One out of every six American children either speak a different language or have the knowledge of another language that is not English. Most of these children happen to be non-natives and as result of this they still have influence of their native language. The time they take to grasp the dynamism that defines the English language imparts significantly on their ability to catch up with their fellow students, who happen to be American citizens.
A team of researchers sets out to find out how these children often put up with their native peers and explores the kind of relationship these children often have. In the team’s research, they meet Alejandro, a Spanish student who happens to be in one of the universities in the states. Alejandro is trying to read and grasp one of the basic fundamentals that constitute the English language; idioms. In his quest to gain an in-depth knowledge on the idioms he comes across, it takes him time to understand and decipher their meanings, leave alone to use them in their right contexts. It is also unexciting and mind-boggling. In many of the educational facilities, there is a misguided notion that these students will automatically fit into the society in their institutions through their interaction with the natives, but this often results to miscommunication and sometimes total lack of communication among the native students and the ELL. Palmer et al tries to bring out the effects this has on the ELL students, highlighting the theories behind their reasoning as well as the practical application of these theories.
As a result of their migration and their almost nomadic tendencies, Alejandro found himself in a rift between his native language and the English language. His knowledge of English was limited to what he had learnt during his short stay in America, and diminished when his parents moved with the family to their home country. His return to America exposed him to a whole new world and a whole new language. It was hard for him to understand, and so was he shy to express himself and even read to the class ion English. On the contrary, he was not a shy boy and would often be seen laughing aloud with his Spanish speaking colleagues. It was evident that he had a problem, and that he needed a bridge to link him between the two worlds.
This came in the form of his teacher, who helped him understand and use the common phrases and the idioms therein that English speaking students often use. In her quest to bring out the hidden persona in Alejandro, the teacher techniques the teacher used apply and interrelate to several theories that had been presented earlier. Her steps to get Alejandro on course entailed identifying a particular idiom, trying to get the literal meaning of the phrase and finally getting the real meaning of the phrases plus its significance and its relationship to his real life.
It was a three- step process in which she helped Alejandro practice in order to master the language. The teachers’ concept and idea to get Alejandro to understand the idioms was in tandem to Palmer and Brooks theory (2004), which states that “figurative language interpretation is based on students schemata; therefore direct, explicit instruction is often needed to provide the knowledge necessary to understand not only the figurative language expressions but the context surrounding them as well”. They imply that the precise instructions are meant to help those who are not aware the idioms are used in the phrases, mostly non-native students who lack prior information about the use of idioms in language. These researchers recommended that the three step process, which entailed identifying the idiom, finding out if the literal meaning makes sense and determining the intended meaning of the idiom be followed to the later to be able to assist them make out the meaning of phrases.
They further assert that these processes should be topped up by directing it and connecting it to the real world. This would assist the learner to digest the words practically enabling him to grasp it quickly. To top it all up, figurative language is fast understood through contact and practice, in that the more one practices it or stays close to a people that use it often, the faster he gets to understand it. This would assist them gain an insight into the real meaning of phases and the dynamics that come to play when using this. This would assist the teacher to mould an all-round student who is able to connect between the two languages, hastening understanding and bringing up upright citizens.
Palmer C., Vicki S., Sharmane C., Miller T (2006). International reading association Dol: 10.1598/JAAL 50.4.2:258-267.