The Different Stages of ESL

Learning a language can be as daunting for the parent as it is for the child. Understanding the process of progress will not only put your mind at ease, but also help you to support your student.

“What Was That?” The Silent Stage
The initial period of English learning is called the Silent Stage because it’s during this time that children aren’t doing much talking, yet. This phase may take anywhere from six hours to six months, depending on the exposure the child has to English.

The main characteristic of this stage is that after some initial exposure to the language, the child is able to understand much more than they can produce. You can easily see this in two-year-old babies, too. You can speak to them normally and they can definitely understand what you say, but they would not be able to repeat exactly what you had said.

This goes hand in hand with the fact that comprehension precedes production. We will always be able to understand much more than we can produce. This is why it is very important to expose children to as much English as possible.

What is so peculiar about this period is that it has the special ability to make parents anxious and drive teachers absolutely crazy! This is by far the most difficult period for both teachers and parents, as they wonder why little Johnny is still not speaking in class.

For a long time, a child may be unable to utter a single word and that is perfectly fine. It is part of learning a second language. What is so peculiar about this period is that it has the special ability to make parents anxious and drive teachers absolutely crazy! This is by far the most difficult period for both teachers and parents, as they wonder why little Johnny is still not speaking in class.

The Early Production Stage
The second cycle is usually when parents breathe easier because their kids finally begin to say a few words. This period can last an additional six months after the initial stage. Students usually develop close to 1,000 receptive/active words (that is, words they are able to understand and use) during this time.

During this stage, students can usually speak in one or two-word phrases and can demonstrate comprehension of new material by giving short answers to simple yes/no, either/or, or who/what/where questions. They can use short language chunks that have been memorized, although these clusters of words may not always be used correctly. He or she will begin to respond in small word groupings or answer yes/no to cognitively undemanding questions that require the repetition of no more than one word. Mispronounced words are to be expected and there is no need for correction, provided the listener can understand what is being said. New vocabulary needs to be introduced, while continuing to practice previously learned knowledge.

The Speech Emergence Stage
This stage can last up to a year. During this phase, there is a shift of emphasis from reception to production (that is, from listening to speaking). Students have developed a vocabulary of about 3,000 words and can communicate with simple phrases and sentences. Your child will begin improving his/her pronunciation and intonation and they will also begin demonstrating and expanding their vocabulary. He or she engages in relatively familiar language and tasks. Again, if the child can be understood, there is no need to correct them on pronunciation.

What Happens During the Speech Emergence Stage?
Your child will ask simple questions that may or may not be grammatically correct, such as “May I go to bathroom?” They will understand simple stories and read in class with the support of pictures. They will also be able to do some content work with some assistance. Teachers can expect these students to respond to basic open-ended questions.

Category Class Act