The Second Language Acquisition Process
At the International Montessori School, preschool and kindergarten serve as a complement to your child’s upbringing at home and is a place where essential experiences and learning occur. School is where your child will learn to “grow up” and be encouraged to express herself through different means of communication. Our Montessori certified, native speaking teachers provide a solid foundation for your child’s language acquisition, with equal emphasis on helping her develop social and emotional skills. Your child will be encouraged to use a variety of skills to process, explore, and express thoughts and concepts. Within our caring and nurturing classrooms, your child will develop self-esteem as well as respect for others.
What is the typical process of learning a second language?
Will my child understand the second language before (s)he speaks it?
Research has shown that there is a consistent developmental sequence for children acquiring a second language. First, there is often a period of time during which a child continues to use his native language in second language situations. Then, most children enter a nonverbal, or “silent,” period. Following this period, children
begin to use “telegraphic” and “formulaic” phrases (or catch phrases) in the second language. Finally, children begin to develop productive use of their second language.
During the “silent” period, children are actively working on making sense of the target, or second, language. They observe and listen closely to their teachers and peers who are using the second language. ISTP teachers establish routines and plan activities that both repeat and build upon each other, so that children can progressively become familiar with the second language. During this “silent” period, the children may utilize nonverbal means to communicate while in their second language classroom. Gradually, they begin to “rehearse” the second language by repeating the sounds that they hear around them.
Children use telegraphic speech when they first begin to use their second language quite similar to how they first began speaking in their native language. Such utterances tend to contain a series of words that the children have learned. Common examples of telegraphic speech include identifying classroom objects, counting and naming the letters of the alphabet. Formulaic speech emerges after children have memorized entire phrases that they have heard their peers and/or teachers use. These “formulas” are especially helpful in enabling children to enter play situations with the second language speakers around them. Phrases such as “I want to play with you” and “May I have a…” are examples of how children have comprehended and acquired means to communicate in the second language.
Productive language use in the second language follows formulaic speech, when children begin to develop an understanding of its syntactic and grammatical system. Through comparison and breakdown of formulaic terms together with the development and application of syntactic rules, young second language learners arrive at productive control over their new language. They initiate their own use of the second language while continuing to acquire and utilize new vocabulary words and grammatical structures.