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Ideas that seem so bright and crystal clear in their heads appear dull and confusing when they take the shape of English. The sentences come out too short or too long, and expressions that should be hilarious do not make people laugh. How do we change the situation and turn the tide around?

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I am a second language writer. I came to the U. Now I teach reading, writing, and literature at a community college in Northern California, and my Ph. In my spare time, I write historical fiction and essays. How can second language writers become more effective and proficient in English composition? The suggestions below come from my own experiences as a writer and a professor of reading and composition. They allow you to learn from your fellow writers and receive feedback, help to identify mistakes you might not realize on your own, and enable you to avoid errors that other writers make.

In addition, at least for me, these groups force you to write. I am part of a group that meets once a week. That means every week I need to produce something to share. I used to write mainly for academic purposes. My fellow writers helped to shape the book into its current form. I am infinitely grateful to all of them. I recommend all writers to join such a group. Choose one that is supportive, positive about your work, and can provide constructive criticism so you grow as you share.

If you cannot find such a group, look for some like-minded people and form one. Everyone will benefit from it. Read at least half an hour every day. If there is one prescription every writing teacher can make, it will be to read, read, and read, a minimum of 30 minutes every day. The more, the better. There are no shortcuts.

In fact, this is the shortcut. This is much more effective and economical than watching videos, attending conferences, hiring writing coaches, or reading self-help books on how to write. Constant reading is your ten thousand touches. Reading on the internet provides exposure to the language, and you are most likely reading subjects you are interested in, so it increases the volume of your exposure.

Acquiring English as a Second Language

But I would also recommend books or academic journals in your areas of interest because internet articles are often written in lower lexical and linguistic complexity than you need to become a good writer. Some people contend they are too busy to read. True, most of us are. The key is to find, not large blocks, but slivers of time where you can squeeze in 10 to 15 minutes of reading. Have a book with you at all times. Why is reading so important? You acquire expressions, vocabulary, sentence structure, concepts, and ways of organizing ideas. Second language writers often have issues with grammar.

Explicit instruction of grammar rules is important, but without reading, it will be like learning to swim on land.

How young children learn English as another language

Immersion in the language enables you to know how the rules work and how to apply them in real life. I probably only know , words in Spanish and in most conversations I never have to stop and look a word up in my phone. The first few hundred words will get you pretty far. Use them to get as comfortable as possible with grammar, idioms, slang and constructing thoughts, jokes and ideas in the new language on the fly.

A lot of people attempt to expand their vocabulary too quickly and too soon. It makes no sense. Aim for the brain melt. You know how when you do a lot of intellectually-intensive work for hours and hours on end, at some point your brain just feels like a lump of gravy? Shoot for that moment when learning languages.

Acquiring English as a Second Language: What's Normal and What's Not

Later on, it may take an entire night of hanging out with locals before it happens. Learn it early and use it often. One-on-one tutoring is the best and most efficient use of time.


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A mere two hours a day for a few weeks with a tutor in Brazil got me to at least a respectable conversational level — i. Date someone who speaks the target language and not your native language. Talk about investment and motivation.

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And best of all, if you make them mad or do something wrong, you can claim that it was lost in translation. There is a number of websites of foreigners who want to learn English who would be willing to trade practice time in their native language for practice in yours. Here is an overview of language exchange websites and apps. The reviews are written by Bilingua, which is itself one of the apps reviewed, so take their bias into account. When you learn a new word, try to use it a few times right away.

When you stop and look up a new word in conversation, make a point to use it in the next two or three sentences you say. Language learning studies show that you need to hit a certain amount of repetitions of saying a word within one minute of learning it, one hour of learning it, one day, etc. Try to use it immediately a few times and then use it again later in the day. TV shows, movies, newspapers and magazines are a good supplementation. But they should not be mistaken or replacements for legitimate practice.

Most people are helpful, let them help. Point to something and ask how to say it. Ask them questions. Most people are friendly and willing to help you out. Learning a language is not for shy people. There will be a lot of ambiguity and miscommunication. Fact of the matter is that for many, many words, the translations are not direct. These subtle differences can add up, particularly in serious or emotional conversations. Intentions can be easily misconstrued.

Nuanced conversations over important matters will likely require double the effort to nail down the exact meaning for each person than it would between two native speakers. These are the phases you go through. Then you become conversational, but it requires quite a bit of mental effort. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for , members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students.

Social and Academic Language References Normal Phenomena It is imperative that SLPs understand the normal processes and phenomena of second-language acquisition to avoid making "false positive" identifications. This means that a child may make an English error due to the direct influence of an L1 structure. For example, in Spanish, "esta casa es mas grande" means "this house is bigger.

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This is a normal phenomenon-a sign of a language difference, not a language disorder. Silent Period Children may also manifest a common second-language acquisition phenomenon called the silent period.


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When children are first exposed to a second language, frequently they focus on listening and comprehension. These children are often very quiet, speaking little as they focus on understanding the new language-much, in fact, as adults do when traveling in foreign countries.


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The younger the child, the longer the silent period tends to last. Older children may remain in the silent period for a few weeks or a few months, whereas preschoolers may be relatively silent for a year or more. Codeswitching Many children who are ELLs also engage in a behavior known as codeswitching. This involves changing languages over phrases or sentences. For example, a Spanish speaker might say, "Me gustaria manejar-I'll take the car!

Or, a Filipino speaker might say, "With my teacher, I have utang ng loob [debt of gratitude] because she has been so good to me. As they learn English, they lose skills and fluency in L1 if their L1 is not reinforced and maintained. This is called subtractive bilingualism , and it can be cognitively and linguistically very detrimental to children's learning and to their family lives especially if the parents speak only the L1 and no English.

Learning a second language? Develop your mother tongue - Shane Leaning - TEDxXiguanED

Ideally, children should experience additive bilingualism , where they learn English while their first language and culture are maintained and reinforced. Benefits of Bilingualism Many research studies cite the cognitive-linguistic benefits of being a fluent bilingual speaker. How Should Students Learn? Social and Academic Language There are different timelines for learning social and academic language.