Establish thorough understanding amongst staff of the steps involved in the early acquisition of English.


1. What are the steps involved in the early acquisition of English for EAL learners?

– Many bilingual children who are at an early stage in their learning of English go through a ‘silent period’ when they first enter an unfamiliar setting.

– Children may begin to use non-verbal gestures as a response to a question or to indicate a need.

– Many children may begin to ‘echo’ single words and some short phrases used by adults and peers.

– There will be a development of ‘formulaic’ language (‘chunks’ of social speech), e.g. “Mummy come soon.”  “My turn.”

– For more information see Early stages of English document (below.)

2. How are these different to children from English speaking homes?

– Most EAL pupils will speak in their home language outside of school so skills are not reinforced

– Learning a second language will not necessarily proceed in an orderly and systematic fashion. Learners will use prior linguistic, learned and world knowledge.

– They will learn when there is a need to communicate and to learn.

– For the young child, bilingual development is taking place alongside conceptual development and learning about the world. For older learners, who have greater knowledge and understanding, it is the learning of new labels for objects, ideas and concepts already known.

– For more information see NALDIC weblink

3. How should staff build this understanding into their planning for learning & teaching?

– Use drawings, photographs, objects and picture dictionaries to communicate
key vocabulary

– Present information in the form of key visuals such as diagrams and charts

– Communicate meaning through activity e.g. practical demonstrations, video, role-play, drama

– Give examples appropriate to pupils’ experience to illustrate ideas

– Plan activities that enable pupils to hear English in contexts that support understanding e.g. practical activities that encourage talk during the activity, games and role-play activities and other focused collaborative tasks

– When pupils are ready, plan simple communicative activities which encourage them to talk, using language they have previously heard

– Be a good model of spoken and written English and use consistently and precisely

– Be aware that not only technical vocabulary, but also many everyday words and expressions can be very confusing

– Draw pupils into whole-class discussion

– Address them by name and be prepared to repeat questions

– Allow time for pupils to answer

Useful Documents