Component 4: Language Development of Dual Language Learners

Learning Goal 4.a: Young children attend to, understand, and respond to increasingly complex language as well as a range of topics and types of texts (including digital texts) in English.

In early-stage English language development, children:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of age-appropriate language usage related to conversational as well as basic and advanced concepts in the home language but will not know all the same words in their home language and in English
  • Attend to English oral language in both real and pretend activities, relying on the intonation, facial expressions, or gestures of the speaker in the same way that they attend to their home oral language
  • Begin to attend to and participate in English language small- and large-group activities, such as circle time, storybook reading, etc.
  • Begin to follow simple directions in English, especially when they are accompanied by contextual cues, such as gestures, pointing, and voice modulation

In mid-stage English language development, children:

  • Make progress in their home language
  • Demonstrate an understanding of English words for objects and actions and of English phrases encountered frequently in both real and pretend activities
  • Demonstrate an understanding of English words related to basic concepts (e.g., colors, some animal classifications, foods, etc.)
  • Respond appropriately to requests in English that involve one-step directions (e.g., “clean up”) when personally directed by others (these requests may occur with or without contextual cues)

In late-stage English language development, children:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of a larger set of words in English (for objects and actions, personal pronouns, and possessives) in both real and pretend activities
  • Demonstrate an understanding of words in English related to more advanced concepts (e.g., abstract emotions and ideas)
  • Follow directions that involve a one- or two-step sequence, relying less on contextual cues

Note: Unlike most of the other developmental progressions in this document, the indicators for English language development (or for development in any other language) do not follow specific age thresholds. Children who become dual language learners are exposed to their second language for the first time at different ages. As a result, one child may start the process of developing English language skills at birth and another child may start at age four, making the age thresholds inappropriate. So instead of using age, The Standards use research-based stages to outline a child’s progress in English language development. It is important to note that there is no set time for how long it will take a given child to progress through these stages. Progress depends upon the unique characteristics of the child, his or her exposure to English in the home and other environments, the child’s motivation to learn English, and other factors.