I am a Dual Language Teacher at a school in El Paso, TX. We follow the 90/10 program at our District, which means that the instruction of the second language (in this case Spanish) starts at 90% in kindergarten and 1st grade and only 10% of English. Then as the students progress to higher grades, the percentage of Spanish decreases by 10% every year and the amount of English increases by 10% until a 50/50 instruction in reached by 5th grade.
The setting of our classrooms are 30% monolingual speakers in Spanish, 30% monolingual speakers in English, and a 30% bilingual in both languages, more less.
A colleague of mine from first grade has a monolingual speaker in English who has a speech problem with his “r’s” and ask me if this would be an impediment for this student to continue in the program. I honestly couldn’t answer her question because I don’t know how severe the problem is, but in the overall I would like to know according to the experts how to go about it in this type of situations.
Is it more beneficial to this student to be switched to an English monolingual setting or to keep him in the Dual Language program? What would be more beneficial for English monolingual students with a speech problem. I Hope you can help me!!
Speech issues, like the ‘r’ problem that you mention, are independent of language issues. Enrolling this child in a dual language programme will neither worsen nor improve his speech production. Conversely, having a speech problem will have no effect on his linguistic development in any number of languages.
I agree with you that we cannot judge the severity (or not) of a speech problem without observing the child. Independently of monolingualism or multilingualism, if a speech feature becomes an impediment to overall communication, because of intelligibility issues or because the speaker becomes self-conscious of it, appropriate help can be sought.
Having said this, the facts are that ‘r’ sounds are difficult sounds, in all languages. They are among the latest ones acquired by children, across languages, and many adults go on through life with “non-standard” pronunciations of these sounds – which nevertheless are fully functional and intelligible. This child’s problem may thus not be a problem and simply be a developmental issue that will go away as he grows up. One example is one of my children, who had a very conspicuous lisp, also a speech issue, in all of his three languages up to age 6+, when this feature disappeared from his speech virtually overnight.
Do feel free to contact me privately, if you wish to discuss these matters in greater detail.
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