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Glossary

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A

academic vocabulary

Academic vocabulary refers to the terms that are common across a range of academic areas, but not often used in everyday contexts. It includes the vocabulary required to cope with classroom discussion and curriculum content.

additive view of bilingualism

The view that bilingualism is additive is based on the key principle of language interdependence and is, consequently, the most successful view, educationally, for bilingual students. The time and effort spent using the first language is regarded as increasing the possibility of achieving good levels of proficiency in the second language and in school learning.

argument

The purpose of an argument text is to persuade the reader to agree with a point of view.

B

balanced bilinguals

People who are able to use their two languages equally or with equal levels of proficiency are sometimes referred to as balanced bilinguals.

barrier activities

See split information activities, which were originally called barrier activities because two people sat on either side of a screen or barrier to prevent them seeing each other’s material.

biliterate

A person who is biliterate is able to read and write (as well as speak) in two languages. Sometimes bilingual people speak two languages, but only read and write in one of them. (See also biliteracy.)

C

closed outcome (for language-learning task)

A language-learning task has a closed outcome when only certain outcomes or solutions are correct. Problem-solving tasks often have closed outcomes, while role-play and interviews generally have an open outcome.

code switching

It is common for bilinguals to switch between languages in a single sentence or conversation. This is called code switching or code mixing. There is nearly always a reason for code switching, as bilinguals (including children) make sophisticated and subtle distinctions in their messages by using their two (or more) languages in this way. Code switching may also be used to compensate for a lack of knowledge in a new language. Learners use a word or phrase from their first language when they don’t know the word or phrase in the second language. This is a natural part of language learning, particularly in the early stages, and plays a crucial role in language development.

cognitive flexibility

There are two key areas related to cognitive flexibility. One is divergent thinking. This is often measured by providing a person with a starting point for thought and asking them to generate a whole series of permissible solutions. (For example, “Think of a paper clip and tell me all the things you could do with it.”) The other area is convergent thinking, which is measured by tests that provide a number of pieces of information a person must synthesise to arrive at the correct answer. Researchers report that bilingual people are consistently superior to their monolingual counterparts in both divergent and convergent thinking tests. 

collocation

A collocation consists of two or more words that are commonly associated in a particular language, such as "read about" or "white lies". A word may take on a specific meaning when collocated with certain other words.

communicative sensitivity

Communicative sensitivity relates to participants’ level of awareness about what is going on in any particular language interaction. Bilingual people tend to be more communicatively aware because they are used to thinking about which language to use in which situation and to which person. They also have to pick up clues and cues about when to switch languages. The research literature suggests that this may give a bilingual person increased sensitivity to the social nature and communicative functions of language. 

consecutive bilinguals

Consecutive bilinguals are those people who learned their second language (or further additional languages) after their first, usually through schooling and/or as the result of shifting to another country or language context. They are also sometimes referred to as sequential bilinguals.

convergent thinking

Convergent thinking is the ability to synthesise a number of pieces of information to arrive at the correct answer. Research has found that bilingual learners consistently perform better than monolingual learners in both divergent and convergent thinking tests. (See also divergent thinking.)

cooperative learning

In cooperative learning, students work together, sharing material, supporting each other, and taking joint responsibility for the outcome of the learning tasks. The cooperative learning approach emphasises the development of positive interdependence between group members, interpersonal skills, effective face-to-face oral communication, individual accountability, and group and individual processing and reflection. (See www.co-operation.org .)

D

deficit thinking

Sometimes differences in achievement by Pasifika students have been "explained" by attributing the problem to the students’ bilingualism, their families, or their community background. The student is considered to have a lack or deficit (in themselves or their background) that prevents them from reaching high levels of academic performance. This view is incorrect. (See also subtractive view of bilingualism.)

divergent thinking

Divergent thinking is the ability to generate a whole series of permissible solutions from a given starting point – for example, if a person was asked to: “Think of a paper clip and tell me all the things you could do with it.” Research has found that bilingual learners consistently perform better than monolingual students in both divergent and convergent thinking. (See also convergent thinking.)

domains

Language domains are different contexts of use for languages – for example, education, church/religion, family, friends, and employment. Bilingual people often use their first and second languages in different domains.

E

EAL (English as an additional language)

EAL refers to students who are adding English to the languages they already know, usually at the same time as they are learning with English as the medium of instruction. Other acronyms such as ESOL and ESL are also used to describe students in this group.

enhanced input

This is the type of input students receive when we take a text they are working with and highlight examples of a particular feature we want them to pay attention to.

ESL (English as a second language)

The term ESL is not used as much as in the past because many students who are learning English learn it as a third or fourth language. In addition, if they are bilingual Pasifika children growing up in New Zealand, they may learn English from early infancy, even if the main language spoken in the home is a Pasifika language. (See also simultaneous bilinguals.)

ESOL (English for speakers of other languages)

These terms are inter-changeable. A student may have 2, 3, 4, etc languages so for them, English is an additional language ( EAL). They are instructed in English as speakers of other languages (ESOL)

exchange of information

This is an important feature of language-learning tasks. Exchanging information affects how students interact and therefore also affects the opportunities they have to use and learn new language. If students can complete a language-learning task only by telling each other certain things, then there is an exchange of information. (See also one-way exchange, two-way exchange, shared information activities, and split information activities.)

explicit feedback

Explicit feedback is clearly and fully expressed. For example, explicit feedback from a teacher to a student clearly signals to the student what the feedback is commenting on, what the teacher’s comment is, and what the student should do about it. 

F

feedback (on language usage)

When a teacher or peers give feedback on language usage to a student, they respond to what the student has said or written. For example, the feedback that comes from a peer may be in the form of checks for comprehension or requests for repetition or clarification. The teacher may make a correction or explain the mistake. Feedback on language usage can be explicit or implicit.

field independence

Field independence is the visual ability to see an overall pattern as well as its component parts. As children grow to maturity, they become more field independent. Bilingual students tend to be more field independent at a younger age.

G

generic patterning

Generic patterning refers to the patterns associated with using language to achieve particular purposes and is realised in different text types. (See also genres below.)

genres

The term "genres" describes different patterns found in spoken and written discourse. Written language, like oral language, fulfils different purposes. Those purposes arise over and over again. Some language features and some text structures are particularly associated with expressing specific purposes, and occur again and again. These repetitions are referred to as generic patterning and the distinctive patterns that can be recognised in written texts are referred to as genres or text types.

H

high-frequency vocabulary

High-frequency words are those that occur most commonly in speech and writing. For everyday interaction, about 2000 different high-frequency words are enough to get by with. Examples of the highest frequency words are "a", "the", "of", "and", "in", "if", and "this".

hypothesis testing (of new language)

Learners use their language output as a way of trying out new language forms to see if they are understood and accepted by other people. In other words, they engage in hypothesis testing, trying out something they think might express what they want to say. They find out whether it works or not from the responses and feedback provided by others.

I

implicit feedback (on language usage)

Implicit feedback is feedback that is implied but not plainly or directly expressed. For example, implicit feedback on language usage from a teacher to a student might be of the following types: The teacher repeats what the student said in a better or more complete way (a recast); the teacher says they couldn’t understand what the student meant; the teacher asks the student to check the work; or the teacher gives no response to what the student has said. (See also explicit feedback)

information transfer

In information transfer, the information in a text is transferred to a table or diagram (either provided by the teacher or generated by students). In the process, the text becomes reduced and its content is presented in a partly graphic or visual form. This may mean that the language features are linked with the information structure as well as the ideas of the text. (See also exchange of information, one-way exchange, two-way exchangeshared information, and split information activities.)

inquiry chart

An inquiry chart is a grid or table designed to guide students to locate particular information in different texts, to compare that information with their prior knowledge, and then to summarise the information.

interaction

In language learning, interaction refers to learners communicating with other people using the language they are learning. Usually it refers to spoken interaction, either in informal conversation or discussion, or in language-learning tasks and activities. Spoken interaction is an important source of learning. (See also interaction hypothesis.)

L

L1

L1 refers to the first language a person learns and uses in their family.

L2

L2 refers to the second language a person learns. Many bilingual children who grow up in bilingual families learn two languages from the time they are babies. There may not be a strong distinction made between their first and second languages. Other bilingual children may not begin to learn much of their second language until they go to school or migrate to another country.

language acquisition

Language acquisition refers mainly to acquiring language "naturally". When we acquire new language, we learn it through natural processes rather than through being taught and studying it. You acquire your first language as a child largely through natural processes such as noticing, imitating, hypothesis testing, and uptake of feedback. A lot of what students learn in a second language is acquired through the same natural processes. However, "language acquisition" is also used to refer to second language learning in the classroom context because some of the language learning in this context still takes place through the natural processes of acquisition as well as through formal teaching and learning processes.

language appropriateness

To be able to communicate competently, learners have to learn what type of language use is appropriate for different contexts. Different language is appropriate according to factors such as the formality of the context, the age and status of other people, and the activities being undertaken.

language domains

Language domains are different contexts of use for languages – for example, education, church/religion, family, friends, and employment. Bilingual people often use their first and second languages in different domains.

language interdependence

The two languages a bilingual child learns are interconnected. This means that the level of competence a child attains at a certain point in a second language is largely dependent on the level of competence already achieved in their first language.

language modes

Speaking, listening, reading, writing, viewing, and presenting are sometimes referred to as the modes of language use. There are two oral language modes, two written language modes, and two visual language modes. There are three modes for the production of language (speaking, writing, and presenting) and three modes for its comprehension (listening, reading, and viewing).

language proficiency

A student’s proficiency in a language is a measure of how well they can use the language. Usually, an overall indication of proficiency is not very meaningful. We want to know students’ proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening, and we also want to know their proficiency in different contexts and types of language (for example, academic, conversational, or work related).

language use

Language use refers to how, where, when, and with whom a person uses language.

log

A language log is a record of language experiences or activities, such as a reading log or a writing log.

low-frequency vocabulary

Low-frequency words are those that are not often used. While these words may appear a number of times within one text (and be important for an understanding of that text), readers are not likely to meet them again for a long time.

M

metalinguistic awareness

Metalinguistic awareness is the ability to analyse language, particularly language forms, to understand how they work and how they are integrated into the wider language system. It is knowledge about language, and it can be demonstrated at various different levels: phonological awareness (the understanding of sound units), word awareness, and syntactic (or grammatical) awareness. Bilinguals may have greater metalinguistic awareness because, in working with more than one language simultaneously, they need to be more aware of how those languages are similar and, very importantly, how they differ.

metatalk

Metatalk is learners’ talk about language while they are using it for a purpose. They might clarify when and where to use certain words or forms, and how to use them. They are talking about the language they should use.

modes

Speaking, listening, reading, writing, viewing, and presenting are sometimes referred to as the modes of language use. There are two oral language modes, two written language modes, and two visual language modes. There are three modes for the production of language (speaking, writing, and presenting) and three modes for its comprehension (listening, reading, and viewing).

multiply linked texts

Multiply linked texts are those that have many links with many other texts. They are often web-based. 

N

noticing

Noticing is one of the natural processes that help learners to learn new language forms or features. Learners notice something in the language they are learning because they need it to express what they want to say or write (their output). Teachers can assist by drawing language forms and features to their students’ attention.

O

output

Language output is the language learners say or write. Current research indicates that learners need to engage in speaking and writing to learn language most effectively. (See also input.)

P

Pasifika (sometimes spelt Pasefika)

The term used to refer to the people, cultures, and language of Pacific groups who are now living in New Zealand. It replaces the term "Polynesian" because the latter did not distinguish sufficiently between Māori and Pacific groups in New Zealand, or between Pacific peoples living in New Zealand and those who still live in the Pacific Islands.

R

recast

A recast is reformulation, or repetition in different words, of either the whole or part of the learner’s statement that contains an error.

reciprocal teaching of reading

Reciprocal teaching of reading is often used when students are working with written texts that they need to process. Reciprocal teaching was developed by Palincsar and Brown and involves students jointly taking responsibility for their understanding, learning, and learning processes. (See Reciprocal Teaching at http://esolonline.tki.org.nz/ESOL-Online/Teacher-needs/Pedagogy/ESOL-teaching-strategies/Reading/Cooperative-reading-Reciprocal-teaching.)

S

second language learning delay

It generally takes approximately 2 years for a child’s conversational ability or surface fluency in a second language to develop, but it can take 5 to 8 years or more before all the academic skills required to cope with classroom language and curriculum content are developed. Consequently, bilingual students may have highly developed conversational skills in, for example, English, yet still perform poorly in school if their academic language skills remain underdeveloped. This is known as the second-language learning delay.

sequential bilinguals

Consecutive bilinguals are those people who learned their second language (or further additional languages) after their first, usually through schooling and/or as the result of shifting to another country or language context. They are also sometimes referred to as sequential bilinguals.

simultaneous bilinguals

Simultaneous bilinguals learn both of their languages from childhood, rather than learning one language before starting to learn the other.

speech community

The people who speak a shared language and the contexts they speak it in are referred to as a speech community – for example, “the Tongan speech community in New Zealand”.

split information activities

The important feature of split information activities is that each student has only part of the information they need to complete a given task. Because of this, they must cooperate and share their information by speaking or writing to each other. This means that all students participate. Split information activities are also known as information gap activities. (See also barrier activities, shared information activities, and strip story.)

strip story

This is a type of split information activity where each student is given part of a story or other text, which they have to memorise. They then talk together until they have reconstructed the complete text, in the correct order, from memory. To do this, they have to repeat each sentence many times.

subtractive view of bilingualism

For people who take the view that bilingualism is subtractive, a student’s first language is regarded as "interfering" with the learning of a second language such as English and is actively discouraged. The time (and effort) spent using the first language is regarded as subtracting from the possibility of achieving good levels of proficiency in the second language and in school learning. If one language, such as English, is regarded in the wider society as the only one worth knowing, then the ability to use, or even maintain, another language is inevitably diminished, as is the potential for bilingualism. When this happens, a "subtractive bilingual context" develops. This approach, however, ignores the key principle of language interdependence and consequently is the least successful educationally for bilingual students.

T

technical words

Technical words are the subject-specific words from a student’s curriculum learning and are associated with particular academic subjects. "Photosynthesis" is an example of a technical word.

text type

The distinctive patterns that can be recognised in written texts relate to particular purposes for writing and are referred to as text types or genres.

two-way exchange

Split information activities require a two-way exchange of information. If the learners are working in pairs, each of them has to give information to the other, and both have to receive and understand information. The task cannot be completed unless they both participate in this way.

U

uptake

Learners do not all pick up on all of the feedback that they receive about their language performance; in fact, they generally pick up on, or take up, only about one-third of the changes suggested by other people. This process of taking up feedback and acting on it is called uptake.

W

writing frames

“A writing frame consists of a skeleton outline given to students to scaffold their nonfiction writing. The skeleton framework consists of different key words or phrases, according to the particular generic form. The template of starters, connectives, and sentence modifiers that constitute a writing frame gives students a structure within which they can concentrate on communicating what they want to say while it scaffolds them in the use of a particular generic form. By using the form students become increasingly familiar with it.” (From Wray and Lewis, “An approach to factual writing – An invited article” retrieved from Reading Online on 11 January 2006.)

Z

zone of proximal development (ZPD)

A learner’s zone of proximal development is where the learner cannot yet complete the work independently, but can complete it when they have appropriate support. The expression comes from Vygotsky, who saw learning as an intrinsically social process, happening through the relationships between people. It is based on the premise that what we can do and learn with the support of others exceeds what we can do on our own. 


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