Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/4373
This thesis examines what effects early English instruction as a foreign language instruction may have on early literacy development in the first language. English exposure is high in Iceland and in light of recent changes in the curriculum for Icelandic grammar schools, where English instruction begins at ever lower levels; several questions have been left unanswered. Although not much research has been conducted on the possible effects of early L2 instruction on L1 literacy development, a considerable amount of information is available on the interaction of literacy and bilingualism. An overview of available research in those fields will be presented with the goal of shedding light on the possible effects early English instruction may have on students´ first language literacy development.
The essay is focused on examining the factors which influence first language literacy and second language development, in order to better understand what influence each has on the other. A critical aspect to the thesis is the question of whether empirical data confirms the claim that a sensitive period is present for second and foreign language learning and, if so, to find out at what age this period occurs. Even though a sensitive period may be present for second and foreign language learning, it does not seem a guarantee for success in L2 acquisition and, based on the decision of when to commence English teaching, the question is raised whether the first two years of schooling would be better spent developing first language literacy development.
Literacy is the foundation upon which all educational and academic endeavors are built and successful literacy development from the start is the most important educational investment. The general assumption has been made, usually on the basis of the Critical Period Hypothesis, that the younger the language learner, the better. This is not true in all cases, for in order for bilingualism and second language learning to become successful, social interaction must be actively practiced during the time of acquisition. Empirical data does not suggest that there is a difference in success between L2 learners who begin learning at the age of six or later when the learning is limited to a classroom situation. Studies and research results reviewed in this essay have revealed that success in L2 acquisition is governed more by social motivation than a sensitive period for acquisition. The conclusion is that it would be preferable to focus the first two years of school on developing first language literacy skills and moving on to English lessons in the third grade. Enhanced or intact literacy skills would be gained, which would then support second language learning, according to results of the studies examined.
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