Introducing a new language to non-native speakers may very well be one of the most challenging educational jobs. ESL teachers require much patience and perseverance. Thankfully, many great resources for ESL can be found online, from reference tools and communities to full-service websites, all designed to create a more functional learning environment for the students.
So how long does it actually take for someone to learn English? How long should ESL students receive language support? These are the most frequently asked questions by school instructors, school board members, and administrators.
One study showed that the main variable of how long it takes to learn English is the amount of proper education that students have received in their FIRST language. Language is best acquired within a person’s first few years of life. These years are crucial for basically every type of learning; and this is why close parental guidance is so greatly encouraged during this time.
In one study, several Asian and Hispanic students were researched from a prosperous suburban school district who were receiving 1-3 hours of ESL support per day in a well-regarded program. These students usually were only enrolled in this ESL program for two years. All of the students who were researched were at grade level or higher in native language literacy. Below are the results for students in this study:
This data has proven to be factual, despite the students’ native language, socioeconomic status, and country of origin.
ESL students who are receiving such services do not necessarily make faster progress in English than do students in other types of programs. Instructors in ESL programs would say that the previous claim is untrue. They would argue that the students in ESL programs perform better than the second language learners in different types of programs. However, research does not confirm this claim. Of the different types of ESL programs, it was concluded that:
So why did this occur? Native English speakers have shown to make an average gain of ten months each school year. However, ESL learners only make a gain of 6-8 months per school year. The gap between native-English and ESL speakers broadened from grade 4 through high school. In the aforementioned study, the native language that was spoken by these students had no influence on the results. Students from an Asian background made the same progress as those who speak Spanish.
Students who are enrolled in Developmental Bilingual and Two-Way Bilingual Immersion programs reach the 50th percentile in both English and in their native language by grades 4 or 5 in all subjects. These students are able to sustain the strides made in English and, sometimes, to achieve even higher than average Native-English-speaker performance as they go through their secondary years of schooling.
This does not necessarily mean that every bilingual program is more effective than every ESL or sheltered content program. It is necessary to look farther than the program label: