Were there aspects of your native culture, such as social rules for language use that had an impact on the process of learning English? If so, in what way?Explain.

Part 3: Interview on Second Language Learning

This week, you have the option of interviewing one of the following:

  1. An older student or adult who is bilingual, about the experience of learning two languages: English and his or her native language
  2. A teacher who works with young English language learners about children’s experiences of learning two languages at the same time
  3. A foreign language teacher about his or her students’ experiences while learning a second language

The goal is to increase your understanding of the complicated and challenging experience of learning and using English and another language.

To complete the assignment:

Plan: Choose a person to interview. Explain that the purpose of the interview is for your own educational development, and obtain permission to tape-record the conversation. Here are tips for planning the interview:

  • Agree on a specific date and time. (Plan for 30 minutes.)
  • Use a tape recorder, as you did for the observations in Weeks 2 and 3. Test your recorder before the interview to be sure it works.
  • Review information from this week’s readings about second language learning.
  • Click on the link below to download, print out, and review the document you will use to record your interview, which includes sample questions to ask:

Part 3: Second Language Learning Interview Guide

  • Review the appropriate questions in advance. You may want to ask the introductory questions when you are setting up the interview, to get a sense of the person and his or her experience before the interview.
  • Think about other questions that are not on the list you would like to ask.
  • Take notes during the interview on key points you want to remember.
  • Be respectful of your subject’s experiences and points of view.
  • Remember to thank your interview subject for his or her time.

Interview: Ask questions from the Interview Guide. Listen carefully to the person’s answers. You may need to ask for examples to help clarify a point, or follow up with a “why” or “how” question. Although you will record the conversation, also take notes on the person’s answers. Some additional guidelines:

  • Keep your attention focused on the interviewee.
  • Remember that this is one person’s experience and perspective. Although it can be informative and instructive, keep that uniqueness in mind as you listen to and later reflect on the interview.
  • Be respectful of the person’s time. Stick to the time period you agreed to for the interview. Be sure to thank the person for his or her cooperation.
  • Remember that this interview experience is intended as an opportunity to learn.

Reflect on the interview. Review your notes and listen to the tape recording of the interview as many times as necessary to complete the following:

  • How did what you learned from the interview compare with what you learned from this week’s readings?
  • How might you be able to use what you learned from the interview in your future work with children and families? (These might be specific tips and strategies for helping a child who is learning English, or a heightened awareness of the problems and challenges that children learning a native language and English may face.)

Note: Do not use the real names of the interviewee or the children or families discussed in the interview. Use only first names, initials, or fictitious names to protect their privacy.

Assignment length: 2–3 pages

Learning Resources

Required Resources

  • Course Text: The Development of Language
    • Chapter 4, “Semantic Development”
      • Read “Assessing Vocabulary in Bilingual Children” (pp. 105–106)
      • Read “Word-Meaning Awareness: Humor, Metaphor, and Irony” (pp. 108–109)
    • Chapter 8, “Variation in Language Development: Implications for Research and Theory”
      • Read “Linguistic Factors” (pp. 253–254)
  • Article: Fostering Second Language Development in Young Children (PDF)
  • Article: Cultural Diversity and Language Socialization in the Early Years (PDF)
  • Article: Understanding the Impact of Language Differences on Classroom Behavior (PDF)
  • Language Development Face-to-Face: Observations and Interviews

    Part 3: Second Language Learning Interview Guide

    Bilingual Older Student or Adult or

    Teacher of Young English Language Learners or Foreign Language Teacher

    Interview with an Older Student or Adult Who Is Bilingual on the Experience of Learning English and a Native Language

    To begin your interview, ask such introductory questions as:

    What is your native language?

    At what age did you learn English?

    Were you fluent in your native language when you began learning English?

    Did you learn English mainly in school or through another means?

    Did you speak English or your native language at home?

    Then engage in a discussion that will enable you to increase your knowledge about the experience of learning English and a native language. Consider your own assumptions/misconceptions; think about similarities and differences between what you have read in the Learning Resources and what this person shares; and gain additional insights. Here are some questions to spark the conversation:

    Please describe what your experience was like learning English.

    Do you think your experience was fairly typical or unusual, and why?

    Were there aspects of your native culture, such as social rules for language use that had an impact on the process of learning English? If so, in what way?

    What do you wish your family or other important adults had known to help make the experience of learning English easier for you?

    What do you wish your teachers had known to make the experience easier or more pleasant for you?

    What advice would you give to family members of young children who are learning English and their native language?

    What advice would you give to teachers and other professionals who work with young children and bilingual families?

    How do you view being bilingual today?

    Interview with a Teacher of Young English Language Learners (ELLs)

    or a Foreign Language Teacher

    To begin your interview, ask such introductory questions as:

    What ages/grades of children/students do you work with?

    What are the native languages of the children you teach? or What language(s) do you teach?

    How long have you been teaching in your current position?

    What do you enjoy most about your work?

    Why did you choose to go into this field?

    Then engage in a discussion that will enable you to increase your knowledge about experiences for young children/older students in learning a second language. Consider your own assumptions/misconceptions; think about similarities and differences between what you have read in the Learning Resources and what this teacher shares; and gain additional insights. Following are

    some questions to spark your conversation:

    Thinking about the children/students you work with, what are common stages that you observe in the process of learning a second language?

    From your experience, what influences how easily a child/student learns a second language?

    How does culture influence the process of learning a second language? (For the ELL teacher, ask for an example for a child learning English.)

    What advice would you give to parents/other important adults of young children who are learning English and their native language, or about students learning a second language in general?

    What do you wish you had learned while you were preparing to work with ELL children or foreign language students?

    How do you keep current on the latest research and thinking in your field?

    What is the most valuable lesson that you have gained about working with children/students learning a second language so far in your career?

    What advice would you give to students like myself whose future work may involve supporting children and families, many of whom are bilingual or becoming bilingual?

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