Learning a Second Language: Program Models in Texas, Florida, and the United Arab Emirates

By Lacina, Jan; Levine, Linda New et al. | Childhood Education, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Learning a Second Language: Program Models in Texas, Florida, and the United Arab Emirates


Lacina, Jan, Levine, Linda New, Sowa, Patience, Childhood Education


The tall teacher wrote words on the board. They looked like sticks and chicken feet, humps and moons. He read from a book. Words changed with his voice. They sounded like sputters and coughs and whispering wind .... Slowly, like clouds lifting, things became clearer. Sticks and chicken feet became letters. Sputters and coughs became words and the words had meaning. (Aliki, 1998, p. 7)

This scene from Marianthe's Story: Painted Words and Spoken Memories (Aliki, 1998) illustrates frustration and the satisfaction of learning a new language. With rapidly changing demographics in the United States (August & Shanahan, 2006; National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, 2007) and the increasing globalization of economies throughout the world (McCloskey, Orr, & Dolitsky, 2006), the motivation to learn a second language (or more) is growing, especially in developing countries (Nault, 2006; Sowa & De La Vega, 2008/2009). Therefore, it is imperative that educators around the world thoughtfully consider and use research-based program models that best fit the needs of their students, community, and countries while teaching language in a loving, collaborative, and literate environment. This article provides an overview of language program models, while providing "snapshots" of three common models found in schools in Texas, Florida, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Learning in More Than One Language: An International View

Facility in a second language is becoming increasingly important throughout the globe, and this need, coupled with the loss of some minority languages, affects how language is taught in different countries and the types of program models used by schools. Use of the English language is particularly widespread. Over 700 million people worldwide speak English (Crystal, 2003). It has become a global language, and receives a special status in more than 70 countries as either an official language for conducting business, or as a second or third language that children learn in school (Crystal, 2003).

The sociopolitical context of countries and government policy frequently determine how languages are taught in schools. For example, many governments promote bilingualism and therefore provide support for the teaching of two languages in schools, whether that is for teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) or for developing the country's minority languages literacy rate. China is known for its support of dual languages, since there are 56 "nationalities'--and all but two have their own distinct language (Fincher, 1978; Jernudd, 1999; Lessow-Hurley, 2009). Beyond the preservation of minority languages, many schools in China likewise implement a dualqanguage program teaching EFL and Mandarin, even to children as young as 3 (Soderman & Oshio, 2008). Similarly, Canada passed the Official Languages Act in 1967, which makes Canada officially bilingual in English and French (Lessow-Hurley, 2009). The types of program models within Canada vary. Some attempt to preserve two languages, while others serve as a transitional model--with the goal being academic fluency in English.

In the UAE, government policy and the sociocultural context affect how language is taught and learned. The UAE has both government and private schools. Government schools are mainly for UAE nationals or Emiratis and children who speak Arabic. In the past, instruction in these schools has been in Arabic, and English was taught as a subject starting in 4th grade. However, the government has implemented new policies to work toward bilingual Arabic and English education. Currently, government schools are therefore required to teach English, math, and science beginning at kindergarten. Private schools in the UAE cater to the large number of expatriate students from such countries as India, Pakistan, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. Many Emiratis enroll their children in these private schools, because English is the medium of instruction in the majority of them. …

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