Frequently Asked Questions about Dual-Language Learning
example, at the University of Kansas Language Acquisition Preschool,
teachers use scripted dramatic play to teach language. They not only pro-
vide materials for dramatic play but also introduce the vocabulary, props,
and actions formally and engage children explicitly (Bunce and Watkins
1995). How Long Does It Take to Become Proficient in a
In 1983 linguists Stephen Krashen and Tracy Terrell published a book
about second-language acquisition called The Natural Approach. This
book identified five stages of language learning that occur over a span of
1. Pre-production (the first six months of language learning): Stu-
dents begin to understand but do not yet verbalize. It is a listening
period. 2. Early production (six months to one year): Students have limited
comprehension and initiate one- and two-word sentences.
3. Speech emergence (one to three years): Students have good com-
prehension and can produce simple sentences with grammatical
errors. 4. Intermediate fluency (three to five years): Students have excellent
comprehension and make few errors.
5. Advanced fluency (five to seven years): Students have near-native
ability in written and oral language.
(Krashen and Terrell 1983)
Educators often misunderstand how this process works for young
children. Some teachers believe they must “wait it out”—the children
will “get it” after seven years. But actually, this information is meant to
help teachers understand that learning a second language is an orderly
process and that they should tailor their teaching to the learner’s stage in
the same sensitive way they would be promoting the first language. Their
job is to teach actively, providing the right scaffolding—not too hard, not
too easy—so children feel challenged but not overwhelmed. For example,
a student at the early production stage can answer yes-or-no questions,
but not how questions.