Matthew Lynch published an article today in Education News entitled Supporting English Language Learners I applaud his recognition of the need for supporting English language learners in the classroom. I think his intentions were good. From the list of publications at the bottom of the article, it is apparent that Lynch is knowledgeable in many areas of education but there is much he does not know about teaching ELLs. I left a short comment on his blog but I could have written a book. Wait! I did write several books on this topic.
The topic of teaching English language learners has become very hot over the last year. Many educators who are known in other fields of education are jumping on the bandwagon and publishing information that is dated or not in line with current research.
Lynch seems to assume that ELLs can learn English using technology out of the classroom but that they shouldn't use translators in the class because "There is some debate however as to whether or not these forms of assistive technology actually defeat the purpose of English language learning."
Language is not "soaked up.” English language learners must be able to understand the communication that is conveyed by the teacher. They need comprehensible input. We need to use every tool that we have to provide comprehensible input to ELLs including translators.
Lynch ignores the role of literacy in native language in second language acquisition.(Thomas & Collier, 1997) ELLs who become literate in native language first learn to read and write in English more quickly. Lynch's article implies that ELLs should not use their native language in learning English.