Myths and Misconceptions about ELLs and Language Acquistition

"Myths and Misconceptions about Second Language Learning: What Every Teacher Needs to Unlearn" -- Barry McLaughlin


Myths and Misconceptions What the research says
#1 - Young children are most efficient in learning a second language. #1 - Adolescents and young adults are the most efficient. It is only in developing native-like pronunciation that young children have the advantage.
#2 - The natural process of language acquistion can be accelerated. #2 - Language acquisition takes time and must be acquired through exposure in a variety of contexts. Formal teaching does not speed up the natural process, but it can be hindered, however, with inappropriate teaching methods.
#3 - Native language (L1) interferes with the target language (L2). #3 - Errors that reflect the structure of L1 are a part of the process and will usually disappear over time. 
#4 - In language acquistion, you must focus on the basics before moving on to more complex tasks. You must master certain items before moving on to others #4 - Lock step rigid item mastery is a disaster for second language acquisition.
#5 - You must acquire oral language base before literacy. #5 - Oral language and literacy should be developed simultaneously.
#6 - Beginners must begin producing (i.e., speaking/writing) language right away. #6 - The "silent period" is an important part of the language acquisition process and language is being acquired during this time. 
#7 - More exposure to English (or L2) will accelerate acquisition. #7 - English immersion is not always best. More English may slow down learning. Learners need uninterrupted cognitive development. Native language is the best medium for cognitive development. Allow conversations and thinking in L1 in class and do not encourage use of English (L2) at home if that is not the primary/dominant language.
#8 - Socioeconomic status (SES) is the strongest predictor of success in second language acquisition. #8 - The strongest predictor of success of second language learners is use of L1 at home. All countries, all languages have equal opportunity for success. Students of low SES background need the same instruction as middle class peers. Poverty is not connected to SLA failure. Strongest factor is L1 support.