THE ACQUISITION OF ENGLISH L2 BY IMMIGRANT CHILDREN: EAL AND INTERCULTURAL EDUCATION IN MULTILINGUAL IRELAND
Since the 1990s, Ireland has experienced considerable immigration. Currently, 12% of its schoolchildren come from immigrant backgrounds. The majority of these children learn English as a second (additional) language (ESL/EAL). The Irish Department of Education and Skills (DES) provides a programme of English language support for young ESL learners. To guide this programme, English Language Proficiency Benchmarks were developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT), a campus company of Trinity College, Dublin. IILT produced two sets of context-appropriate ‘Benchmarks’, for primary and secondary education, derived from the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This paper focuses on English L2 acquisition in Irish primary schools. It reports on how the primary level Benchmarks describe L2 proficiency development across CEFR levels A1, A2 and B1 in a manner sensitive to age/cognitive stage and curriculum requirements. It discusses assessment resources based on these Benchmarks – a version of the European Language Portfolio (IILT 2004) and the Primary School Assessment Kit (DES 2007). These tools enable assessment of and assessment for learning and promote learner autonomy. Research conducted by the author of this paper (published in 2014) into the relation between learning outcomes expressed in the Benchmarks and immigrant children’s English L2 acquisition is presented. It reports on mixed-methods analysis of data from a longitudinal study of L2 acquisition involving 18 children, aged four to ten years, from ten language backgrounds (including Croatian and Serbian). The children’s acquisition of English oral and literacy skills indicate that the Benchmarks appropriately describe L2 proficiency development. Individual and interactional influences on L2 acquisition and their pedagogical implications are discussed. The paper considers how CEFR-related approaches can support language learning, teaching and assessment in an intercultural educational environment.
International Burch University