Friday, July 1, 2011

Learning to Read as a Native Speaker of English vs. ESL

Question: How does learning to read English as an ESL student differ from learning to read English as a native speaker of English?

Answer/Quote: “Native-English speakers learning to read encounter words and grammatical structures that they can already understand orally. The second-language learner… encounters an inordinate amount of unfamiliar language even in beginning texts. Beginning readers who are native-English speakers expect to understand the text once they have managed to decode it; for the reader who is learning English, the text may not be comprehended even if it can be decoded.” P. 82.

Comment: Native speakers of English learn to read by attaching meanings of words they understand in speaking and hearing to the same words on the page. Decoding the words on the page means they will understand because they understand orally. For the ESL student, decoding does not necessarily mean they will understand, even if they can say the words. This issue is an important difference in the native English student’s learning to read and the ESL student’s  learning to read. The ESL students might be able to say the words, but might not understand their meanings. “It’s a piece of cake” means “That’s easy to do” to the native English speaker. ESL students are likely to think they will be served a piece of cake. RayS.

Title: “Instructional Approaches and Teaching Procedures.” AU Chamot and J M O’Malley. Pp. 82-107. In Kids Come in All Languages: Reading Instruction for ESL Students. Eds. K Spangensberg-Urgschat and R Pritchard. Newark, DE: IRA. 1994.

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