Bilingual is Better
Photo by *spud*

Photo by spud

Before diving into today’s Ask an Expert I want to thank those of you that are already participating in our brand new Forums. This is the place for you to connect with each other, so head on over there and get the conversation rolling. Today’s question is a very special one since it comes from a reader in London, Stephen P.  He’s concerned about his step-daughter’s move to his city and her acquisition of English in her teen years.

Lori Langer

Lori Langer de Ramirez, Ed.D

We sent this question to Lori Langer de Ramirez because we feel her experience in ESL, language and cultural assimilation are perfect for Stephen’s case.  If you want to learn more about Lori please click here to read her previous entries and visit her website, MisCositas

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How can I Help my Step-Daughter Learn English ASAP?

“Soon my wife and eleven-year-old stepdaughter will be moving to England to join me. They currently live in Mexico. My wife is learning English, as is my step-daughter. But my step-daughter is finding it difficult going. What can we do once she is here in England to help her learn English as quickly as possible? It is an important age in her life because it is when she will start high school…”

Hi Stephen!

How exciting that your wife and stepdaughter will soon be joining you in England! Rest assured: they will both do great and will acquire English pretty quickly.

There are several things that you all can do as a family to help with this acquisition process – especially at the beginning.

First, classes in English as a Second Language (ESL) would be very helpful for both your wife and your stepdaughter (of course, the classes will be – and should be – different for adults and for kids). Perhaps your local school or community organization could help direct you to some classes?

With specific regard to your stepdaughter, the best thing you can do would be to introduce her to kids her own age. I am sure that she will be leaving friends behind in Mexico – as well as family. She will need to connect with people as quickly as possible so that she can start building a new network of community and friends. Once she feels comfortable and has some age-appropriate peers to play with, you will see that her English will begin to soar!

At home you can find TV shows and movies in English that interest her, allow her to take fun books from the library in English, and just fill her environment with the sounds and sights of the English language as much as possible. There are also thousands of online resources for learning languages. One excellent site offers free online English language lessons and comes from your “neck of the woods”: http://www.english-online.org.uk/. Click on the “young learners” link for your stepdaughter.

One last note, Stephen: in order for your stepdaughter to become a strongly literate person in English, it is important that she maintain her Spanish (studies have shown that literacy in one’s first language is the greatest predictor of literacy in subsequent languages). So encourage your wife to continue to speak Spanish with her, to read to her in Spanish, have her write to her relatives in Mexico, etc. Your daughter will maintain her Spanish while acquiring her new language and ultimately, become bilingual.

¡Buena suerte!

Have you or someone you know been through a similar experience? Do you have advice to share?

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