Place of First Language

The Australian and international TESOL fields argue that the maintenance and ongoing development of a student’s first language (L1) provides learners with a solid base from which to acquire an additional language.

Awareness of the positive influences associated with supporting L1 development is particularly important for young learners. Older learners actively draw on knowledge of their first language and its structure, conceptual and content knowledge held in this language and their L1 literacy skills when learning a subsequent language. However younger learners do not yet have this depth of knowledge to draw on and without appropriate support they are at risk of failing to acquire full proficiency in either their first language or the main language of school instruction.

The following references explore the role of maintaining a learner’s first language in relation to the acquisition of English:

  • Bialystok, E. (2001). Bilingualism in development: Language, literacy and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Cross, R. (2009). Literacy for All: Quality language education for few. Language and Education,  23 (6) 509-522.
  • Cummins, J. (1991). Interdependence of first- and second-language proficiency in bilingual children. In E. Bialystok (Ed.), Language processing in bilingual children (pp. 70 - 89). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Cummins, J. (2007). Rethinking monolingual instructional strategies in multilingual classrooms. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(2), 221-240.
  • de Courcy, M. C. & Yue, H. (2009). Children¹s experiences of multiple script literacy. In A. Mahboob & C. Lipovsky (Eds.) Studies in applied linguistics and language learning. (pp. 244-270). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • de Courcy, M. C. (2007). Multilingualism, literacy and the acquisition of English as an additional language among Iraqi refugees in regional Victoria. University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 2, 1-31.
  • de Courcy, M. C. (2006). The effect of literacy in Hebrew on the acquisition of English. Babel: Journal of the AFMLTA, 41(2), 4-9, 38.
  • Lo Bianco, J. (2009), Second Languages and Australian Schooling: Review and Proposals, Australian Education Review 54, Camberwell, Vic: Australian Council for Education Research.
  • McKay, P., Davies, A., Devlin, B., Clayton, J., Oliver, R., & Zammit, S. (1997). The Bilingual Interface Project report: the relationship between first language development and second language acquisition as students begin learning English in the context of schooling. Canberra: Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DEETYA).
  • Molyneux, P. (2009). Education for biliteracy: Maximising the linguistic potential of diverse learners in Australia's primary schools. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 32(2), 97 - 117.
  • Ramírez, J. D., Yuen, S. D., & Ramey, D. R. (1991). Final report: Longitudinal study of English immersion strategy, early-exit and late-exit transitional bilingual education programs for language-minority children (No. Contract No. 300-87-0156). San Mateo, CA: Aguirre International.
  • Slavin, R. E., & Cheung, A. (2003). Effective reading programs for English language learners: A best-evidence synthesis. Baltimore, MD: CRESPAR/Johns Hopkins University.
  • Thomas, W. P., & Collier, V. P. (1997). School effectiveness for language minority students. Washington, D.C.: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.
  • Thomas, W. P., & Collier, V. P. (2002). A national study of school effectiveness for language minority students' long-term academic achievement. Santa Cruz, CA: Center for Research  on Education, Diversity and Excellence (CREDE).
  • Miller, J, Mitchell J, Brown J African refugees with interrupted schooling in the high school mainstream


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