March 15, 2011 People

First Person on the Last Page: Dispelling the Myths of Second-Language Learning

Deborah Chitester works with a young child. As I worked with a young English-language learner, she looked at me and said in English, "I enjoy learning English. It's so much more fun than learning Arabic!"

I asked if she remembered learning Arabic, and she said, "Oh, I guess I did not learn Arabic, but was just born knowing it, which is why I love learning English!"

This very cute realization spoken out of innocence by a young child taught me that there are some English-language learners who seem to grasp intuitively the subtle aspects of second-language learning and other phenomena that may affect them as they learn another language.

In working with children who are bilingual or learning a second language, I've been asked many times by parents whether children are confused by learning two languages and whether learning two languages can cause a language delay. The answer is generally no. To answer these questions comprehensively, the myths of bilingualism need to be explored and dismantled.

Bilingualism is a very misunderstood phenomena and one that is surrounded in controversy. Few professionals have the background, knowledge, and training to respond adequately to parents' concerns. Training in second-language acquisition and bilingualism needs to be a top priority for educators, yet only recently has it received the attention it truly deserves.

Training for educators and administrators regarding how to support second-language learners educationally needs to be a top goal of states across the nation in order to address the achievement gap between children who are culturally and linguistically diverse and those who speak English. Speech-language pathologists need to spread the word to make professional development in bilingualism a priority for educators and other professionals.  

Deborah Jill Chitester, MS, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual speech-language pathologist and founder of Second Language, Literacy and Learning Connection, LLC, a private practice in New Jersey. Contact her at djcslp@slllc.org.

cite as: Chitester, D. J. (2011, March 15). First Person on the Last Page: Dispelling the Myths of Second-Language Learning. The ASHA Leader.

  

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