designed to help teachers assess oral language skills of students.
Specially Designated Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE) Academic, subject area instruction that takes into account the special needs of LEP and other students by fostering:
  1. Active student participation
  2. Social interaction
  3. Integrated oral and written language
  4. Authentic books and tasks
  5. Adequate coverage of background knowledge required to master a topic (vocabulary, key concepts, etc.).
Stages of Language Development (PEPSI) Level 1: Pre-Production Stage (Silent Period): Minimal comprehension, no verbal production.

Level II: Early Production Stage. Limited Comprehension; One/two-word response.

Level III: Speech Emergence Stage. Increased comprehension; Simple sentences; Some errors in speech.

Level IV: Intermediate Fluency Stage. Very good comprehension; More complex sentences; Complex errors in speech.

Submersion Sink or swim approach to ELD instruction. L2 students are placed in the same classes as L1 students and required to learn as much as they can.
Submersion + ESL English learners are given a separate ESL class for a prescribed period of time, usually one hour per day. The rest of the day is spent in classes with L1 learners (Pullout ESL).
Suggestopedia (Lozanov) Communicative approach that uses Baroque music (in the session phase of a lesson) and stresses a welcoming atmosphere and natural settings. A Suggestopedia lesson may have three phases: (1) Presession; (2) Session and (3) Postsession.
Syntax The study of the sentence patterns of a language and rules that govern the correctness of a sentence.
Total Physical Response (TPR) (James Asher) Communicative approach where students respond with actions, not words first. Instruction is concrete and can be introductory to reading/writing experiences.
Transition Bilingual program whose goal is to help English learners ultimately adjust to an all English educational program. May be early-exit ( 2nd grade) or late-exit (6th grade).
Two-Way Bilingual program where L2 learners receive L1 instruction and L1 students receive L2 instruction. To be effective program must:
  1. Allow for development of CALP
  2. Optimal input in both languages.
  3. Focus on academic subjects.
  4. Integrate the curriculum.
  5. Allow for monolingual instruction for sustained periods.
  6. Have home-school collaboration
  7. Empower students as active learners.
  8. Make sufficient use of minority language.


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