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Early reading success: The language factor Barbara Trudell, Ph.D. SIL International, Africa Area All Children Reading by 2015:

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Presentation on theme: "Early reading success: The language factor Barbara Trudell, Ph.D. SIL International, Africa Area All Children Reading by 2015:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Early reading success: The language factor Barbara Trudell, Ph.D. SIL International, Africa Area All Children Reading by 2015: From Assessment to Action Washington, DC April 12-14, 2010

2 Planning for language of instruction: what you need to know Mental development and language acquisition in the young child The role of the mother tongue in early school experience Learning a second language Implications for planning mother-tongue based BE or MLE

3 Section 1. Mental development and language acquisition in the young child

4 Development of language ability and cognitive (mental) development go together.

5 First language acquisition: A summary of research From around six months of age, babies make language-like sounds. The word ‘mama’ for ‘mother’ is found all over the world. At about 18 months, babies discover that things have names. Children then start to notice patterns in language. By three and a half years of age, children talk freely. Basic communication skills are learned first; after that, language proficiency is built for conceptual information and abstract learning

6 When the child enters school… Schooling is supposed to build on what the child has already begun to learn: – Vocabulary they know – Their general ability to communicate – Experiences they have had

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8 The first-year school child is not yet fully proficient in any language! The child is not a mature speaker of his/her mother tongue until around age 10. Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills vs. Cognitive and Academic Language Proficiency Play-yard conversation does not require the same language ability that conceptual learning does.

9 A HUGE pedagogical mistake: Beginning school instruction in a second language when the child does not yet have strong proficiency in his/her first language

10 “Cognitive hijacking” The interruption in the process of a child’s cognitive development that happens when a language of instruction is used that the child does not speak. – Teacher’s oral input is not comprehensible (directions, explanations, questions) – Their communication skills don’t work in class – The learning processes they know are now useless

11 Ensuring that the child understands what is taught The teacher can do this by: – Giving instructions that relate to the students’ experience – Providing background knowledge – Using context or visual cues – Allowing students to express their own ideas on the topic What language has to be used to ensure understanding? A language that the child speaks.

12 Section 2. The role of the mother tongue in early school experience

13 Research on reading levels in English: Northwest Cameroon

14 Grade 1 performance: English vs. Kom

15 But using the MT is not enough! Eritrea National Reading Survey (2005): “How can mother tongue-based primary education reach its full potential?”

16 “Phonemic awareness” of L1 needs to be taught – sounds and letters – blending sounds to make meaningful words – Identifying individual sounds and parts of words

17 Teachers need to know how to teach reading

18 Invest in a lot of L1 reading material: practice, practice, practice!

19 Three goals of mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education Language development, in L1 and L2 (and L3) Academic development Sociocultural development

20 Language development of the child L1 fluency – listening, speaking, reading and writing – Gains here will make L2 learning easier L2 fluency – teach oral L2 first – use oral fluency to bridge to L2 reading and writing L3 fluency - as for L2

21 Academic development Academic skills that are learned well in L1 will transfer to L2 also: maths, reading skills, science

22 Sociocultural development The MT is based in the culture of the child. The child’s identity is based in the community which speaks the MT. MT-based education draws the community into the school experience.

23 Section 3. Learning a second language It takes 2-3 years to learn a new language well enough to use for everyday communication. It takes 5-7 years to learn a new language well enough to use it to learn abstract concepts.

24 Teach oral L2 before written L2 Research shows that oral proficiency in a language is crucial for developing reading proficiency in that language.

25 At the same time, teach curriculum content in the child’s mother tongue

26 Develop children’s oral and written L1 Use L1 for teaching Introduce oral L2 Continue oral and written L1 Use L1 for teaching Bridge to written L2 Continue oral and written L1 and oral L2 Use both languages for teaching Continue oral and written L1 and oral and written L2 Use both languages for teaching

27 Some reading skills that transfer from L1 to L2 Knowing that print carries meaning Knowing that print is broken into words Knowing that direction of print is important Using context to guess unknown words Knowing that letters represent sounds Knowing that sounds can be blended together to form words

28 Reading skills that have to be taught for each language The set of sounds used in the language The sound-letter correspondences for the language The grammar and vocabulary of the language

29 Section 4. Implications for planning mother-tongue based BE/MLE (ADEA 2010) The target languages Policy setting and implementation Teacher training Curriculum development and materials production Evaluation

30 Target languages Which local language(s)? Bilingual or multilingual education? Development of the target languages so that they can be used in school – Writing system – Literacy – Written materials

31 Policy Setting a policy is not enough! Implementation is CRUCIAL.... including finances

32 It doesn’t cost as much as you may think… Adds 1% – 5% to the education budget cost is recuperated over time... and it is much less than the cost of school failure!

33 Teacher training and recruitment Initial and in-service training must be provided for BE/MLE teachers Recruitment must take into account BE/MLE competencies needed (including language fluency) All teacher training must address the issues of the multilingual classroom

34 Developing curriculum and materials (1) A multilingual curriculum is not just the current curriculum, carried out in several languages! – The timetable prescribes the use of the different languages – Curriculum reflects the learner’s growing language proficiencies – Content-area teaching takes language proficiency into account

35 Developing curriculum and materials (2) Mother-tongue materials (including teachers’ guides) should be made for every subject to be taught in the mother tongue.

36 Evaluation The child’s mother tongue as the language of instruction – and of examination

37 Summary Learning the mother tongue and cognitive development are linked in young children. Using a language of instruction which the child does not speak severely impedes learning. Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education means better learning in the early grades, and greater success in second language learning as well. Mother-tongue based BE or MLE programs can be done!

38 Some resources Teacher Training Manual for Multilingual Education (MLE Network, 2009) PRAESA materials (Project for Alternative Education in South Africa) Child-Friendly Teaching Steps Toward Learning (Save the Children UK, 2009) rds_Learning_LR.pdf rds_Learning_LR.pdf Breakthrough to Literacy program (Molteno Institute) Policy Guidelines for the Integration of African Languages and Cultures into Education (ADEA 2010) Optimizing Learning and Education in Africa: The Language Factor (ADEA, UIL, GTZ, 2006)

39 Questions for working session on language of instruction If your country’s language policy does not permit the use of local languages in school, how could this be changed? If your country’s language policy is positive towards the use of local languages in school, what practical steps could be taken to ensure that MT- friendly language policy is actually implemented in the classrooms? Would bilingual or multilingual education be the best model, given the linguistic realities of your country?

40 Questions for working session on language of instruction How can you ensure that MT-based bilingual or multilingual education is given the attention and resources it needs? What are the implications of MT-based education for teacher recruitment and training in your country? What policies or processes will need to be changed or added? What are teachers’ attitudes towards using the MT in school? In which language communities would you plan to start BE or MLE, and why? Would you plan to cover all of the language communities in your country? If so, by when would they have BE or MLE programs?


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