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How to Overcome Fluency Obstacles when Teaching English to Spanish

Speakers
By: Jessi Strom
As a teacher, our job for ELL students is to ensure they are learning just as
effectively and efficiently as the English speaking students in the classroom. This
can be particularly hard in the aspect of fluency because these students have been
speaking a different primary language that has an altered alphabet and
phonological system than that of English.
The first part of fixing a problem is understanding the source of it. In the case
of fluency, pronunciation is one of the major draw backs to Spanish speakers
proficiency. They use the Latin alphabet which has additional accents over vowels
and an additional letter, . Because of the different sounds of vowels, beginning
ELL students may have a hard time with the vowels- a, e, and I in the English
language. They also have problems with the consonants- h, j, r, and y because of
their completely different sounds in English and Spanish. Spanish has five pure
vowels and five dipthongs, while English has twelve pure vowel sounds and eight
dipthongs. Also, the length of the vowel does not play a significant role in the
Spanish language like it does in English. These contrasting languages and language
rules show how difficult it must be for Spanish learners to be fluent in English
(Shoebottom).
Some ways to increase the productivity of fluency is repetition, repetition,
and more repetition! In a first grade study done on ELL students, they concluded
that oral language and word reading automatically both directly influence oral
reading fluency (Young-Suk 2012). Both of these must be automatic before students
can focus on fluency. With the differences between languages, this will be
something the students have to repeatedly practice in order to reach their full
potential. Beth Autunez adds, The Center for the Improvement of Early Reading
Achievement (CIERA) states that ELLs should learn to read initially in their first
language. If this is not possible, students need to see and hear literally hundreds of
books over a school year in order for fluency to be modeled to them. It is very
important for ELL students to fully understand the basics of fluency and have
models of fluent reading at school since their families at home normally speak
Spanish. The CIERA recommends that ELLs participate in read alongs with skilled
readers and listening repeatedly to books read aloud in order to gain fluency in
English. They also advocate read-alouds of big books which is a proven successful
strategy in improving literacy of ELL students along with beginning readers
(Autunez).
As weve seen, fluency is an extremely large task that requires a lot of time,
repetition, and patience in order to see positive results. As teachers, we must
understand what areas our ELL students are struggling with in terms of

pronunciation, intonation, prosody, or lack of comprehension, and focus on specific


strategies to correct these areas.

(Young-Suk 2012)

Works Cited
Antunez, B. (n.d.). English Language Learners and the Five Essential Components of
Reading Instruction. Retrieved December 6, 2014, from
http://www.readingrockets.org/article/english-language-learners-and-fiveessential-components-reading-instruction
Robertson, K. (2009). Reading 101 for English Language Learners. Retrieved
December 5, 2014, from
http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/33830/#fluency

Shoebottom, P. (n.d.). The differences between English and Spanish. Retrieved


December 5, 2014, from http://esl.fis.edu/grammar/langdiff/spanish.htm
Young-Suk, K. (2012). The relations among L1 (Spanish) literacy skills, L2 (English)
language, L2 text reading fluency, and L2 reading comprehension for
Spanish-speaking ELL first grade students. Learning and Individual
Differences, 22(6), 694-695. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from
ScienceDirect.