How Language Develops

When acquiring a language there are five principles that apply:
  • language is learned by using language
  • the focus in language learning is meaning and function (not form);
  • language learning is non-anxious, personally important, and concretely-based;
  • language is self-directed, not segmented or sequenced; and
  • the conditions necessary for language are essentially the same for all children.
Stages of Language Development
Silent/Receptive Stage
  • At this stage the student will need time to become comfortable in the classroom and school. The student will respond to communication non-verbally. They may recognize words but not verbalize them.
  • The teacher should include the student in activities and games but not require them to speak. The student may respond best with peers. As they move through this stage the student will begin to respond with one word answers.
Early Production Stage
  • At this stage the student will move into two and three word responses and begin to use frequently heard words. in the Early Production Stage a student will continue to develop listening skills and build vocabulary.
  • The teacher can continue to introduce new vocabulary while practicing previous vocabulary. Teachers should start a sentence with one or two words and have the child complete it.
Speech Emergence Stage
  • The student will begin to respond with simple sentences when comfortable in their environment. This is the time of the shift from language reception to language production. Students may mispronounce words. It's Okay!
  • Everyone around the student should listen and praise any attempts at speech. It is very important that no one discourages or makes fun of any attempts at speech. Teachers can ask how and why questions at this stage. Do not correct mispronunciations, rather model back the correct pronunciation in your own sentence!
Intermediate Fluency
  • At this stage the student will begin to make the transition to more elaborate speech. the student will make grammatical errors as they attempt the new language.
  • "The best strategies for the students in this stage are to give more comprehensible input, develop and extend recognition vocabulary, and to give them a chance to produce language in comfortable situations." (Colorado Department of Education, Handbook on Planning for LEP Student Success) At this time students should be engaged in speech production and not absolute correctness. Teachers should provide high interest topics for the students to discuss for example: feelings, likes, dislikes etc.
Advanced Fluency
  • The LEP student at this stage begins to make fewer grammatical errors. He/she will have basic interpersonal language proficiency, but may not be advanced enough for all academic language.
  • This is the time to focus on grammar instruction, idiomatic expressions and reading comprehension. Teachers will want to utilize higher level cognitive, thinking, and vocabulary skills.