Original Research

Development of semantic processes for academic language in foundation phase EAL learners

Heila Letitia Jordaan
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 57, No 1 | a48 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v57i1.48 | © 2010 Heila Letitia Jordaan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 February 2010 | Published: 10 December 2010

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Heila Letitia Jordaan, Speech pathology and Audiology University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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Abstract

It is widely acknowledged that language competence is central to educational success, primarily because literacy is inherently a language based activity. Vocabulary knowledge specifically, plays an important role in the acquisition of reading comprehension skills. Language in education practice in South Africa is currently highly controversial as the implementation of home language or bilingual instruction policies has not been achieved in many schools. The aim of this study was to investigate the development of language skills in foundation phase English Additional Language (EAL) learners attending schools where English is the language of learning and teaching. A three year longitudinal investigation of the acquisition of processes underlying language for academic purposes was undertaken using the semantic subtests of the Developmental Evaluation of Language Variation Criterion Referenced Edition (Seymour, Roeper, and De Villiers, 2003). The results indicated that the majority of EAL learners improved with increased exposure to English in the academic environment and by the time they were in grade 3, were performing at a higher level than English First Language learners in grade 2. However, the effects of this protracted period of development on literacy attainment should be investigated. The significant individual variation in the learners’ performance has implications for assessment and instruction of EAL learners and for the collaborative role of teachers and speech language therapists in the education system.

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