This objective tests your knowledge of linguistics and the nature of language. This includes but is not limited to:
- Language registers
- L1 acquisition
- Behaviorism vs. constructivism
- Word Englishes
Let’s take a look at some concepts that are likely to appear on the test.
Phonology describes how sounds (phonemes) work within a language. Understanding and knowing the sounds of a language is a part of phonology.
An understanding of phonology is essential in order to master more complex parts of language like morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Students who are acquiring a second language, phonologically similar to their native language, will have a much easier time, because they will not need to learn as many new sounds.
For example, /r/, /l/, and especially /th/, are hard for students who are learning English, because those sounds are not found in other languages.
Morphology is the study of how words are structured. Individual phonemes or sounds do not have meanings, but morphemes, the smallest chunk of a word, do have meaning.
For example, in the word cats, cat is the free morpheme (stands alone) and s is the bound morpheme since s by itself only makes the word plural.
Teaching morphology to ELLs not only helps with content vocabulary, but also reading (decoding new words), speaking, and writing.
The English language has five language registers, or styles of language. The register depends on the audience and situation. It is important that ELLs understand each, so they are able to participate in academic and social conversations. The language registers are:
- Frozen (static)– Language that is unchanged no matter the context (Pledge of Allegiance, Lord’s Prayer, etc.)
- Formal/Academic– Language for instruction, interviews, lessons, and public speaking
- Consultative– Asking for assistance in some way (speaking to a supervisor, teacher, doctor, etc.)
- Casual (informal)– Social conversation between friends (teachers should accept first drafts of writing in the casual register so that students can more easily get the information out)
- Intimate– Conversation not meant for the public (conversation between immediate family members)
Teachers can help ELLs understand and use the different registers by explicitly modeling for them, as well as providing many opportunities for different types of discourse throughout the day. For example, teachers can lead students in small group to demonstrate the formal register, recite the Pledge of Allegiance to demonstrate the frozen register, have students ask questions to practice the consultative register, and allow group work and encourage conversation at lunch/recess to support learning the casual register.
Stages of L1 Acquisition
L1 refers to a first or native language. Children are born with the ability to acquire language. L1 acquisition happens in four stages:
- Babbling (6-8 months)- Imitates sounds of family members and gradually drops the sounds that are not reinforced.
- One-word stage or holophrastic stage (9-18 months)– Children begin to form recognizable sounds/words.
- Two-word stage (18-24 months)- Children begin to develop phrases with multiple words. For example, a child might point to a car and say, “dada car.”
- Telegraphic or multi-word stage (24-30 months)- Children begin to form complete sentences. At this stage, children’s words have more meaning and purpose than simply labeling objects.
Behaviorism versus Constructivism
- Behaviorism– A philosophy based on behavior that includes the way organisms act, think, and feel. Basically, behavior can be predicted and controlled. In education, this approach supports changing behavior through rewarding desired behaviors.
- Constructivism– A philosophy that investigates how humans create meaningful experiences. For teachers, this approach encourages active engagement such as discussion, writing, problem solving, and other “active” strategies for instruction.
In terms of L1 and L2 acquisition, these theories can both be used but look different in the classroom.
A typical behaviorist strategy can be a teacher-led vocabulary lesson where the teacher explains the vocabulary words, phrases, and how each word is used in a sentence. Another strategy can be a teacher-led activity where students repeat vocabulary in a drill-like format. As students master one drill, they begin the next one. This can be beneficial to students who are learning vocabulary.
In contrast, the constructivist approach is more project based (including research); students work in collaborative groups rather than receiving direct instruction; overall, the teacher’s main focus is on each student’s interests and learning style. This philosophy can also be beneficial for students who are acquiring language, because students are given the opportunity to use the language in multiple ways, and the way they are learning the information is probably more specific to their interest/level.
World Englishes refers to all of the varying forms of English spoken around the world. Standard English is a native speaker model which may never be attainable for many ELLs, so recent research says it might be unrealistic to use the standard English model for ELLs who are acquiring the language.
The current recommendation is that ESL teachers should consider all varieties of English in a balanced approach to ESL instruction, so that students are better prepared for the global world. Using a balanced approach also shows students that their variation of English is valued.