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Running Header: ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER INTERVIEW

English Language Learner Interview


Leigh Green
EDES 5200
Loyola Marymount University

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER INTERVIEW

Introduction
Audrey is a third grade student at Corpus Christi school in the Pacific Palisades. As a
current and past student of mine, she is an academically advanced student compared to her
classmates. Audrey is a female student, currently 8 years of age and is the daughter of a happily
married Chinese couple.
Both parents are from the Chinese decent, born out of the states in a rich culture with
high regards for accelerated education. Her grandparents speak only Chinese, with both sides
still residing out of the country. Both mother and father to Audrey are slightly bilingual, with
both parents learning enough English to get by at work. Audrey is also bilingual, speaking both
Chinese and English, with Chinese as her first language and the primary language spoken at
home. Lynne T. Diaz-Rico (2014) explains that 37 percent of students enrolled in a California
school speak a language other than English at home. I chose this student based on these facts and
my observations over the past two years as her teacher in both first and now, third grade.
Background and Socio-Cultural Factors
Audrey's parents both resided in Taiwan, before moving to the states for work, without
knowing the language. The parents are considered very scholarly, picking up English quickly as
a second language and soon gaining a healthy income to raise a family. The family's idea of
literacy is strong in both languages as the parents both consider bilingualism to be an added
stepping stone in their children's future.
When raising Audrey and her siblings, the parents decided to speak only Chinese in
the household, surrounding Audrey with the native tongue as much as possible. At three years of
age, Audrey was immersed in an English speaking preschool and a Chinese school on the
weekends. She only heard her mother speak in English, when reading her to sleep at night. Her

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER INTERVIEW

older brother, very close in age to Audrey, was taught English at the same time. Audreys two
younger brothers are currently learning English in preschool.
Psychological and Cognitive Factors
Years ago, I spoke to her mother during a first grade conference, learning that her mother
tried to fluctuate the readings between the two languages. The mother was not as confident in her
own dialect when it came to reading aloud in English. However, teachers and parents have
noticed Audreys high academics achievements since then, as she has moved from an extremely
quiet girl to the top of the class. Audrey has shown great talent in the subject of art, using her fine
motor skills to build her self-confidence in class. Being a very structured, competitive, and
independent student, Audrey was very quick to point out that her brother is the shy student that
struggles with the English language. Overall, the familys values, including the importance of
education and the acknowledgement and use of their native language and culture, are huge
impacts on the academic success of Audreys second language acquisition.
Analysis
Teaching Audrey in both first and third grade, I've seen a large transition in her English
speaking ability, reading fluency, and sentence structure. Coming from a wealthy community and
family, I credit this to Audreys ability to attend classes at a Chinese school during her formative
years, and continue quality education at a well-known private school. Without the familys
values on education and the additional reading instruction in both languages, Audrey could have
easily fallen behind in the immersion class setting. The Cross-cultural, Language, and Academic
Development Handbook (CLAD Handbook) states that many factors, including prior educational
achievements and the level of first language ability, can affect the way a student learns (DiazRico, 2014).

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER INTERVIEW

Research also shows that proficiency in the students primary language may help a
student succeed (Diaz-Rico, 2014). The additional courses in her native language have helped
Audrey tremendously when it comes to focusing on the structure of a new language as well as
her own. This is known as proficient bilingualism, which is when a student achieves high levels
of proficiency in both home and second language acquisition (Diaz-Rico, 2014). This is
accomplished not only by access to teaching strategies in the classroom, but the benefit of
Audreys family knowing both languages and her mothers use of code switching to maintain
Audreys confident nature, both linguistically and socially.
The lack of standardized testing and placement have also given Audrey a chance to grow
and share with her classmates her language and culture, rather than her being separated or pulled
into an English as a second language (ESL) class.
During the interview, Audrey mentions that she was taught to read in both languages at
the same time. She credits her mother for reading to her at night in English, and yet, not once
makes mention of her current or past teachers in aiding her when learning her second language.
However, when Audrey recalls the organizing activities that involve drawing, she is
acknowledging the use of metacognitive strategies in the classroom. Similarly, she has been
taught to monitor, evaluate, and organize the input she has received with the help of visuals, peer
work, and total physical response, all under an affective filter.
As her teacher, I have utilized her interest in art and of her own culture to engage her
through planning strategies and emotional scaffolding. This is mentioned in the interview as the
Culture Bag, which is an assignment that involves a presentation on each students individual
culture. The assessment is based on multiple forms of representation, with many options of

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER INTERVIEW


expression by the student. Funds of Knowledge have also been utilized by bringing in Audreys
mother to discuss more about the language and culture during social studies lessons.
Strategies used in the past by her teachers were not as obvious to Audrey, because the
language surrounded her early on in her childhood. This is not the norm for most English
language learners in California. The CLAD Handbook states that in 2010, California had a
population of more than one million limited-English proficient over the age of five (Diaz-Rico,
2014). After the interview, it became clear that Audrey is unaware of the different types of
schooling other children may experience compared to her private school and supplemental
education. As her teacher, I hope Audreys education continues on the path to academic
achievements.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER INTERVIEW

Interview
1. How old are you? 8 years old
2. When did your family move here and from where? My mom and dad are from Taiwan.
3. Do your parents both speak Chinese and English? Yes, they learned English. But, my
grandparents do not (know English.)
4. What is the primary language at home? Chinese. Unless, I'm talking to the nanny, then it's
in English. But, she speaks mostly Spanish and I don't know enough (Spanish.)
5. How often do you speak English at home? Only when I'm talking to my older brother or
when I'm reading to my baby brothers. They are learning English in preschool now.
6. When did you remember learning English for the first time? Right before preschool, my
mom started reading to me in English. Then, I learned how to read some stuff in preschool,
so I started to pick things up. My older brother also practiced with me.
7. When did you first attend school? I went to Chinese school first, preschool for two years,
and then, kindergarten.
8. Did anyone speak Chinese at the preschool? No. They were all English (speakers). Some
kids spoke Spanish.
9. Do you get nervous when you have to speak at school or in social settings? No. I have
always been quiet, so my friends do most of the talking, which helps. My brother gets really
nervous though.
10. Were there separate classes you took in school, preschool or here at Corpus? Chinese
school started at 4-5 years old, where I learned to read and write Chinese. My mom helped
me with the English. But, I dont go anymore (to Chinese school.)

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER INTERVIEW

11. Did you find any of these languages difficult to learn? I didn't write in English at first, so
that helped. I wrote mostly the alphabet when I was little, which is why my handwriting is
good. It was mostly just reading it (English), which is easy when you sound out words. In
preschool, they let me write my name in Chinese. I still write Chinese horizontally, though.
Unless I'm writing to my grandmother in Taiwan.
12. Is there a situation you can describe in which you didn't understand the languages or
cultures surrounding you? My first play date and not taking off my shoes were very strange.
Also, I didnt have a lot of American friends before school, and I remember everyone being
very talkative and hyper compared to my brother and me.
13. What are some things you wish your classmates knew about your culture? I'd like to
describe Chinese foods, because it's hard to describe and the traditional Chinese foods are
different from the American version.
14. What are some strategies that your teachers and/or parents have used to help you with
any language barriers? For example, was anything labeled for you in Chinese at the
preschool? I watched educational shows to learn English, like Word World. They spell out
things that then become the matching images. Just reading to me mostly. Pointing, too. I
think it helped that I learned to read in both languages at the same time. I really like the
organizing stuff, with the pictures, too. We still do that a lot, which is why I like to draw so
much.
15. Can you describe the major differences between English and your native language? And
is it difficult to switch over? One main difference is the characters you use when writing and
you read top to bottom, starting on the right. Which, is why I write Chinese horizontally and I
struggle with writing Chinese more. English, you just sound it out.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER INTERVIEW

16. When a teacher talks to you about your culture or a classmate asks questions, how does it
make you feel? Good. I like sharing Chinese language and culture in class.
17. Have you ever felt like you were different or singled out by a classmate or teacher? Every
one in class and in the past has been accepting of my culture and language. They see me as
the same. But, I have always felt like I look different.
18. Tell me one thing your classmates might say about your language and culture. They
think its exciting to learn how to write and speak new languages. For example, the culture
bag and when mom came in and taught on Chinese New Year.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER INTERVIEW


References
Diaz-Rico, L. (2014). The Cross-cultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook: A
Complete K-12 Reference Guide. 5th Edition. Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN 978-0-13285520-4