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ESOL learners: the demands of writing

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Last updated 26 October 2012 15:28 by NZTecAdmin

As with reading, an ESOL learner’s understanding of writing in English is affected by their own cultural background and the literacy practices associated with that culture. Text structure, word order and spelling may be very different in their first language, making any transfer of learning difficult. Refer here for information about the concept of language distance.

It is likely that refugees and some immigrants will have special literacy needs if their prior schooling was disrupted. The schooling that they have received may not have been sufficient for them to establish a strong academic base in their first language. These learners may appear to be quite proficient in English if they have acquired what Cummins75 calls Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) – that is, the verbal fluency in English needed for everyday informal situations. However, they are not likely to have the foundation oral-language and literacy skills to prepare them to produce more abstract, complex and academic texts76 (see Appendix A: Second language learning of reading and writing for further information).

75 Cummins, 1979, 1981.

76 In recognition of the fact that the starting point for the Literacy Progressions assumes basic knowledge and skills, an additional resource has been developed and is due for publication in 2008.


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