Frequently Asked Questions about Dual-Language Learning
international language of business (Genesee 2007), so fluency in Eng-
lish and another language is a valuable skill. Bilingualism also improves
employment opportunities for immigrants who return home. One Mexi-
can father participating in a focus group explained, “I want my son to
learn English well here, because in Mexico, you can have a better job if
you can speak and write English well.”
What Are Receptive Language and Expressive
Language? Receptive language is the language we understand. Receptive language
develops first in the process of learning a language. For example, a baby
understands the meaning of nose before the baby can say the word.
When we ask, “Where is your nose?” the baby points to it.
Expressive language is the language we say. It involves producing lan-
guage. Expressive language develops in stages. It begins with a telegraphic
phase. For example, to convey the idea This is a pink flower, a person
might first use one word and say, “Flower” or “Pink.” Then the person
progresses to a two-word phrase and says, “Flower . . . pink.” Eventually
the person says, “This is a pink flower.”
What Are Social Language and Academic Language?
Social language is sometimes called conversational language or basic
interpersonal communication skills. Social language is the everyday lan-
guage of home and community life. “Where is the bathroom?” “It’s my
turn.” “I love you.” “Let’s go the store.” These sentences are all examples
of social language. Social language is the easiest language skill to attain.
It can be deceptive. Individuals with just social language sound as if
they are fluent, when in fact they can participate only superficially in
conversations. Academic language is sometimes called cognitive academic language
proficiency. It is the language of learning. It includes all the words we
wouldn’t hear in daily conversations, or rare words. Academic language
involves the use of higher-order thinking skills, such as comparing, clas-
sifying, inferring, synthesizing, and evaluating, to interpret what people
say. It allows deeper comprehension and participation in discussions. It