The Literacy Development and English as a Second Language

The Literacy Development and English as a Second Language

Over the past decades, English become a global “lingua franca”, learning English will provide personal, social professional and economic opportunities to every individual. Nowadays, global interdependence takes place in the international community, the ability to speak and understand English is also a manifestation that you can easily know and adapt to that culture. A person who knows other languages can lessen the gap between cultures in order to promote understanding and personal and professional competence.

It is not necessary to attend formal school in order to learn the English language; there is now what we called ESL (English Second Language) education. ESL is an online academic language program which majority helps non-native English speaker in a non-English speaking country to acquire cheaper and real-time foreign language educational experience. This paper focuses on how literacy will develop children language acquisition through ESL education. The English alphabet and phonetics combined with visual and auditory arrangement were the focus of ESL program for children. ESL program also emphasize the broad use and importance of computer, it plays a large role in applying ESL programs not only for children but as well as for all ages.

According to the Workforce Investment Act, 1998 of the United States of America, a literate individual has the ability to read and write, able to converse in English, has the capacity to solve, compute, answer and explain problems essential in order to function very well on the work or job, in the family of the individual, and most importantly to become productive citizen of the society.

To attain success in learning it depends on the ability of the student to acquire and utilize information, these are necessary in literacy development of the students (Okonkwo, 2008, p.2). According to the research conducted by Susan Watts-Taffe and Diane M. Truscott about Language and Literacy Development for ESL Students, learning English language should practice and use throughout the day. This way language in everyday activities extends in order to use and practice for development. The researchers included basic lessons how children learn language such as reading, writing, listening, speaking, and thinking develop in an integrated manner and language learning proceeds best when children use language for meaningful purposes (cited in Au & Taffe & Truscott, 2004, p.2). Meaningful language use is influenced by an individual’s prior experience, culture, motivation, and goals (cited in Delpit & Taffe & Truscott, 2004, p.2). Language learning proceeds best when children are encouraged to take risks, experiment, and make mistakes (cited in Wells & Taffe & Truscott, 2004, p.2) and modeling and scaffolding are critical to successful language learning (cited in Roehler & Cantlon & Taffe & Truscott, 2004, p.2). Learning language takes place in formal and informal social situations, social language skills also refers as the basic interpersonal communication skills wherein the language is needed by children when interacting with playmates during games on the playground (cited in Cummins & Taffe & Truscott, 2004, p.2). These interpersonal communication skills constitute facial expressions, body language and different gestures, this type of communication has many language clues that can be understand even without spoken words. However, focusing on grammar and vocabulary in teaching and learning language is not required for language proficiency (Taffe & Truscott, 2004, p.2). Content-driven teaching may result to failure to engage in real conversation and dialogue about the substance. On the other hand, content still an important component in language development and competence among ESL students. According to research of Collier and Cummins (1994), the social language skills rapidly develop more than the academic language skills.

Their research pointed out that it social language skills will take two years to develop while learning language through the use of academic or content-embedded takes an average of five to seven years (Taffe & Truscott, 2004, p.4). According to the resource guide Ontario curriculum from Grade 1-8 of the Ministry of Education of Canada (2001, p.9), there are factors influencing second language acquisition such as the student’s age, effects of personal and psychological disturbance which may possibly result to difficulties like natural disaster and family problems and the student’s adaptation to the new culture and also the previous student exposure to the English language.

There are stages of second language acquisition for ESL students wherein students undergo different stages to develop literary skills and knowledge. These predictable and accurate stages experience by ESL learners as they learn and develop literacy knowledge and skills to become proficient in the English language. On the first stage, students recognize sounds, rhythms and patterns of the English language and they were figuring out the meaning of those patterns in order to understand the message. During the second stage, students are confidently responding to familiar contexts and activities, however during the third stage, students understanding increase evident in their capacity to produce phrases and sentences. Acquired vocabulary words can now use, explain, compare and describe by the students. Students in the fourth stage of learning English language are able to use their skills in reading and writing to understand concepts but during this stage students’ knowledge and skills in literacy are still developing.

According to Donato in his book entitled Collective scaffolding in second language learning (1994)

ESL education suggests that for ESL students, just as for native English speaking students, English-language learning should take place in conjunction with the learning of academic content (Taffe & Truscott, 2004, p.5).

Academic instruction should not delay or suspend in order to become proficient in English language. Delpit quoted what Teale said in the interview conducted (1991) in his book Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom (1995) that

Literacy is not something you can teach apart from literate behavior. You don’t learn to read; you learn to read something, and you read something because you want to know something, enjoy a text, or participate in a group.

It is much more important to translate or transfer what the student learned inside the classroom into the real-life situation and circumstances. Learning materials should be relevant to the learners according to their needs. However, learning languages through media is also effective and the most cheaper and accessible so far in terms of acquiring education, however there are also materials such as newspapers that are useful learning sources for literacy development given the fact that they touch issues and real life situations useful for developing life coping skills. The traditional sources in teaching literacy are not enough and sufficient in today’s information driven world. Learning English brings one person open to different view and this will result to intellectual growth and development. Therefore ESL education offers an innovation to meet the educational needs of a diverse population in English speaking countries as well as non-English speaking countries.


Burgess, L. A. & Strong, S. D. (2003). Trends in Online Education: Case Study at Southwest Missouri State University. Journal of Industrial Technology, 19, 1-5.

Canadian Ministry of Education (2001). English As a Second Language And English Literacy Development. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from

National Center for ESL Literacy Education (2000). Adult ESL Language and Literacy Instruction: A Vision and Action Agenda for the 21st Century. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from

Okonkwo, U. (2008). Using Authentic Texts to Accelerate Literacy Development. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from

Taffe, S. & Truscott, D. (2004). Focus on Research Using What We Know about Language and Literacy Development for ESL Students in the Mainstream Classroom. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from

Turner, F. & Crews, J. (2005). Bricks and Clicks: A Comparative Analysis of Online and Traditional Education Settings. Retrieved March 31, 2009, from

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