The misunderstood child

Coping with second language instruction

Shruti Sircar

In school, we often find that learners need to grapple with concepts and ideas presented in English. They are expected to learn new concepts in a second language and also simultaneously improve their language. How do students cope with complex subject matter in a language they do not know very well? Where does the difficulty lie – in the unfamiliar concept or in the unfamiliar language?

To answer this question, let us begin at the very beginning. In primary schools, children learn to read and write in their home language (L1) and English. Literacy training starts even before they enter school. Many children become aware of the association between print and sound, when they start recognising products from the characters written on the labels.

The author is Reader, Department of Linguistics and Contemporary English, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. She can be reached at [email protected].

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