If you’d like to know more about ELLs who were born in the United States, read Debra Suarez’s review of the research on these students in the summer issue of the Heritage Language Journal. (Click on the second article in the Table of Contents.)
Ms. Suarez, an associate professor for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, writes that in the 1991-1992 school year, a researcher found that about one-third of ELLs were born in the United States; in 2006, another researcher found that proportion had nearly doubled to 64 percent.
As an aside, I’ll note here that officials from the Los Angeles school district mentioned when they stopped by Education Week‘s offices on Friday to talk with reporters and editors that 78 percent of the ELLs in their school district were born in the United States.
Ms. Suarez highlights how researchers have found that while many second-generation immigrants would like to keep their native language and culture, they overwhelmingly prefer to use English in their daily lives. A large body of research, she says, shows that keeping one’s native language is beneficial for “academic achievement, cognitive development, social and psychological growth, and family relationships.”
Hence, she writes, educators should be interested in helping ELLs to keep their native languages. And she implies that supporting students in this endeavor shouldn’t be the job only of bilingual teachers. Teachers of English as a second language can encourage students to use their native languages for some classroom activities and help students to value and develop bilingualism as well, she says.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.