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Proposed Guidelines for Implementing the Early 

Years Bilingual English‐Arabic Program  

Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation

By Hiba Zein, Deputy Head Teacher  
May 2009
This is a working document which is currently under
consideration by the Islamic Shakhsiyah Trust.

Table of Contents

Introduction …………………………………………………………3

1- Second Language Acquisition in Early Childhood……………….5


What Every Teacher Needs to Know
1- The process of second language acquisition…………………….5
A- First language acquisition……………………………………6
B – Early second language acquisition………………………….8
2- Misconceptions about early second language acquisition……..11

2- Planning and scheduling a content-related program………………23


1- Language integration over isolation…………………………...23
2- Curriculum and instruction…………………………………….24
A- Factors to take in consideration……………………………..24
B- Separation of languages……………………………………..24
C- Programs should provide a minimum of 4 to 6 years of bilingual
Instruction to participating students…………………………..25
D- The focus of instruction should be the same core academic
Curriculum that students in other program experience………..25
3- The qualification of early years’ second language teachers……25
A- Teachers’ language competence and pronunciation…………25
B- Teaching experience and training…………………………...26
4- Class size and time……………………………………………...26
A- Class size……………………………………………………26
B- Class time…………………………………………………...27
5- Involving parents………………………………………………..27

3- Practice principles for instructed language acquisition………………28


Principle 1- Effective planning……………………………………..28
A- Planning clear content and language objectives and
outcomes……………………………………………………...28
B- Designing developmentally appropriate instruction…..…..29
Principle 2- Successful instructed language learning requires
Extensive second language input………………………..30
A- Karshen’s hypotheses in language acquisition……………....30
B- Karshen’s hypotheses weakness points……………………...32

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Principle 3- Successful instructed language learning also requires
Opportunities for output………………………………..32
Principle 4- Providing opportunities for effective interaction……...33
A- The importance of oral interaction in language acquisition..33
B- Using appropriate teaching methods to develop children’s
Speech……………………………………………………….34

Principle 5- Instruction needs to ensure that learners also focus on


Form………………………………………………….34
Principle 6- Teaching second language while using only target
Language…………………………………………….36
A- An age-appropriate Arabic teaching methods at ISF…36
B- The bilingual program model at ISF………………….37
C- The amount of instruction delivered in the second
Language at ISF………………………………………..39
Principle 7- Teaching young children according to their
Characteristics…………………………………………40
A- Words are not enough; objects and pictures are
Needed…………………………………………………40
B- Young children need to be praised…………………….41
C- Young children love rhymes, Anasheed and stories…..41
D- Variety in the classroom………………………………42
E- Use Gestalt language in the initial stage of English
Classes…………………………………………………..42
F- Arabic lessons should be well planned in advance……43
Principle 8- Motivation is essential in second language
Acquisition……………………………………………44
Principle 9- Assessing students’ comprehension………..…….45

4- Methods of teaching foreign language……………………………….47


1- Effective early years’ foreign language teaching methods……48
A- The Direct Method……………………………………..48
B- The Total Physical Response…………………………...49
C- The Natural Approach………………………………….51
2- The Accelerative Integrated Method …………………………52

Conclusion………………………………………………………………55

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‫ﺑﺴﻢ اﷲ اﻟﺮّﺣﻤﻦ اﻟﺮّﺣﻴﻢ‬

Introduction
The importance of teaching Arabic to our children at an early age cannot
be over emphasized. In addition of being a tool of communication as any
other language, Arabic is the language in which the Quran is conveyed to
Muslims.
Allah (SWT) chose Arabic to be the language of the Qur'an--His final
Message to humankind: "Lo! We have revealed it, a Lecture in Arabic,
which ye may understand." (Yusuf, 2), "Thus have we revealed it, a
decisive utterance in Arabic..." (Ar-Ra'ad, 37), "A Scripture where of the
verses are expounded, a Lecture in Arabic for people who have
knowledge." (Fusilat, 3).
The miracle of Quran is in Arabic and every verse in the Quran has its
own miracle.
It is possible to explain the meaning of a Quranic verse in any language
but it is impossible to capture the beauty and the miracle of it in a
language other than Arabic.
Arabic is a language of words with multiple nuances and deep meanings.
The Quran is very precise and no other language would give it justice.
Example the words (‫ )ﻧﻔﺲ‬and (‫ )روح‬are both translated in English as Soul,
the words (‫ إﻧﺲ‬،‫ إﻧﺴﺎن‬،‫) ﺑﺸﺮ‬are translated as Human being, the words (‫)ﻗﻠﺐ‬
and (‫ )ﻓﺆاد‬are translated as heart.
Moreover, Arabic is the language that Muslims need while making Hajj
and performing Salat. The khushu’ a key element in Salat can only be
achieved by understanding the precise meaning of Quran.

In England, Arabic learning among Muslim families is quite popular.


This is evident by the increased number of weekends and evening Arabic
and Quranic schools for children between the age of 5 and 11.
Unfortunately, many children after years of private schooling are still far
from mastering the Arabic language. This is mainly due to the lack of
training in speaking at school, limited exposure to the language and to
limiting the Arabic teaching to the memorisation and recitation of the
Quran.

In order for Arabic learning to be successful, policymakers and teachers


need to be well informed about successful bilingual programs and about
early years’ second language acquisition. The purpose of this study is to

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set out guidelines and clarify issues related to early childhood second
language acquisition.
The first chapter of this study deals with the theoretical process of early
language acquisition and clarifies certain misconceptions about early
childhood bilingualism while offering practical recommendations to
teachers.
The second chapter draws attention to important issues essential for a
successful early years’ foreign language program.
The third chapter introduces a set of practice principles for instructed
language acquisition, promoting both language skills and content
knowledge.
The fourth and last chapter focuses on foreign language teaching
methods, which are found effective in early years’ settings.

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1. Second Language Acquisition in Early Childhood:
What Every Teacher Needs to Know
People everywhere have strong ideas about children learning a second
language. These ideas influence how people interact with their children
and how they look at other peoples children. These ideas also influence
how professionals such as teachers, doctors, and speech therapists advise
parents of children growing up bilingually. However, many ideas that
people have about children growing up with a second or third language in
childhood are not of a benefit to these children and many may in fact
have adverse effects.
The purpose of this chapter is to clarify a number of important issues
related to early childhood second language acquisition and to offer early
years’ second language teachers practical recommendations.
In fact, in order for teachers to make second language acquisition
beneficial for children, they need to first understand the process of second
language acquisition (section 1) and secondly to unlearn some commonly
held misconception about the acquisition of additional languages (section
2).

1- The process of second language acquisition:


Young children can and do acquire more than one language, either
simultaneously or sequentially, depending on when the second language
is introduced (Tabors 1997). Some children become bilingual as the two
languages are spoken in the home setting over the same period of time.
For most children, though, the process of language acquisition occurs
sequentially. That is, the home language is learned first and the second
language is learned later, often when the child enters a preschool or
school setting.
The sequential process of learning a second language, such as Arabic,
should be additive, meaning that the new language should expand the
child’s overall linguistic capabilities. A recent review of research
concludes that second language learners may be more successful in
learning to read when they are instructed in both their home language and
second language (Salvin & Cheung 2003).

This section explores how young children acquire their first or home
language (A) and how they add a second language in an early childhood
setting (B).

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A- First Language acquisition:

Children are born without knowing how to speak or even understand the
language spoken by their parents and caregivers. But they are born with
the ability to learn. Over time and with exposure, they begin to
understand what others say and to produce language themselves.
Language development is a complex process, involving the learning of a
system of rules about grammar, meaning, and usage. But how does this
learning occur?

All over the world, in all linguistic communities, children acquire their
home language in basically the same way. They learn language in a fairly
unconscious way as they listen and speak to communicate meaning. As
they are exposed to recurrent or repeated situations such as mealtime,
bathing, play, and dressing, the language they hear becomes associated
with these contexts and activities. Over time, that language becomes more
and more understandable. Oral language emerges as young children
interact with others to socialize, to convey needs and have them met, to
share ideas and learn about the ideas of others, and to entertain or be
entertained through play (Wells 1986).

The process of language development begins with a baby’s cooing and


babbling. At first, they produce a wide variety of sounds, eventually
keeping only those sounds that are heard in the language spoken by their
parents or other caregivers. Around 5-8 months, babies in an English-
speaking environment begin producing syllable-like sequences like
mamama or baba. These early sounds are often spoken during social
interaction and signal the infant’s interest in what is going on around her.

Between 12-18 months, most babies produce their first word or words.
Their early vocabulary includes names of important people (dada),
objects (milk), functional words (down), and social words (hi) (Tabors
1997). Adults often attribute meaning and respond appropriately to the
baby’s early words. For instance, an 18 month-old may utter, “ Wawa,”
and the adult says, “Oh, you want some water,” and then hands the child
a cup of water. The child’s oneword utterance (holophrastic) conveys
extended meaning with limited language.

Throughout this period, children are also learning about the social use of
language. During face-to-face interactions with their caregivers, babies
are experiencing turn-taking well before they can hold a conversation
(Bruner 1983; Weitzman & Greenberg 2002). They also learn about how
the members of their language community use greetings and other social
pleasantries.

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By the second year, children produce two- and three-word phrases or
utterances, developing the ability to express more complex relationships
with their words. While this language is not adult-like in completeness or
in grammatical accuracy, it effectively communicates. A toddler says,
“Daddy, bye bye,” intending to communicate ‘good bye’ or perhaps ‘I
want to go with you’ or maybe ‘Daddy is not here.’ This telegraphic
speech is understood in the context of the situation or activity in which
both the child and the adult are engaged. Adults respond as though the
language were accurate, complete, and meaningful. They honor the
child’s effort to communicate, which further reinforces the young child’s
confidence and motivation to use language.

Between 3-4 years, sentences become longer and more complex. Their
use of grammar becomes more sophisticated and accurate. In English,
children begin to acquire past tenses and the passive voice. They talk
about events that happened away from home and think ahead to the future
such as their upcoming birthday party or a special outing. Vocabulary
also grows in leaps and bounds; preschoolers may acquire 6-10 new
words a day while also expanding their understanding of the words they
already know (Tabors 1997).

By the time English-speaking children are 5 years old, most of the basic
skills of oral language have been mastered. They can construct long and
detailed sentences, produce most sounds correctly, and engage in
extended conversations. However, more advanced uses of language as
well as vocabulary continue to be acquired during the school years and
beyond.

The process of first language acquisition is basically the same in all


languages. Family members and other caregivers can help young children
acquire home language proficiency (no matter what language is being
learned) by:

• Talking frequently with children, especially about activities and


objects at hand;
• Listening to the child’s communicative intent and not focusing on
the correctness of the child’s language;
• Encouraging children to talk; and
• Satisfying a child’s curiosity about their world and involving them
in learning about it.

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B- Early Second Language Acquisition:

These preceding four guidelines also inform our practice when we


encourage the development of a second language, either in a
simultaneous or sequential fashion. Young children can acquire a second
language if exposed to it in meaningful experiences. They need to hear it
spoken in ways that help them make sense of their world. They become
increasingly fluent in the second language as they have opportunities to
speak it with a variety of individuals on many different topics and for a
range of reasons (California Department of Education 1998; Quinones-
Eatman 2001).

Before age 3, young children exposed to two languages will appear to


learn both as one. They may often mix the two languages as they speak.
At about 3 years of age, children begin to separate the two languages.
They often associate each language with its primary speakers, such as
Spanish with their parents and English with a teacher. Through this
learning and sorting process, bilingualism gradually emerges.

According to Tabors and Snow (1994) children after the age of three,
whose first language is partly established and who are going now in a
setting where the second language is in use go through three stages of
“sequential acquisition” before reaching the productive language stage.

Stage 1: Home language use:


Monolingual children in a new language environment will continue to
speak their home language. They often appear oblivious to the new
language, perhaps because much of the language spoken by the teacher is
inaccessible or incomprehensible for them.
Children who do not know Arabic, will keep on speaking their first
language during Arabic lessons, even when they begin to discover that a
new and different language is being spoken.
During this stage, the Arabic teacher should:
- Strike to include all children in every activity.
- Use concrete props along with activities that require movement.
- Talk continuously about what children are seeing, doing, sensing or
expecting.
- Encourage children to repeat or echo what they hear.
- Not insist that children generate Arabic spontaneously or individually.

Stage 2: Non-verbal period:

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This stage begins when children start to realize that their language is not
being in use.
They will become quiet, often using non-verbal means to communicate
their interest and needs.
They will watch and listen intently as the new language is used in various
activities, seemingly collecting and storing information about the new
language, its sounds and vocabulary.
At times, children will appear to comprehend and behave accordingly,
even if they do not completely understand.
In some instances, children will signal the end of this stage by beginning
to make sounds that are like those of the second language –In our case,
Arabic- but which may not be recognizable as real Arabic words.
During this stage, the Arabic teacher should:
- Use language tied to experience to help children understand what is
being said.
- Explain procedures and use concrete referents in activities and lessons.
- Allow children to rehearse before saying anything in public.
- Provide a starter language to help children formulate a message.
- Elaborate on a child’s limited communication.
- Use props or appropriate actions that will help promote comprehension.
- Use linguistic structures such as look at this…, hold this…, where did it
go/where is it? , give me the…, watch me do…, this is a…, notice that…,
tell me…, show me….
- Remember that the length of time a child is in the non-verbal period
varies depending on many factors including:
• .The child’s age, as 2 to 4 years old children move more slowly
through the stages of second language acquisition than older
preschoolers and school-aged children, who have better
understanding of how language works.
• The child’s personality, a more outgoing and risk-taker child has an
easier time learning a second language than a shy and reserved
child.
• The exposure to the language, the more time a child spends in
contact with the new language being engaged in meaningful
activities and with speakers of the new language, the grater her
competence in the second language.
• The Characteristics of the particular setting.

Stage3: Telegraphic and formulaic speech:

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During this time, children intentionally use individual vocabulary words
or put them together in a short sequence or in whole sentences to
communicate. A child may say, “Teacher book” when asking the teacher
to read a story. While the language is often incomplete or grammatically
awkward, the child nonetheless communicates in that specific context.
Some mixing of the Arabic and Home Language may occur, especially
when the child lacks the confidence or ability to communicate
consistently in one language only.
For example, a child at this stage who is thirsty might say: “I want Juice”.
This child may not know exactly what word “Juice” means but the end
result will be that she will be given something to drink.
During this stage, the Arabic teacher should:
- Engage children in conversations constantly. If they do not understand,
say it another way.
- Listen to a child’s communicative intent, rather than judging whether
she is speaking correctly or not.
- Simplify Arabic when speaking to children by using simpler sentences
“Teacher – Talk”.
- Accept all attempts of communication even if it involves a mixing of
Arabic and the child’s home language. The two will separate with time.
- Avoid overcorrecting a child’s speak.
- Expand a child’s language by continuing with the next logical step in
the conversation.
- Encourage new Arabic speakers to play and work with more Arabic
proficient children.
- Introduce new conversation topics and model different purposes for
language use.
- Listen intently to a child without interrupting, adding examples to the
child’s message, sharing personal anecdotes and clarifying the message
intent.

Stage 4: Productive Language.


During this stage, the child begins to speak the second language relatively
well. New phrases and sentences are produced as the child’s vocabulary
in the second language continues to expand. Sentences may be composed
somewhat creatively and be rather awkward at times. Over-
generalizations and under-generalizations of some word meanings might
occur. While mistakes are common, they are a normal part of the
developmental process and need not be corrected. They demonstrate that
the child is experimenting with the new language in a manner that will
promote greater proficiency over time.

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During this stage, the Arabic teacher should:

• Allow children to talk in both their home and program languages.


• Encourage children to tell stories, share information, make
requests, entertain, and persuade.
• Involve children in active experiences.
• Clarify communication when a child under-generalizes a definition
such as saying, “The doggie” (meaning only one specific dog) or
over-generalizing, saying, “The doggies” (meaning any four-
legged animals). Teachers can refer to the type of dog or the name
of the dog to differentiate it from the category of dogs. Or, they can
label the different four-legged animals.

In addition to the above stages of language acquisition, Jones and


Yandian (2002) point out that children who are acquiring a second
language sequentially have already learned a great deal in their first
language. They will transfer knowledge and concepts to their second
language. They do not have to relearn them in a second language. They
only need to learn how to communicate what they already know.
However, teachers need to be aware that when the L2 (Arabic) differs
significantly from L1 (English), literacy skills developed in one language
do not necessary transfer to the other language. Students who learn to
read first in a language that is marked different from English, such as
Arabic, will need to learn and practice literacy skills that are specific to
that language (Kanagy, 2001).

2- Misconceptions about early second language acquisition:


All teachers need to know something about how children learn a second
language. Intuitive assumptions are often mistaken, and children can be
harmed if teachers have unrealistic expectations and an inaccurate
understanding of the process of second language learning and its
relationship to acquiring other academic skills and knowledge.

In fact, research on second language learning has shown that there are
many misconceptions about how children learn languages. Teachers need
to be aware of these research findings and to unlearn old ways of
thinking. For the most part, this means realizing that quick and easy
solutions are not appropriate for complex problems. Second language
learning by school-aged children takes longer, is harder, and involves a
great deal more than most teachers have been led to believe. We need
consciously to rethink what our expectations should be.

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The purpose of this section is to clarify a number of important issues in
the area of second language acquisition by discussing commonly held
misconceptions.

Misconception 1:
A child is not capable of developing successfully both languages

Some experts have questioned the practice of bilingualism at an early age,


saying that it will have a negative impact on the child’s English language
development. According to these experts, this practice will affect the
development of children normal way of thought, the foreign language
may emerge and interfere with their thoughts, which may even cause
logical confusion.
This theory has not been yet confirmed; in fact, it has not been proven
that early bilingualism will produce negative effects on the L1 study of
children, as they are living in an environment of pure English
conversation.

Furthermore, based on American studies, it has emerged that the First


language instruction constitutes no obstacle to Second language
acquisition. According to these studies, bilingual instruction and
specifically literacy development in first and second language does not
have a negative impact on second language acquisition. If part of the
lessons is given in a language other than that of the regular curriculum,
this does not automatically lead to deterioration in performance in the
second language and in other subject matter; there is basically no need to
fear that children will perform worse than those in normal classes.

What does this mean for the teacher?


It is important for teachers to realize that as a child is learning a second
language, one language may predominate because the child is using that
language more than the other at a given time. Children showing a lack of
proficiency in both languages are most likely undergoing a
developmental phase in which limited use causes lack of language
proficiency in L2, while L1 has not yet reached an age-appropriate level.
Teachers should view this as a healthy and normal period of temporary
language imbalance. Most bilingual children will reach age-level
proficiency in both languages if they are provided with adequate exposure
to both languages and opportunities for using them.
Therefore, teachers should have high expectations of their children and
need to know that children are capable of developing simultaneously both
languages skills. Teachers need to provide their children with experiences

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that will enhance their students’ language and development in a rich
environment that involves different games and activities.

Misconception 2:
Hearing two or more languages in childhood is a cause of language
delay
All over the Western world, there are speech therapists and medical
doctors who believe that early bilingualism has a negative effect on
language acquisition. According to them, young children need ONLY to
use the language that is in use in the overall environment. The common
reasons for this advice are two. First, it is often claimed that hearing two
or more languages will lead to grave problems in language acquisition.
Second, it is claimed that the acquisition of the main language of the
environment will stand better chance without competition from the other
language.
It is important to differentiate between the popular use of the term
language delay in reference to a child who is perceived to take longer
than average to begin to speak but who is well within the normal range of
productive vocabulary development (Fenson et al., 1994) and the clinical
use of the term to refer to significant delays in the development of
language, which can be either primary (not associated with another
disorder) or secondary (associated with conditions such as autism). A
lack of understanding of the different uses of the term may result in
undue concern for some parents interested in raising their children with
two languages.
Terminology issues aside, the research is quite clear; No empirical
evidence links bilingualism to language delay of any sort. As De Houwer
(1999) summarizes, “There is no scientific evidence to date that hearing
two or more languages leads to delays or disorders in language
acquisition. Many, many children through the world grow up with two or
more languages from infancy without showing any signs of language
delays or disorders” (p1). Likewise, Petitto and Holowka’s (2002)
extensive literature review leads them to argue that “every early bilingual
language exposure does not cause a young child to be delayed with
respect to the semantic and conceptual underpinnings at the heart of all
natural language, and this is true regarding each of the young bilingual’s
two languages” (p 23).

What doe this means for the teacher?


Teacher should advice parents on the benefit of bilingualism. Teachers
should know that it is normal for children to go through a silent period

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and that parents do not need to worry about language delay as children
have the ability to learn two or more languages at an early age.
Teachers should consider bilingualism as an asset and should encourage
parents to foster it.
In order to better inform parents, teachers them selves need to learn about
early childhood bilingualism and need to be aware of the theories and
researches related to early second language acquisition.

Misconception 3:
Early childhood bilingualism causes language confusion

Often it is claimed that small children who are learning to speak two
languages go through a stage of mixing and confusing the two. The use of
words from both languages in a single sentence is cited as evidence that
the child cannot distinguish between the two languages, but in reality, this
not a sign of confusion. In fact, code switching is a normal aspect of
second language acquisition. Young bilingual children tend to insert
single items from one language into the other (McClure, 1977), primarily
to resolve ambiguities and clarify statements. Children over nine and
adults however, tend to switch languages at the phrase or sentence level,
typically to convey social meanings.

What does this mean for the teacher?

Teachers and parents need to understand that code switching is not a sign
of language confusion. They need to understand that children use words
from both languages in the same sentence not because they are confused
but because they know that the people they are talking to can understand
both languages and do not get upset with them for using such sentences.
Therefore, teachers should not stop children from code switching,
remembering that the goal must always be to encourage children to
communicate rather than making them follow rigid rules about which
language can be used in a given circumstance or at a given time.

Misconception 4:
Children learn second languages quickly and easily

One frequently hears this proposition in various forms. It is asserted that


children can learn languages faster than adults; that immigrant children
translate for their parents who have not learned the language; and that

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child learners speak without a foreign accent, whereas this is impossible
for adult learners.

Typically, when pressed, people asserting the superiority of child learners


resort to some variant of the "critical period hypothesis." The argument is
that children are superior to adults in learning second languages because
their brains are more flexible (Lenneberg, 1967; Penfield & Roberts,
1959). They can learn languages easily because their cortex is more
plastic than that of older learners. (The corollary hypothesis is the "frozen
brain hypothesis," applied to adult learners.)

The critical period hypothesis has been questioned by many researchers


in recent years and is presently quite controversial (Geneses, 1981;
Harley, 1989; Newport, 1990). The evidence for the biological basis of
the critical period has been challenged and the argument made that
differences in the rate of second language acquisition may reflect
psychological and social factors, rather than biological ones that favor
child learners. For example, children may be more motivated than adults
to learn the second language. There is probably more incentive for the
child on the playground and in school to communicate in the second
language than there is for the adult on the job (where they often can get
by with routine phrases and expressions) or with friends (who may speak
the individual's first language anyway). It frequently happens that
children are placed in more situations where they are forced to speak the
second language than are adults.

However, experimental research in which children have been compared


to adults in second language learning has consistently demonstrated that
adolescents and adults perform better than young children under
controlled conditions. Even when the method of teaching appears to favor
learning in children, they perform less well than do adolescents and adults
(e.g., Asher & Price, 1967). One exception is in the area of pronunciation,
although even here some studies show better results for older learners.
Similarly, research comparing children and adults learning second
languages as immigrants, does not support the notion that younger
children are more efficient at second language learning (e.g., Snow &
Hoefnagel-Hoehle, 1978).

Nonetheless, people continue to believe that children learn languages


faster than adults. Is this superiority illusory? One difficulty in answering
this question is that of applying the same criteria of language proficiency
to both the child and the adult. The requirements to communicate as a
child are quite different from the requirements to communicate as an
adult. The child's constructions are shorter and simpler, and vocabulary is

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relatively small when compared with what is necessary for adults to
speak at the same level of competence in a second language as they do in
their first language. The child does not have to learn as much as an adult
to achieve competence in communicating. In fact, languages are very
complex. To learn their complexities, one needs a lot of life experience. It
may not take very long to learn how to carry on a simple conversation
(although it does take monolingual children approximately 3 years before
they can carry on a conversation with strangers), but it takes a lot more
time to be able to develop the skill to give a formal speech.
Hence there is the illusion that the child learns more quickly than the
adult, whereas when controlled research is conducted, in both formal and
informal learning situations, results typically indicate that adult (and
adolescent) learners perform better than young children.

What does this mean for the teacher?


One of the implications of this line of research is that teachers should not
expect miraculous results from children who are learning English as a
second language (ESL) in the classroom context. At the very least, they
should expect that learning a second language is as difficult for a child in
their class as it is for the teachers and adults.

Nor should it be assumed that children have fewer inhibitions or are less
embarrassed than adults when they make mistakes in a second language.
If anything, children are likely to be shyer and more embarrassed before
their peers than are adults. Certainly, children from some cultural
backgrounds are extremely anxious when singled out and called upon to
perform in a language they are in the process of learning. Teachers need
to be sensitive to these feelings and not assume that, because children
supposedly learn the second language quickly, such discomfort will
quickly pass.

Also, teachers need to know that children do not just pick up a language,
they need to provide them with a strongly supportive and rich learning
environment.

Misconception 5:
The younger the child, the more skilled in acquiring a second
language

A related myth concerns the best time to start language instruction.


Certainly the optimal way to learn a second language is to begin at birth
and learn two languages simultaneously. However, when should a young
child who has acquired a first language begin a second? Some researchers
take a younger-is-better position and argue that the earlier children begin

16
to learn a second language, the better (e.g., Krashen, Long, & Scarcella,
1979). However, at least with regard to school settings, the research
literature does not support this conclusion.

For example, a study of 17,000 British children learning French in a


school context indicated that, after five years of exposure, children who
had begun French instruction at age eleven performed better on tests of
second language proficiency than children who had begun at eight years
of age (Stern, Burstall, & Harley, 1975). The investigators in this study,
the largest single study of children learning a second language in a formal
classroom setting, concluded that older children are better second
language learners than are younger ones. Similar results have been found
in other studies by European investigators: studies of Swedish children
learning English (Gorosch & Axelsson, 1964), of Swiss children learning
French (Buehler, 1972), and of Danish children learning English
(Florander & Jansen, 1968).

It may be that these findings reflect the mode of language instruction used
in European countries, where heavy emphasis has traditionally been
placed on formal grammatical analysis. Older children are more skilled in
dealing with such an instructional approach and hence might be expected
to do better. However, this argument does not explain findings from
French immersion programs in Canada, where little emphasis is placed on
the formal aspects of grammar, and therefore, older children should have
no advantage over younger ones. Yet English-speaking children in late
immersion programs (in which the second language is introduced in
grades seven or eight) have been found to perform just as well or better
on tests of French language proficiency as children who began their
immersion experience in Nursery or grade one (Genesee, 1981, 1987).
The research does not always show an advantage to children who begin at
an older age, but differences in performance are by no means as great as
relative amount of classroom exposure would lead one to expect.

Pronunciation is one aspect of language learning where the younger is-


better hypothesis may have validity. A number of studies have found that
the younger one begins to learn a second language, the more native-like
the accent one develops in that language (Asher& Garcia, 1969; Oyama,
1976). This may be because pronunciation involves motor patterns that
have been fossilized in the first language and are difficult to alter after a
certain age because of the nature of the neurophysiologic mechanisms
involved. It may also be that we do not understand very well how to teach
phonology in a second language. Perhaps if we could develop more
advanced (e.g., computer-assisted) methods of instruction, older learners
might do better at acquiring a native-like accent in the second language.

17
Aside from the question of pronunciation, however, the younger-is-better
hypothesis does not have strong empirical support in school contexts. The
research suggests that younger children do not necessarily have an
advantage over older children and, because of their cognitive and
experiential limitations when compared to older children, are actually at a
disadvantage in how quickly they learn a second language--other things
being equal.

What does this mean for the teacher?


The research cited above does not mean that early exposure to a second
language is in some way detrimental to a child. An early start for foreign
language learners, for example, allows for a long sequence of instruction
leading to potential communicative proficiency. It also allows children to
view second language learning and the insights they acquire into another
culture as normal and integral parts of schooling. In addition, because
second language acquisition takes time, children will continue to need the
support of their first language, where this is possible, so as not to fall
behind in content-area learning.

But teachers should not expect miracles of their young language learners.
The research suggests that older students will show quicker gains, though
younger children may have an advantage in pronunciation. Certainly,
beginning language instruction in Nursery or first grade gives children
more exposure to the language than beginning in fifth or sixth grade. But
exposure in itself does not predict language acquisition. This is the next
misconception.

Misconception 6:
The more time students spend in a second language context, the
quicker they learn their second language

For many educators, the most straightforward way for children to learn a
second language is for them to be in an environment where they are
constantly exposed to this language. This is the rationale behind what is
called "structured immersion," an instructional strategy in which children
from language minority backgrounds receive all of their instruction in L2
and have the additional support of second language classes and content-
based instruction that is tailored to their language abilities.

Such a program has the advantage of providing more time on task for
learning the second language than in a bilingual classroom. On the face of
it, one might expect that the more L2 children hear and use, the quicker
their L2 language skills develop. However, research evidence indicates
that this is not necessarily the case. Over the length of the program,

18
children in bilingual classes, where there is exposure to the home
language and to L2, have been found to acquire L2 skills equivalent to
those acquired by children who have been in L2 only programs
(Cummins, 1981; Ramirez, Yuen, & Ramey, 1991). This would not be
expected if time on task were the most important factor in language
learning.

Furthermore, many researchers caution against withdrawing the support


of the home language too soon. There is a great deal of evidence that,
whereas oral communication skills in a second language may be acquired
within two or three years, it may take up to four to six years to acquire the
level of proficiency for understanding the language in its instructional
uses (Collier, 1989; Cummins, 1981).

What does this mean for the teacher?


Teachers should be aware that giving language minority children the
support of their home language, where this is possible, is not doing them
a disservice. The use of the home language in bilingual classrooms
enables the child to avoid falling behind in school work, and it also
provides a mutually reinforcing bond between the home and the school.
In fact, the home language acts as a bridge for children, enabling them to
participate more effectively in school activities while they are learning
L2.

The research indicates that, over the long run, children in bilingual
programs will acquire as much L2 as children who have more exposure
from an earlier age. Furthermore, if the child is able to acquire literacy
skills in the first language, as an adult he or she may be functionally
bilingual, with a unique advantage in technical or professional careers.

On the other hand, language majority children in foreign language


immersion programs have been shown to benefit from extended intensive
exposure to the foreign language. The Canadian research clearly shows
that immersing children in a foreign language is not detrimental to
learning content material in that language, as long as the home language
continues to develop and is supported (Genesee, 1987).

Misconception 7:
Children have acquired a second language once they can speak it

Often, teachers assume that once children can converse comfortably in


L2, they are in full control of the language. Yet for school-aged children,
there is much more involved in learning a second language than learning
how to speak it. A child who is proficient in face-to-face communication

19
has not necessarily achieved proficiency in the more abstract and
disembedded academic language needed to engage in many classroom
activities, especially in the later grades. For example, the child needs to
learn what nouns and verbs are and what synonyms and antonyms are.
Such activities require the child to separate language from the context of
actual experience and to learn to deal with abstract meanings.

The Canadian educator, Jim Cummins (1980a), cited research evidence


from a study of 1,210 immigrant children in Canada indicating that it
takes these children much longer (approximately five to seven years) to
master the disembedded cognitive language skills required for the regular
English curriculum than to master oral communicative skills. Cummins
and others speak of the "linguistic facade," whereby children appear to be
fluent in a language because of their oral skills but have not mastered the
more disembedded and decontextualized aspects of the language.

What does this mean for the teacher?


All teachers in all programs need to be aware that a child who is learning
in a second language may be having language problems in reading and
writing that are not apparent if the child's oral abilities are used as the
gauge of L2 proficiency. It is conceivable that many of the problems that
children have in reading and writing at the middle school and high school
levels stem from limitations in vocabulary and syntactic knowledge in the
second language. Even children who are skilled orally can have these
gaps. As we have seen, learning a second language is not an easy
enterprise and is not finished in a year or two.

Misconception 8:
All children learn second language in the same way

Most likely, if asked, teachers would not admit that they think all children
learn a second language in the same way or at the same rate. Yet this
seems to be the assumption underlying a great deal of practice. There are
two issues here: the first relates to differences among linguistically and
culturally diverse groups and the second to differences among learners
within these groups.

Language minority children from different backgrounds may experience


culture conflict in school because their ways of learning and
communicating are different from the routines of the classroom. Teachers
can identify these differences through classroom communication patterns.
For example, some children may not participate verbally in classroom
activities because in their home culture calling attention to oneself and
showing one’s knowledge are regarded as overly assertive and even

20
arrogant forms of behavior (Philips, 1972). Likewise, some children
might be embarrassed by a teacher saying, “You should be proud of
yourself”; more effective praise for them might be, “Your family will be
proud of you”.

In addition, some children in some cultures are more accustomed to


learning from peers than from adults. From their earliest years, they were
cared for and taught by older siblings or cousins. They learned to be quiet
in the presence of adults and had little experience in interacting with
them. When they enter school, they are more likely to pay attention to
what their peers are doing than to what the teacher is saying. At this
point, the other children are more important to them than adults.

Besides these differences among cultural groups, there are also


differences within groups in how children react to school and learn. Some
children are outgoing and sociable and learn the second language quickly.
They do not worry about mistakes, but use limited resources to generate
input from native speakers. Other children are shy and quiet. They learn
by listening and by attending to what is happening and being said around
them. They say little, for fear of making a mistake. Nonetheless, research
shows that both types of learners can be successful second language
learners. In classrooms where group work is stressed, the socially active
child is more likely to be successful; in the traditional, teacher-oriented
classroom, children who are "active listeners" have been found to be
more successful than highly sociable children (Wong Fillmore, Ammon,
Ammon, & McLaughlin, 1984).

What does this mean for the teacher?


Teachers need to be aware of cultural and individual differences in
learner styles. Many culturally and linguistically diverse children enter
school with cognitive and social norms that differ from those that govern
the mainstream classroom. These differences, in turn, affect the teacher's
expectations of the child's ability and the teacher's response to the child.
Within the school environment, behaviors such as paying attention and
persisting at tasks are valued. Because of their cultural background,
however, some children may be less able to make the functional
adaptation to the interpersonal setting of the school culture. Unless the
teacher is aware of such cultural differences, the child's lack of
attentiveness and lack of persistence can influence the teacher's
expectations and the way the teacher interacts with these children.

Effective instruction for children from culturally diverse backgrounds


requires a variety of instructional activities--small group work,
cooperative learning, peer tutoring, individualized instruction, validation

21
of the student’s culture, the use of communication patterns familiar to the
student and other strategies that take the children's diversity of experience
into account.

Finally, teachers need to be aware of how the child's experiences in the


home and in the home culture affect values, patterns of language use, and
interpersonal style. Children are likely to be more responsive to a teacher
who is sensitive to their culture and its behavioral patterns. Effective
education of children from culturally and linguistically diverse
backgrounds affirms the values of the home culture and develops in
children a positive emotional attitude toward their background.

22
2. Planning and scheduling a content-related
program:
The purpose of this chapter is to identify some common pitfalls in
program planning and focus attention on issues that must be considered in
the planning stages if early years’ foreign language program is to
succeed.

1- Language integration over isolation:


An isolated foreign language program can, justifiably be perceived as an
intrusion on precious time in the primary school day. By contrast, a
content related program can reinforce the goals of the general curriculum,
provide additional practice with significant concepts and give learners a
second chance at understanding material from other curricular areas.
Effective language instruction is thematic and builds on topics and
contexts that are relevant to the students. The topics or content can vary
greatly from activities based on the regular school curriculum such as
those found in a content-based related instruction to other activities
typically found in early language programs. All of these activities
contribute to the other content areas and the basic mission of the school,
because they all contribute to the child learning such as games, Anasheed,
children’s literature, storytelling and puppetry.
During the last 10 years, there has been a shift away from teaching
language in isolation to integrating language content instruction. There
are at least four reasons for this shift.
First, language is acquired most effectively when learned for
communication in meaningful and significant social situations. The
academic content of the school curriculum can provide a meaningful
basis for second language learning, given that the content is of interest or
value to the learners.
Second, the integration of language and content instruction provides a
substantive basis for language learning. Important and interesting content,
academic or otherwise gives students a meaningful basis for
understanding and acquiring new language structure and patterns. In
addition, authentic classroom communication provides a motivating
context for learning the communicative functions of the new language.
A third reason for the shift toward language and content integration is the
relationship between language and other aspects of human development.
Language, cognition, and social awareness develop concurrently in young
children. Integrated second language instruction seeks to keep these
components of development together so that second language learning is
an integral part of social and cognitive development in school settings.
Finally, knowing how to use language in one social context or academic

23
Domain does not necessarily mean knowing how to use it in others. The
integration of second language instruction with subject content respects
the specificity of language use.

2- Curriculum and instruction:


While designing a curriculum for a foreign language program, it is
important to take in considerations some factors (A) and to adopt a
separation of languages strategy (B) while providing a minimum of 4 to 6
years of bilingual instruction (C) high quality academic instruction (D).
A- Factors to take in consideration:
One basic decision all new foreign language programs face is the
selection of a program model. In particular, the amount of instruction
delivered in each language at each level. Several factors to consider are
the needs of the students, the language capabilities of the teachers, the
staff’s support and the interests and concerns of parents.
B- Separation of languages:
Within the classroom, separation of languages is essential. By employing
a strategy of separation of languages, students have the opportunity to be
fully immersed in each language and a reason to function in each
language. Using a separation of languages approach requires that the
teacher use the minority language exclusively during instructional time in
Arabic.
Separation of languages also refers to environmental print in the
classroom (e.g: materials, posters, visual aids). If the instruction in the
minority language and in English is provided in two different classrooms,
then each classroom should have all or almost of its environmental print
in the language being used in that classroom. If the same classroom is
used for instruction in both languages, then that classroom must contain
environmental print in both languages. However, care should be taken to
distinguish the languages, either by using different colours for each
language or by designating different areas of the room for material in
each language. This approach if particularly important in the early grades,
when children are learning how to read and write and have only an
emergent understanding of orthography, much less knowledge that or
orthographies and writing conventions vary by language.
Finally, separation of languages also refers to student output. At all grade
levels, students should be encouraged to use the language of instruction to
the best of their ability in their interactions with others. Obviously, given
that language learning is slow, developmental process, it is unrealistic to
expect that early years children will be able to produce extended
discourse in their second language unless they have had considerable
exposure to language outside of school, through conversations with native

24
speakers made possible by the skills acquired in the classroom. In fact, a
few hours a week limited instruction will not lead to mastery, but it may
build motivation and a taste for language learning. However, as the
children advance through the grade levels, their proficiency in the second
language will increase, and the expectations for their use of that language
should increase with their proficiency.
C- Programs should provide a minimum of 4 to 6 years of bilingual
instruction to participating students:
Programs should plan to begin in Nursery and continue through the
elementary grades. This requires that potential bilingual instruction
programs draw on a student population that is reasonably stable. This
criterion is based on research indicating that language acquisition is a
slow process, and full proficiency can take up to 10 years to develop
(Collier, 1995). In fact, increasing numbers of established elementary
bilingual instruction programs are now extending their programs into
secondary level as they see the continued benefits of this educational
approach.

D- The focus of instruction should be the same core academic


curriculum that students in other program experience:
Although instruction is being provided in two languages, the curriculum
should not be simplified. Research on second language immersion
education in Canada (Genesee, 1987) and sheltered instruction in the
United States (Echevarria, Vogt & Short, 2000) has demonstrated that it
is possible to provide high quality academic instruction through such high
quality instruction, students are capable of staying on grade level (or
beyond) academically.

3- The qualification of early years’ second language


teachers:
First, teachers should have competence in the second language, including
clear and accurate pronunciation (A). Secondly, teachers should have the
knowledge of second language learning process and teaching methods
(Keeves, 1989) and should have experience in working with children or
have been trained in teaching second language to young children (B).
A- Teachers’ language competence and pronunciation:
Children have ability to learn foreign language pronunciation as well as
native speakers. Children have a special facility for acquiring accurate
pronunciation and intonation of foreign languages and are sensitive to
sound. If a second language teacher speaks poorly, children may have
incorrect pronunciation. Once children have incorrect pronunciation and

25
use it repeatedly, it takes more time to correct them than to teach
beginners. Therefore, head teachers should be careful when they are
employing Arabic teachers and should take steps to ensure their
pronunciation is accurate.
B- Teaching experience and training:
Early years second language teachers should have teaching experience
with young children or should have been trained to teach second language
to young children.
There are two misconceptions that sometimes influence the hiring of
foreign language teachers, first that a native speaker is always a better
choice than a teacher who has learnt the language, and second that
teachers at the beginning levels of instruction do not need the same
degree of language proficiency as those who teach at more advanced
levels. In reality teachers at all levels need to be fully proficient in the
language they teach. However, native or near-native language is not the
only requirement. Language teachers also need to be knowledgeable in
second language acquisition, especially in children, and about appropriate
second language teaching strategies and practices.
Teachers who cannot comfortably use the taught language for classroom
purposes will not be able to surround learning with language, an essential
component of an effective language-learning environment, they will also
find it difficult to develop and create curricula and activities in the target
language. Even fluent speakers of the language may be ineffective in the
classroom if they are not knowledgeable about second language
acquisition, child development, teaching strategies for primary school
students.

4- Class size and time:


Class size (A) and the scheduling of instruction time in second language
(B) are important factors in second language programs.
A- Class size:
Class size is another important factor for a successful foreign language
program, particularly for preschool children.
Fröhlich-Ward (1991) suggested that the ideal size of the foreign
language group should be ten children, at the most 12 children.
If class size is too big there will not be ample opportunity for all students
to practice individually, the teacher will not be able to pay attention to all
children and will not be able to correct each student’s pronunciation.
Young children like to be treated as individuals by the teacher. In order to
have positive learning results, the Arabic classes should not be too big,
but it should not be too small, either. “Too few children makes it difficult

26
to play some games and there is less interpersonal communication”
(Dunn, 1990:30).
B- Class time:
There is a widespread misconception that children learn foreign
languages easily even with very limited exposure, some programs operate
on the assumption that a little bit of language instruction is better than no
language instruction at all. This perception contradicts the
recommendations of foreign language professionals and the experts of
successful programs (Crilzow & Branaman, 2000).
Met and Rhodes (1990) suggest that regarding primary schools “foreign
language instruction should be scheduled daily and no less than 30
minutes” (p 438). Their suggestion should also be appropriate for
nurseries, the foreign language course should be provided daily,
otherwise children will forget what they have learned previously.

5- Involving parents:
Because parents are their children’s primary teachers, it is essential for
programs that serve young second language learners to build on
collaboration between parents and teachers. According to Nissani (1990)
“the home and school should ideally work effectively together and
support one another in the job of nurturing and educating young children”
(p6)
To this end, parents should be given frequent opportunities to provide
output into their children’s education. Teachers should share information
with parents about the standards of the curriculum, and instructional
methods that are used in their child’s class and help parents understand
the results of various placements and achievement assessment measures
that are used in the classroom.
Some schools offer language classes to parents to help them develop
bilingualism along with their children and some others encourage parents
to volunteer in the classroom and learn as much as they can about
bilingual teaching. While volunteering in classroom is often a good way
for parents to be involved in their child’s education, parents are advised
to be careful that their volunteering efforts don’t compromise children’s
use of the second language. Some programs designate days for parents to
volunteer for activities that do not involve classroom second language
interaction.
Parents and teachers should also meet frequently to discuss program
design and theory, performance expectations and their children’s
academic, social, and language development. However, in order to
maintain the program integrity, one project director recommends
weighing parents’ requests against what is possible or necessary for the
program’s overall well-being.

27
3. Practice principles for instructed language
acquisition:
The purpose of this chapter is to introduce a set of practice principles for
instructed language acquisition. These 9 practice principles that I have
drawn from other studies and researches are intended to enable teachers
to help ensure that their learners gain proficiency in language skills and
master content knowledge.

Principle 1- Effective planning:


Integration of academic and language objectives and outcomes should be
carefully planned (A) while taking in consideration the cognitive and
social needs of young children (B).

A- Planning clear content and language objectives and outcomes:


a) Necessity of systematic planning:
The integration of academic and language objectives should be planned
carefully, in order to provide the presentation, practice, and application of
specific language forms that are necessary for discussing different
academic contents.
In order to develop the students’ language skills fully, teachers must
progressively model more complex language and use instructional
activities that demand more complex language skills from the students.
This can be achieved by incorporating small group and pair activities
along with whole class discussions and individual work and by designing
lessons that allow more time for students to practice their oral language
and apply the information they were studying.
b) Implementing language objectives in content lesson:
Incorporating language objectives in content lessons is a complicated
process. Teachers are expected to fit all four language skills (Reading,
writing, listening and speaking) and content skills into one lesson.
Beside the obvious inclusion of key vocabulary or grammar points, the
teacher should increase oral interaction opportunities that allow students
to use the second language for functional purposes, such as negotiating
meaning and justifying opinions.
Teachers should also take charge of how to incorporate language into
their lessons based on their students’ needs and interests, and lesson
content.

A teacher for example in a science lesson could invent with his/her


students a machine and for achieving language objectives could plan to
talk to the children about the machine’s attribute while including

28
technical vocabulary and concepts. At ISF, the Arabic teacher, aims to
discuss in Arabic sessions the concepts being learnt during English,
Science or Halaqah lessons (Circle Time). This contextualises the
learning and the child is able to transfer knowledge making the learning
fluid. The thematic nature of Islamic shakhsiyah schools allows bilingual
teaching to be practiced within broad perimeters of curriculum
accusation.

Also it is important to point that 45 or 50 minutes do not constitute the


cut off for a lesson and that teachers could plan for lessons to take place
over days and language objectives may not occur (or not all skills) each
day but should for each multiday lesson or unit.
c) Implementing language outcomes in content lesson:
To prepare clear content and language outcomes, teachers have to draw
on a variety of resources that include standards of knowledge and skills to
be learned in a content area, language proficiency standards, prior student
performance assessments, and available course materials.
For instance, in planning a teacher might construct his/her statements
while focusing on verbs to describe content outcomes (e.g: the children
will be able to make, solve, differentiate, understand) and language
outcomes (e.g: The children will be able to explain, discuss, write).
Focusing strictly on verbs in lesson objectives risks oversimplifying the
complex process of attending to both content skills and language
functions. The verbs however, provide a sound starting point for
integrating language and content in instructional planning. This strategy
has at least two key benefits. First, the teachers clarify for themselves the
separate content and language foci of the lesson, which can improve their
delivery of the instruction. Second, if these foci are both explicitly
presented within each lesson, students become aware of the separate
content and language goals, which may help them direct and monitor
their own learning.

B- Designing developmentally appropriate instruction:


The kind of planning that teachers of young second language learners
should be engaging in, involves developmentally appropriate practices
that take into account the cognitive and social needs of young children,
their characteristics, the learning conditions that are effective for them
and the kind of instructions that meet their needs.
There is an overwhelming trend towards a more holistic kind of learning
and teaching, which is not supposed to centre too much around the
teacher’s person but to concentrate much more on the learners, what are
their interests?, what are their needs?, what are their learning strategies?
and how can those be enhanced?.

29
Concentrating on the concept of learning strategies is especially
important because this enables the learners to thoroughly acquire,
structure and retain all kinds of new knowledge.
In a sociolinguistic context, the language is no longer the subject matter,
but serves as the medium instruction.
What Greenburg (1990) calls the cognitive/developmental approach is
generally considered to be most effective, as it considers what children
are able to do at various stages of development. This approach involves
different types of learning, such as social learning, physical learning and
play, emotional learning, and intellectual and academic learning.
Nissani (1990) summarize this approach as one in which “children are
encouraged to become involved in purposeful and creative activities with
other children, to make major choices among hands-on learning activities,
to initiate and accomplish self-motivated tasks in a rich environment, and
to construct knowledge at their own individual pace by discovering and
engaging in activities that reflect all areas of their development” (p3).
This kind of approach tends to be highly student centred and keeps
children’s developmental needs in mind by allowing them to learn at their
own pace in their own styles. It involves a great deal of creativity on the
part of the teacher, who continually develops ways for children to interact
in hands-on tasks and activities in which they may construct their own
meaning through interaction.

Principle 2- Successful instructed language learning requires


extensive second language input:
This section exposes Karshen’s theory of comprehensible input essential
for language acquisition (A) and discusses its weakness points (B).

A- Karshen’s hypotheses in language acquisition:


According to Karshen, language acquisition (a) depends entirely on a
high comprehensible input (b) delivered in a natural order (c) and
obtained in a low-anxiety situation (d).
a) Language Acquisition-Learning hypothesis:
Karshen (1981: 37) suggested that adults have two independent but
interrelated ways of gaining ability in second language, acquisition and
learning. Where “rules” and “grammar” are concerned, they refer to
learning, which takes place consciously. However, “acquisition takes
place consciously in situations where speakers communicate naturally”
(Dunn, 1990: 3).
For acquirers, it is not necessary to learn rules of usage because they want
to communicate through language rather than analyze it. According to

30
Karshen’s opinion, the good language learner is an acquirer and young
children are acquirers.

b) The Comprehensible input hypothesis:


Language learning is a slow and laborious process. Children acquiring
their first language take between 2 and 5 years to achieve full
grammatical competence (Wells, 1985), during which time they are
exposed to massive amounts of input. The same is undoubtedly true for
second language acquisition.
Karshen claims that the learners must have sufficient comprehensible
input before they can communicate in a second language. We acquire a
new rule when we understand messages that contain this new rule or
obtain comprehensible input.
According to Karshen, input can be made easy to understand by:
- using the “Caretaker speech” or “Teacher talk” method, which consists
of simplifying the language and using more common vocabulary with
shorter and less complex sentences.
- using the help of the first language.
- providing context and background information using pictures.
- planning for games, physical movements and discussion of interesting
topics which can provide comprehensible input at the beginning level.
However, comprehensible input should not only be limited to the
classroom. If the only input students receive is in the context of a limited
number of weekly language lessons based on a course book, they are
unlikely to achieve high levels of second language proficiency.
Therefore, teachers also need to create opportunities for students to obtain
input outside the classroom, by providing extensive reading programs
based on carefully selected graded readers suited to the level of the
students ( Karshen, 1989), by making resources available to students and
providing learners training in how to make effective use of them.
Also ideally, schools need to establish self-access centres for students to
use on their own time.
c) The Natural order hypothesis:
Karshen believes that there is a natural order that comes in different
stages in second language learning. Therefore, it is unnecessary to correct
students’ errors; the teacher must allow the natural order to take place.
There is no expectation that students will perform late acquired items
correctly in early stages even after weeks of explanations, drills and
exercises.
For Karshen, the best input for acquisition is not grammatically
sequenced. The reason for this is that the high-quality comprehensible
input automatically contains all the appropriate structure and review for

31
the acquirer. Therefore, deliberately programmed grammar is not
necessary (Karshen, 1989: 10).
“When communication is successful, when input is understood and
supplied in quality, quantity and variety, i+1 will be provided
automatically and recycled in optimum quantity for language acquisition”
(Karshen, 1989: 39).
d) The Affective filter hypothesis:
According to Karshen, we acquire when messages are interesting and
comprehensible and when we obtain it in a low-anxiety situation (1989:
10). People who are motivated and who have a positive self-image
possess a lower filter and will consequently obtain more input.
Karshen insists that students should not be forced to produce early
speech. When forced to speak too early, first language interference occurs
because children try to think in their first language. Through listening and
reading, spoken fluency will emerge on its own.
The Affective filter hypothesis also claims to reduce anxiety in the
classroom. Errors should not be corrected directly, but in many cases, the
correct version is included in the teacher’s response to the student.

B- Karshen’s hypotheses weakness points:


Although Karshen theory of the sufficient comprehensible input is
especially important for young learners, it has weakness points.
First, Contrary to Karshen’s insistence that acquisition is dependent
entirely on comprehensible input, most researches now acknowledge that
learners output also plays a part in second language acquisition, also it is
important to acknowledge that both input and output occur in oral
effective interaction.
Secondly, there is now widespread acceptance that acquisition also
requires learners to focus on linguistic forms.
Thirdly, if young learners are to benefit most of a comprehensible input,
the whole class must be taught in the target language according to the
learners’ characteristics, while keeping them motivated.

Principle 3- Successful instructed language learning also


requires opportunities for output:
Students need opportunities for language output (Swain, 1993), including
what Swain (1985) has called “pushed output” (i.e, output where the
learner is stretched to express messages clearly and explicitly).
Output is necessary for second language acquisition because it serves to
generate better input through the feedback elicited by learners’ efforts at
production, it obliges learners to pay attention to linguistic forms, it helps

32
to automatize existing knowledge, and it provides opportunities for
learners to develop discourse skills. For example, by producing long turns
in conversations.
One way to achieve this is through the use of highly engaging and
interactive classroom discourse styles, such as instructional
conversations, a teaching practice that provides students with
opportunities for extended dialogue in areas that have educational value
as well as relevance for them (August & Hakuta, 1998, Thrap &
Gallimore, 1989).
Other instructional techniques such as cooperative learning provide
students with more opportunities to engage in conversation with each
other, thus furthering their thinking and that of the other students.

Principle 4- Providing opportunities for effective


interaction:
Teachers should also encourage oral interaction (A) while using
appropriate teaching methods (B).

A- The importance of oral interaction in language acquisition:


While it is useful to consider the relative contributions of input and output
to acquisition, it is also important to acknowledge that both occur in oral
interaction and that this plays a central role in second language
acquisition. As Hatch (1978) famously put it, “one learns how to do
conversation, one learns how to interact verbally, and out of the
interaction syntactic structures are developed” (p 404).
Thus, interaction is not just a means of automatizing what the learners
already know but also about helping them to acquire a new language.
According to Robinson & Ellis (2008), effective interaction is essential
for integrated content and language learning for two reasons. First, as
they interact and create meaning, students map new content knowledge
onto prior content knowledge. Second, students notice the language used,
they retrieve needed language from memory, and they generate new
configuration of language through spoken discourse.
Karshen believes that when learners have to speak too early first language
interference occurs. This may be true for a person who begins to learn the
foreign language in late childhood, but for children under 6 years old
learning the foreign language directly through the target language, first
language interference will not occur since they think directly in the target
language.
Karshen also insists that learners would benefit from delaying production
during the silent period until they feel ready to do so. He believes that

33
during the silent period children are still “building” competence in the
second language and that through listening and speaking, spoken fluency
will emerge on its own. However, if the teacher wants to wait until
students feel ready for their speech to emerge, he/she can hardly expect
that students will show that they are ready to say something in class.

In fact, it is up to the teacher to create the right kind of interaction for


acquisition by creating context of language use where students have a
reason to attend to language, allowing students to initiate topics,
providing opportunities for learners to use the language to express their
own personal meanings, helping students to participate in language-
related activities that are beyond their current level of proficiency and by
offering a full range of contexts that provide opportunities for students to
engage in a full performance in the language (Ellis, 1999, Johnson, 1995).
La Van (2001) pointed out that teachers need to create a classroom
context with clear expectations for the use of the target language.
In addition to clearly established rules and expectations, teachers also
need to create a nurturing environment, which encourages the use of the
second language and provides opportunities for its use (Cloud, Genesee,
& Hamayani, 2000).

B- Using appropriate teaching methods to develop children’s speech:


By using the right methods when supporting the young learner’ speech,
the teacher would be encouraging children to talk in a rich supportive
environment and would not be forcing them nor pushing them against
their will.
The teacher should be very patient and should try to find out what the
children are trying to express and praise them for doing so.
Moreover, the teacher should be able to judge when each child is ready to
take another step forward and to encourage further attempts (Tough 1991:
221) by creating appropriate, interesting and effective contexts of
language use.
In this context, it is important for the teacher to identify the stages of
language acquisition, explained in chapter one, a child is going through
and to employ appropriate teaching method for each stage.

Principle 5- Instruction needs to ensure that learners also


focus on form:
Karshen believes in a natural order language acquisition. According to
him, where rules and grammar are concerned, they refer to learning,
which takes place consciously contrary to acquisition, which takes place
unconsciously. Karshen argues that for acquirers it is not necessary to

34
learn rules of usage, because they want to communicate naturally through
language acquisition.
In fact, early researches into naturalistic second language acquisition
showed that learners follow a natural order and sequence of acquisition.
However, studies that are more recent showed that, by large, the order
and sequence of acquisition were the same for instructed and naturalistic
learners, that instructed learners generally achieved higher levels of
grammatical competence than naturalistic learners, and that instruction
was no guarantee that learners would acquire what they had been taught.
This led to the conclusion that it is beneficial to teach grammar, but that
must be taught in a way that is compatible with the natural processes of
acquisition.
This can be achieved by adopting a zero grammar approach, where the
teacher corrects the errors that learners make as they make them. In this
way, large number of grammatical structures will be attended to
repeatedly over a period of time.
Further, because this kind of instruction involves a response to errors
each learner makes, it is individualized. Loewen (2005) showed that
learners who experienced this kind of instruction demonstrated
subsequent learning.
What does this means for early years second language teachers?
This means that teachers should correct students’ mistakes in early stages.
In the beginning, it may seem useless to correct them, because they will
repeat the mistakes. However, if corrected, they will improve gradually.
If language learners have memorized key sentences using the correct
grammatical form, they should be able to incorporate that in formulating
their own sentences.
On the contrary, if teachers do not correct the learners’ mistakes in early
stages, they will not be aware of the correct sentence structure and they
will become accustomed to speaking incorrectly.
Furthermore, it will be harder for them to correct their speaking mistakes
in the future.
Early years’ second language teachers should make learning interesting
and fun, and should keep children motivated even when correcting their
mistakes. Teachers should also adopt appropriate strategies, which aid
children understanding and encourage them to respond.
This can be achieved by, as Karshen suggested, using a simplified
language such as “Teacher Talk” and “Care taker Talk” and by using
methods similar to the way in which first languages are learned. These
methods consist of repeating single words clearly and using those same
words in simple sentences. When learners are trying to express
themselves by using single words, the teacher should provide them with
well-formed phrase with the same meaning, “so that children frequently

35
hear their telegraphic phrases expanded to well-formed version” (Tough,
1991: 226).
For example, Child: “Car”, holding a car.
Teacher: “Bicycle?”
Child: “Car”
Teacher: “Car, Yeah! This is a car” pointing at the car.
Child: “Fast”
Teacher: “Fast, Yeah! This is a fast car”
If a child incorrectly names an object or action, a teacher could directly
correct her mistake while praising the child for her effort or indirectly by
giving the correct version in his/her response.
As mentioned above, children learn their second language better, when
they can see and hear the second language being used, in the same
manner in which they learn their first language. Nevertheless, “this
potential can only come into play if they are immersed in experiences of
the language being used” (Tough, 1991: 220).
In other words, it is important to provide a second language rich
environment where the teacher is willing to repeat, correct errors and give
children time to express themselves in a joyful atmosphere.
If the environment that support children’s development of learning
foreign language can be created in school by using similar way that
parents use when talking to their young children, the teaching will be
effective for young learners (Tough, 1991: 226).

Principle 6- Teaching second language while using only


target language:
Karshen argues that providing background information with a student’s
first language can help a great deal in making input comprehensible and
increase the rate of second language acquisition (Karshen, 1989: 28).
However, some factors should be taken in consideration before deciding
which teaching methods are most effective, including the way of use of
the target language in class.
At ISF, taking in consideration the students’ age (A), the bilingual
program adopted by the school (B) and the amount of instruction
delivered in the second language (C), contrary to Karshen’s opinion I
believe it would be very beneficial to avoid as much as possible providing
information with the students’ first language.

A- An age-appropriate Arabic teaching methods at ISF:


An Arabic teacher should consider the age of the students and should
choose the most appropriate teaching methods for them.

36
There are some second language teachers, for example Ting (1998: 49),
who argue that without using the students’ first language, they cannot
understand the exact meaning of what they are learning. This is
particularly true when teaching grammar for over 6 years schoolchildren,
adolescents and adults.
However, for under 6 years children, teaching Arabic using only Arabic
is optimal. One of the reasons this is preferable, is that early years
children have the ability to learn with greater ease than older students.
Young children learn foreign languages directly through the target
languages and understand them well.
Another reason instruction in the target language is an asset, is that is not
necessary to teach early years children direct grammatical rules because
children can be taught their second language in the same way their
parents have taught them their first language. As explained earlier, this
can be achieved by adopting a zero grammar approach in the classroom,
which consists of repeating simple key sentences and correcting the
learners’ mistakes.
Never less, I strongly recommend that the Arabic teacher at ISF, in
addition to her fluency in Arabic would be herself an English speaker and
that is for reasons related to the children’s well-being.
I believe, during the home language use stage and the non-verbal period,
it would be beneficial to formulate few phrases in English to greet the
child, ensure her involvement in activities, check on her comprehension,
provide her with directives, complement her effort and check on her
comfort.
In fact, children starting Nursery or Reception often cry for being away
from home and family, the Arabic teachers should be welcoming them
and make them feel safe in their new environment. I recommend during
this starting stage that the Arabic teacher when communicating with a
distressed child would formulate Arabic sentences with English key
words in order to provide a mutually reinforcing bond between the home
and the school.
In addition, other situations might make a child unwilling to
communicate, such as toilet accidents, refusal of eating for particular
reasons, sickness and misbehaviour. In these cases, it is important for the
Arabic teacher to make her self eligible and to make the child cooperate
with her even if this means that she has to use some English words in her
dialogue.
Although this practice might seem beneficial in starting stages, it is
important to note that care should be taken when employing it in order to
avoid generalising its use or extending it to other stages.

B- The bilingual program model at ISF:

37
Beside of teaching children to read and write Arabic, the main purpose of
teaching Arabic is that students will be able to understand and use the
language in real situations.
It is important that Arabic teachers introduce realistic practice to children
at an early age. Therefore, it is better to use the target language to teach
young children at the beginning of foreign language learning.
Moreover, if other subjects are also taught in Arabic, students have more
opportunities to hear the target language in different situations, and this
can be done by implementing at ISF a content related program with
effective language instruction.
As for the other subjects that could be taught at ISF in Arabic, I suggest
the Islamic Studies, Knowledge and Understanding of the Word and
Creative Development and that is for 3 reasons.

First, by including Arabic in creative and cultural domains, the school


would be giving young students more opportunities to develop a diverse,
practical and rich vocabulary.
Secondly, the above topics could easily be linked to each other, which
give the Arabic teacher the possibility to extend with ease her teaching
targets and cover many areas of the curriculum.
For example, during the first half term of this academic year (2008-2009),
the English and Arabic teachers of Reception class, has linked healthy
living and eating to the duty of a Muslim to be clean and eat with
moderation. During the second half term, they have loaded the means of
transports with good deeds on a long journey on the Sirat Al Mustakeem
(Straight path) heading to Jannah. They have also linked the means of
transport to Moses’ (AS) basket floating in the river, the Arch of Noah
(AS) sailing in the sea and the Hijrat (Migration) of Arrasul Muhammad
(SAW) from Mecca to Medina.
Thirdly, all topics covered in Halaqah are linked to the Quran and
Sunnah, which means that it is necessary for the teachers to refer to the
Arabic verses in Quran and Ahadeeth and to include in their planning the
teaching of Arabic vocabulary.

When planning, teachers usually spread the teaching of one topic over
many days, each day delivering a specific input related to the main topic.
In that case, it is possible for the Arabic and English teacher to plan
together the teaching of one topic, at different times and with different
groups, while setting up multiple activities and using different resources
and methodologies that reinforce the children’s understanding.

In this context, Arabic is not an intrusion on precious time in school day


but a tool of instruction that reinforces the goals of the general curriculum

38
and provides children with further concept practices and understanding
opportunities.
C- The amount of instruction delivered in the second language at
ISF:
The reason why many children whose first language is not English quite
naturally learn English is because; they live in an environment that
promotes the developing of the English language.
Before starting school, children are familiar with hearing and seeing
English. At home, they may hear their parents, older siblings or relatives
speaking English, outside wherever they go they hear people speaking
English. Written English is also everywhere, on the neighbourhood
streets, on food packages in the kitchen, in titles on television programs,
or on the labels on their belongings.
After children start school, they become more aware that almost all of the
helpful sings are in English. Children not only have fewer chances to hear
the spoken Arabic and to get used to the written Arabic words, they may
become to think that Arabic is a less helpful language, wondering why
they have to learn it and ending up refusing to do so.
To avoid children refusing to learn Arabic, teachers and parents have the
responsibility of keeping them motivated.
Schools would keep their students interested in Arabic, by creating a rich
environment appropriate for learning and using the Arabic language.
Inside the classroom, I think the daily presence at ISF of the Arabic
teacher is very beneficial for children. In fact, being present with the
English teacher in the same classroom during the school day, would give
the Arabic teacher the opportunity to stress on oral Arabic. This daily
practice would let children get used to an Arabic speaking environment
so that speaking Arabic will not constitute a psychological obstacle to
them.
However, this presence will not be beneficial, if not carefully planned.
I suggest that beside teaching 30 minutes of Arabic (CLL) and Halaqah
subjects, the Arabic teacher should participate effectively in the afternoon
activities instead of only assisting the English teacher.
If the Arabic teacher is present during the teaching of English (CLL) and
numeracy, she should assist the children with their tasks while speaking
only in English in order to avoid confusing them. Nevertheless, during
the afternoon activities, both Arabic and English teachers should plan for
two different activities related to the same topic. Each teacher would be
responsible of one group and would plan for making with children
displays and other creative activities in order to put in practice the taught
concepts. For example, if the children are learning about winter, the
Arabic teacher could decide to make a hat with children while the English
teacher could decide to make snowflakes with the other group.

39
Further more, the practice of creating an environment for learning and
using Arabic, should not only be limited to classrooms but should be
extended to affect the school environment, and this could be done by for
example having all school sign boards both in Arabic and English.

As for parents, they could keep their children motivated by encouraging


and supporting their learning of the Arabic language.
It is important to notice that many parents in supporting their children
with their second language rely heavily on commercial language material
such as books, videos, television programs, internet games and CDs.
Yet research clearly indicates that some activities are more effective than
others in promoting second language acquisition and bilingualism. For
instance, recent studies have examined the process of perceptual
narrowing in infants, that is, infants’ gradual loss of the ability to
perceive sounds unlike those in the language(s) to which they are
regularly exposed. Researches have found that live interaction (e.g.,
reading or talking to a child) is more effective than exposure to recorded
sounds (e.g., television) in revising the narrowing process (Kuhl, Feng-
Ming, & Huei-Mei, 2003). Other studies have found that, for older
children, being read aloud to in the second language increases second
language vocabulary much more than watching television in that
language (Patterson, 2002).
In short, while audio and video materials can serve as a positive and
entertaining source of support for language learning, human interaction is
the best method for fostering both first and second language
development.

Principle 7- Teaching young children according to their


characteristics:
In her dissertation submitted for the degree of Doctor of philosophy
(Education) in 2001, Mei-Ling discusses what should be concentrated
upon in foreign language teaching according to young children’s
characteristics. In this section, I will include the teaching principles
suggested by Mei-Ling, Which I find beneficial for early years Arabic
teachers.

A- Words are not enough; objects and pictures are needed:


Children between the age of 3 and 5 are still at “the concrete operational
stage” proposed by Piaget. They cannot go beyond imagination if they

40
have not experienced something. Children of this age learn best with
concrete experiences.
They need to know how to feel about something in order to learn it well
(Curtain/Pesola 1994: 69). They need to have plenty of objects and
pictures to help them in their teaching (Scott / Ytreberg 1993: 5).
In comparison with pictures, real objects are easier for young children to
understand. Therefore, it is better that the Arabic teachers bring real
objects or models to class when they teach new words (Dunn 1990: 23).
This is different when teaching over 5 years school children and teaching
under 5 years children.
For over 5 years schoolchildren, pictures and flash cards are enough in
Arabic classes. However, for under 5 years children, concrete objects
(real objects or props) are better than pictures. If the Arabic teacher
cannot bring concrete objects to class and has to use pictures as
substitution, it is better to bring pictures which are large.

B- Young children need to be praised:


In the classroom, children need constant changes of activity, and they
need to be appreciated by their teacher. Young children are enthusiastic
and positive about learning. Children like to be praised by their teacher.
This contributes to expressions of enthusiasm and feelings of success.
However, if teachers label children as failures, then they believe it (Scott /
Ytreberg 1993: 3). Therefore, Arabic teachers should pay more attention
to this need and provide more praise for their young students.

C- Young children love rhymes, Anasheed and stories:


Young children have difficulty in sitting still. They always love to
wriggle, to move and to touch objects. What can Arabic teachers do to
allow them to move around and still learn things in the classroom? The
best way to accomplish this is to use some activities, such as rhymes, and
games, providing children the opportunities to move around within the
classroom. The teacher can teach rhymes with activities like jumping or
dancing and can choose games requiring physical activity. If the activity
is right for the children and can let them have fun, even if they are
wriggling, they will still be listening and involved (Dunn 1990:
15).
Rhymes and Anasheed are useful in other areas of learning as well.
Children love rhymes and Anasheed and like to repeat them again and
again. They can memorize rhymes and Anasheed well. Anasheed and
rhymes help children in foreign language learning by helping them
remember words and sentences.

41
When it comes to telling stories in a second language, Scott and Ytreberg
(1993: 21) give some suggestions: “… when we are talking and the
children are listening, it’s important to say things clearly, and to repeat
them. When you are telling a story, for example, you don’t have to tell it
from beginning to end without breaks. You can re-tell it again and again
as you go along.” In fact, many stories are full of repetition in themselves.
It helps children remember the words and sentences (Scott and Ytreberg
1993: 97).

D- Variety in the classroom:


We usually say that young children have short attention spans. Brown
(1994: 92) argues that if we put children in front of a TV with a favourite
cartoon, they will sit riveted for a long period of time. This means if the
lesson is interesting, the children may maintain their concentration and
focus for the whole lesson. If the Arabic teacher can make the lesson
interesting, lively and fun, the children may love the English lesson. What
can English teachers do to help children love their lessons? Arabic
teachers should conduct a lesson full of variety and changes of activity.
Scott / Ytreberg (1993: 5) suggest some varieties in the classroom:
“variety of activity, variety of pace, variety of organization, variety of
voice”.
When children have lost their interest in an activity, they will also lose
their concentration, and then little or no learning takes place. Therefore, it
is better to change an activity before children lose interest and get bored.
How often should an activity be changed? Schichita (2000c: 238)
suggests that second language teachers should change their activities
every 5 minutes. If the same activity lasts 10 or 15 minutes, young
children will lose their concentration. Teachers of young learners
should change activities often to make the classroom atmosphere more
fun.

E- Use Gestalt language in the initial stage of English classes:


First language acquisition can be identified on one hand as Gestalt and on
the other hand as analytic or creative. While analytic or creative language
develops word by word (e.g. a dog, a cat), Gestalt stresses learning by
wholes. Gestalt includes prefabricated routines or patterns, which are
memorized as whole utterances, e.g. rhymes, and sentences such as How
are you? What are you doing? Gestalt language is memorized by
imitation. Because of children’s Language 1 experience, they are better
able to imitate and memorize Gestalt language than creative language.

42
“Research indicates that for many Language 2 learners, especially
children, Gestalt speech (prefabricated language) serves as a short cut
to allow social interaction and interpersonal communication with a
minimum of competence.” (Dunn 1990: 5). Therefore, in the initial stages
of learning, the Arabic teacher should teach children more rhymes and
pattern sentences.
At the beginning of learning a second language, Gestalt language
(prefabricated language) is used more frequently. However, creative
language (analytic language) is developed gradually and eventually
becomes dominant, when learners attempt to express specific and
individual ideas (Dunn 1990: 5).
Since children have a great capacity to imitate and memorize long
utterances when they learn their first language, they can also do it well
when learning another language. When children have memorized some
prefabricated language, they feel they can speak a lot of Arabic. Once
they know how to transfer language, they have the ability to use the little
language they know in different situations for maximum communication.
Through communicating with others, children can acquire more language
and gradually speak more fluently. If children are exposed to planned
opportunities to acquire prefabricated language, their second language
acquisition will be quicker (Dunn 1990: 5).
In the foreign language classroom it is preferable to give children the
linguistic environment in which to learn prefabricated patterns and
routines. This gives children an opportunity to predict the meaning of the
language used, since much of it will be the same. With practice and
regular repetition of the same prefabricated language, children may
quickly understand situations and memorize the language involved (Dunn
1990: 5).

F- Arabic lessons should be well planned in advance:


As mentioned above, young children are full of energy; therefore, the
activity in Arabic class must be changed often. If Arabic teachers don’t
plan their work in advance, they will not have time to think during the
class.
Young children have enthusiasm for learning. If the Arabic teacher can
keep children’s enthusiasm by presenting well planned lessons, the
children will be interested in Arabic, make progress, and find they are
good at speaking Arabic. Through good preparation, the children can get
maximum enjoyment and learning out of the lesson. Arabic teachers
should plan their lessons well in advance to offer children an interesting
lesson with good content.

43
Principle 8- Motivation is essential in second language
acquisition:
Learning will be more successful when the students are motivated.
Initially, the children’s motivation comes from their parents who enrol
them in the foreign language course (Fröhlich-Ward 1991: 98).
Therefore, during the learning of a second language parental support and
encouragement are also important (Gardner/ Lambert 1972: 133). If
parents have a positive attitude towards foreign language, it gives
children motivation to learn that language. On the contrary, if parents
have a negative attitude towards the foreign language, it will decrease the
interest in learning that language.
Secondly, while it is probably true that a teacher can do little to influence
students’ extrinsic motivation, there is a lot they can do to enhance their
intrinsic motivation. The teacher can give children encouragement and
praise to motivate them. The personality of the second language teacher
and the teacher’s treatment of students also have an influence on young
children’s ability to learn a second language (Gardner/Lambert 1972:
133). Children often seek their teachers approval, they want their teacher
to notice them and appreciate what they are doing (Harmer 1998: 7).
Whether or not the students like the teacher, may also affect their
motivation. A teacher’s positive attitude and behaviour can motivate
children’s interest in learning the second language
Thirdly, if the teaching is appropriate, children will discover that learning
another language is within their capacity, and this knowledge will
strengthen their motivation (Lee, William K, 1988). Teachers should keep
their students motivated through age-appropriate enjoyable lesson
activities, many involving pair or small-group work. For under 6 years
learners, Anasheed are popular, especially those that fit new lyrics to
familiar tunes. Most activities should have a strong focus on
communication and student’s interaction and minimum of “listen and
repeat after me” instruction. Teachers could devise creative guessing
games, simulations that educate, entertain, and motivate learners, and that
bring together students from different grade level.
For example, Year5 children could help Year1 children review Arabic
numbers, animals’ names, colours and verbs of motions by leading them
in guessing games using numbered animal puppets.
Another example is that the teacher could tell a story of a mother cat on a
journey to find its baby cat. Students in small groups would move a cat
figure across a big size local street map, and answer questions about the
means of transports the cat is using, buildings and shops the cat is
entering or passing by, etc...

44
According to Fröhlich-Ward (1991: 98), children’s motivation comes
from the enjoyment and pleasure experienced in the learning situation. If
the class is boring, children will become unmotivated. A crucial aspect of
language teaching is to raise students’ motivation with enjoyable teaching
methods. Children have the ability to learn language through games and
activities which they find joyful. Fröhlich-Ward, suggested a foreign
language class full of “play combined with structured teaching, so that the
children are only aware of the play content and learn the foreign language
almost without noticing” (Fröhlich-Ward, 1991: 99).
Classroom atmosphere, teaching methodology, teaching content, teaching
aids and teaching materials can also influence children’s motivation in
learning the second language. According to Dornyei, “the best
motivational intervention is simply to improve the quality of our
teaching” (Dornyei, 2001 p 26). Dornyei points in particular to the need
for “instructional clarity” by “explaining things simply” and “teaching at
a pace that is not too fast and not too slow”.

Principle 9- Assessing students’ comprehension:


Effective integration of content and language instruction occurs when
there is a focus on assessing students’ outcomes. It is not enough to
simply deliver a lesson, students must learn from the process.
Instructional practice includes the review and consideration of what has
been accomplished in a lesson by comparing planned outcomes with
actual ones. Such an evaluation of progress is best accomplished through
multiple pathways in which both informal and formal assessments are
conducted (Gottlieb 2006, Shohamy & Inbar 2006, Valdez-Pierce 2003).
More frequent - and gradually more informative for instruction- is the
formative assessment that takes place in the classroom on an ongoing
basis.
Assessing the students’ level of comprehension, could inform the
teacher’s planning, By evaluating the students’ engagements level, types
of students questions and answers, and students’ behaviour, a teacher
would be able to tell which adjustments should be made in later lessons in
order to enhance students’ comprehension.

The following diagram illustrates the process:

45
Develop Lesson
According to Teaching
Principles

Make Teach
Adjustments Lesson
to Improve
Student Work

Assess
Analyze
Student
Method and
Products
Content of
Lesson

46
4. Methods of teaching foreign language:
There are many methods of teaching languages. Some have had their
heyday and have fallen into relative obscurity; others are widely used
now, still others have a small following, but contribute insights that may
be absorbed into the generally accepted mix.

By definition, a method is a plan for presenting the language material to


be learned and should be based upon a selected approach.
In order of an approach to be translated into a method, an instructional
system must be designed considering the objectives of the
teaching/learning, how the content is to be selected and organized, the
types of tasks to be formed, the role of students and the role of teachers.
A technique is a very specific, concrete stratagem or trick designed to
accomplish an immediate objective.

Every teaching method has its specific goal, either for listening, speaking,
reading, or writing. It is difficult to determine which one is the best. It
depends on many factors, like the age and the level of students, class size,
teaching time, teaching goals, and qualifications of the teachers. All
teaching methods work but every method has its limitations.
Recent developments in course design have seen a shift from using a
particular method as the focal element of a syllabus to using different
methods only as a background for instruction and material design.
In practice, it therefore lies in the responsibility of the educator to adapt
flexibly methods or select from them what is appropriate or applicable,
and to incorporate their ideas into materials and procedures.
Appropriate early years methods are based on psychological aspects of
language learning; they are also language-learner oriented and tend to be
concerned with practical segments of the whole spectrum of learning
(Dubin and Olshtain, 1986).

In this chapter, I will first (section 1) describe three teaching methods, the
Direct Method, the Total Physical Response and the Natural Approach
which seem to be compatible and most effective in early years school
settings. Than (section 2), I will expose the Accelerative Integrated
Method, a recent teaching methodology implemented successfully in an
early years’ foreign language teaching program.

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1- Effective early years’ foreign language teaching methods:
The Direct Method, the Total Physical Response and the Natural
approach seem to relate ideally to the objectives of a successful early
years Arabic teaching program and to the characteristics of the young
learners as they are based on a theory of language learning derived from
processes in mother tongue and second-language acquisition in early
childhood.

A- The Direct Method:


The Direct Method was the outcome of a reaction against the Grammar
Translation Method. It was based on the assumption that the learner of a
foreign language should think directly in the target language. According
to this method, the second language is taught through the second
language. The learner learns the target language through discussion,
conversation and reading in the second language. It does not take
recourse to translation and foreign grammar.
The Direct Method aims at establishing the direct bond between thought
and expressions and between experience and language. It is based on the
assumption that the learner should experience the new language in the
same way as he experienced his mother tongue. In the Grammar
Translation Method, the foreign language concept or idea is first
translated into the mother tongue and then understood. However, in the
Direct Method the use of the mother tongue is banished in order for the
learner to understand what he reads and listen in the second language
without thinking of the mother tongue equivalence. Likewise, he speaks
or writes the foreign language without the need of translating his thought
or idea from the mother tongue into the second/foreign language.
The Direct Method emphasizes the value of oral training in learning a
foreign language. The pupil is given sufficient practice in listening and
speaking it. It also lays emphasis on the knowledge of phonetics so that
the learner may be able to acquire intelligible pronunciation. Oral training
helps in establishing direct association between the words of the foreign
language and the ideas for which they stand.
Another way of securing bond between experience and expression is to
inhibit the use of the mother tongue. Pupils are taught new words by
actually showing them the objects for which they stand or performing
actions or by suitable illustration in context. This enables them to think in
the target language and respond directly in it.
Therefore, the teaching of a language starts with the teaching of sentence
patterns rather than individual words. This enable the learner to structure
of the target language. New vocabulary items are introduced gradually

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based on the principle of selection and gradation. They are taught through
material association, explanation or use in suitable context.

In the Direct Method, grammar of the target language is not taught for its
own sake. It is a means to an end. Its aim is to enable the learner to
correct errors in his speech and writing. Although the teacher is in the
obligation of preparing his/her lessons according to some grammatical
plan, Grammar is taught inductively. The quantum of exposure to the
language enables the learner to form his own hypothesis and rules of the
language.

The Direct Method has the advantage of being a natural method that
teaches the second language in the same way as one learns one’s mother
tongue. The language is taught through demonstration and conversation
in context. Pupils, therefore, acquire fluency in speech. and are quick at
understanding it.
Moreover, this Method is based on sound principles of education, it
believes in introducing the particular before general, concrete before
abstract and practice before theory.

The Direct Method has the defects of not taking into account all aspects
of language teaching, not always being comprehensible and concentrating
on listening and speaking without reading and writing.

B- The Total Physical Response:


As described by James Asher (1969, in: Richards and Rodgers 1986),
Total physical Response (TPR) focuses on the co-ordination of speech
and action.
TPR is popular in foreign language teaching.
TPR combines many other insights in its theory, including principles of
child language acquisition. Asher noticed that when children learn their
first language, they appear to possess a lot of listening input before they
speak. He also noticed that children’s listening is accompanied by
physical responses, e.g. reaching, grabbing, moving (Brown 1987: 163).
Asher believed that children’s listening comprehension is better than their
speaking comprehension, and their listening comprehension will
influence their speaking and writing comprehension. If children have
strong listening comprehension, it will be easier for them to make
progress in speaking, writing and reading. Therefore, he believed that an
important first step in children’s language learning is to foster good
listening comprehension (Chang, Hsiang-chin 2000: 105).

49
In a TPR class, students do a large amount of listening and acting. TPR
uses a lot of imperatives, even in proficiency levels. For example, when
the teacher says, “stand up”, “sit down” or “open the window”, students
perform the activities the teacher has named. No verbal response is
necessary. The commands can also be given by one student, and the
others do as instructed (Tseng, yueh-hung 2000: 87). More complex
imperative sentences can also be used in TPR, e.g. “Draw a rectangle on
the chalkboard, walk quickly to the door and hit it” (Asher 1977:55,
cited from Brown 1987: 164).
In early years’ settings, physical movement is seen as one of the main
areas of learning, as it provides an opportunity for children to use their
bodies to express ideas and feelings. TPR has the advantage of combining
commands and activities. Translation through L1 (language one) is not
necessary. If the teacher can demonstrate clearly with gestures, facial
expressions or other teaching aids, students can understand without the
assistance of L1. Thus the principles of TPR tie in very well with the
developmental processes of children with the effect that they usually
enjoy these activities very much. In an integrated approach, the second
language can come whenever these functions are trained. Instructions
during a unit in the gym can be given (and initially demonstrated) in the
mother tongue and in the second language alike. New vocabulary can be
reinforced by mime, gesture and movement to convey meaning. A story-
telling activity, which is accompanied by gesture can be repeated with the
children performing while the teacher is telling the story. The
understanding of verbs can be introduced, extended and consolidated by
asking children to follow commands. A Nasheed can be accompanied by
gesture and movement. Fine motor skills can be trained by giving
instructions to work with scissors, pencils and crayons, construction
materials or tools.
TPR gives the teacher the opportunity to find a balance between ‘stirring
and settling activities’ (Halliwell, 1992: 20) which is essential for
keeping children interested and engaged.

As with any other teaching method, TPR also has its limitations.
Although TPR is especially effective in the beginning levels of language
proficiency, it is not as suitable for more advanced learners. Moreover,
when students have overcome the fear of speaking out in class, the class
is like any other “communicative” language classroom (Brown 1987:
164).

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C- The Natural Approach:
According to S. Karshen and T. Terrell (1983), principles and practices of
the Natural Approach relate to naturalistic second language acquisition in
young children. Emphasis is placed on exposure to input which enables
the learners to go through a period of reception before they start
producing language. These principles are based on Karshen’s Input
Hypothesis (1985) which regards the ‘Silent Period’ as a normal and
natural aspect of second language acquisition. ‘…Children in a new
country, faced with a new language are silent for a long period of time,
their output limited to a set number of memorised phrases and sentences
that they hear frequently and whose meanings they do not understand
completely. […] The child, during this time is simply building up
competence by listening, via comprehensible input.’ He also argues that
the anxiety experienced by adult students about learning is due to the fact
that they are not allowed to go through a silent period in language classes.

The Natural Approach emphasises vocabulary which is seen as the prime


component of a language, grammar and structure are not explicitly taught
by the teacher as children’s cognitive thinking is not sufficiently
developed. The method works with pictures, realia, gestures and mime to
facilitate comprehension. Language materials should refer to the learners’
knowledge of the world and should be interesting and challenging. The
level of content should be slightly beyond the learners’ present level of
competence (i+1) and should allow creativity. The ability to speak
‘emerges’ in each learner in time.

The advantages and criticisms of this teaching method were described in


chapter three.
Some points of the natural approach are appropriate for under six years
children.
In early years’ settings there should be sufficient input accompanied by
non-verbal support through videos, CDs, realia, and pictures with
repetition as in important element. At the early age of four to six children
will hardly speak the foreign language, they will listen and absorb it, but
they will still be learning. (Brumfit, 1991)

In this context, the use of play deserves special emphasis, as it is an


important setting to encourage the ‘zone of potential development
’which‘ defined those functions that have not yet matured but are in the
process of maturation (Vigotsky, 1978, cited in Bruce, 1997).

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Bruce argues that ‘in play a child always behaves beyond his average
age, above his daily behaviour; in play it is as through he was a head
taller than himself. As in the focus of a magnifying glass, play contains
all developmental tendencies in a condensed form and is itself a major
source of development. ’In play children are more likely to use the
foreign language naturally and thus can be prepared for real-world
communication. This especially applies to the type of role-play where
language is used creatively.

2- The Accelerative Integrated Method

The Accelerative Integrated Method is an intensive L2 methodology that


significantly raises the expectations and performance of students in
second language classrooms.
Through this approach, all target vocabulary to be learned by the student
is taught visually and in an auditory manner, thus responding to a variety
of learning styles. Because words are presented through gesture, and
contextualized through story, students learn to see and feel the language.
The vocabulary is selected according to frequency, function and ease of
acquisition. This target vocabulary, termed Pared Down Language (PDL),
places a high emphasis on verbs, but also includes other vocabulary and
structures important for beginning fluency development. This method
emphasizes both receptive and productive use of the language, both oral
and written. The gesture Approach stresses an active learning technique
as the key to effective acquisition.
Motivation is certainly key to success of any program, and one of the
greatest motivators, particularly in the area of L2 learning, comes from
the successful development of communicative competence.

Vocabulary taught during the initial stages of language acquisition:


The unique concept of the PDL is, as metaphor implies, a “core”
vocabulary, consisting of the most essential verbs, nouns and expressions
that beginning speakers need in order to develop fluency.

Although the notion of frequency is a major aspect of the selection of


lexical items in the PDL, it is not solely a high frequency vocabulary.
It is based upon the assumption that beginning L2 acquirers need
straightforward, consistent ways of self-expression in the language, so
that they may, as quickly as possible, form an internal representation of
the basic elements of the language. It is also designed to present

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vocabulary in a way that parallels L1 learning, and acquisition is
accelerated by ensuring exposure to high frequency vocabulary, whereby
the most highly frequently used lexical, grammatical and functional items
are to be presented early in acquisition, and, as new items are introduced,
the words introduced initially are reviewed constantly. Thus, the student
receives maximum exposure to the vocabulary that was presented early in
the program.

Accelerating acquisition of the PDL through the Gesture Approach:


Just about every L2 teacher gestures, to some degree, to his or her
students to help convey meaning. Actually, studies have shown that the
use of gesture as a nonverbal communication technique promotes
increased receptivity on the part to the students toward the subject matter,
and, in the eyes of the students, makes the teacher appear much more
approachable, interested, warm and caring.

The GA provides a tool for teachers to give an understanding of the


language in a specific context, with a strategy that helps to accelerate the
acquisition of the target vocabulary. There is a natural ease associated
with the use of sign. A number of students actually use the gestures to
facilitate communication with the teacher and each other.
Through this program, it is possible to scaffold production through such
technique as gestures presentation, gesture review, association teaching,
questioning in gesture and teacher-led self-expression.

One of the covenants that is established from the first day in the program
is the “second language” only rule. The expectation that second language
will come without exception, be the exclusive language of
communication in the classroom by the students (and teacher) is naturally
supported in many ways, since the program is designed specifically to
accelerate fluency. The GA techniques are used very effectively to
answer this support.

APDL contextualized through story, Anasheed and creative


storytelling activities:
In order to develop language, literacy and thinking skills in any language,
there can not be a better vehicle for the contextualization of the target
language than the integrated use of story and Anasheed. As David Booth
and Bob Barton (1990) state so concisely and effectively “ How painful it
must be for those children alien to [a language] to sit day after day

53
without feeling connected to what is happening in the classroom. And
yet, through storytelling, how quickly they enter the activity, making
sense of what is happening, building their own versions, listening, telling,
retelling, talking about, reflecting upon – responding” (p 38).

It is essential when one’s goal is to have students use and understand new
vocabulary that it is provided to them in a comprehensible context, in
which they see how the language flows in narrative discourse as well as
dialogue. By using the language base of a meaningful story with which
the students become intimately familiar over an extended period of time,
teachers are provided with a wide range of possibilities for language
manipulation activities that help reinforce students’ knowledge of
vocabulary and help them to develop confidence and competence in self-
expression within the familiarity of long-term study.

From the presentation of vocabulary through gesture, to the


contextualized presentation of this same vocabulary in the form of stories
and Anasheed, to the eventual expectation that students write creatively,
every single aspect of this approach seems beneficial enough to be
considered by Arabic teachers and implemented in their teaching
strategies.

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Conclusion
Hiring qualified teachers, establishing a bilingual program with sufficient
planning and careful selection of teachers and materials and being clear
about the connection between program goals and the amount of time
allocated to the program are essential determinants of successful early
bilingual programs.

Determining which type of foreign language instruction is best depends


on a number of variables; the learner’s age, aptitude, and motivation, the
amount of time available for instruction; and the difference between the
native and the foreign language.

For young children, starting early can lead to mastery of foreign language
only if it is taught through a well-developed program.
Young children will acquire Arabic as a second language when the new
language is expected, nurtured and used purposefully.
Instructional approaches that integrate content and language are likely to
be more effective than approaches in which language is taught in
isolation, an activity-centred approach that creates opportunities for
extended student discourse is to be beneficial for second language
learning and language objectives should be systematically targeted along
with academic objectives in order to maximize language learning.
In this context, it is critical for teachers to have the knowledge necessary
to teach and assess the knowledge, skills, and language of a content area.
According to Darling-Hammond (1998, p 7-8), in order to cover the
curriculum and prepare students for content-based instruction, teachers
need to:

• Understand the subject matter deeply and flexibly.


• Know about learning (teaching strategies, decision-making,
strategies about the content to cover and the best way to do so,
assessment strategies, language acquisition theory).
• Know about curriculum resources and technologies.
• Know about collaboration – their collaboration with other teachers,
students collaborating together, and collaboration with parents.
• Be able to analyze and reflect on their practice, to assess the effects
of their teaching, and refine and improve their instruction.

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References:

American Educational Research Association (2006): Foreign Language


Instruction, Implementing the Best Teaching Methods. Volume 4, Issue1.

Annick De Houwer (1999): Two or More Languages in Early Chilhood,


Some General points and Practical recommendations.

Arieh Sherris (2008): Integrated content and language instruction.

Barry Mclaughlin (1992): Myths and Misconceptions about second


language learning.

Barry Mclaughlin (1995): Fostering Second Development in Young


Children.

Bronwyn Coltrane (2003): Working with young English language


learners: Some considerations.

Deborah J. Short & Jana Echevarria (1999): The sheltered instruction


observation protocol: A tool for teacher- researcher collaboration and
professional development.

Elizabeth Peterson & Bronwyn Coltrane (2003): Culture in second


language teaching.

Fred Genesee (1995): Integrating language and content; lessons from


Immersion.

Helena Curtain & Carol Ann Pesola Dahlberg (2000): Planning for
success: Common pitfalls in the planning of early foreign language
programs.

James Crawford (1998): Ten common fallacies about bilingual education.

Julie Sugarman and Elizabeth R. Howard (2001): Development and


maintenance of two-way immersion programs: Advice for practitioners.

Kendall King and Lyn Fogle (2006): Raising Bilingual Children,


Common Parental Concerns and Current Research.

Myriam Met (1993): Foreign immersion programs.

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Rod Ellis (2008): Principles of Instructed Second Language Acquisition.

Tara W. Fortune & Diane J. Tedick (2003): What parents want to know
about foreign language immersion programs.

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