First Advisor

Marjorie Terdal

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Teaching English as a Second Language


Spanish language -- Study and teaching (Preschool) -- English speakers -- Immersion method, Second language acquisition



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vi, 211 p.)


Foreign language immersion programs, wherein the regular school curriculum is taught through the foreign language, have become increasingly widespread in recent years. Although there have been a plethora of studies reporting on second language immersion programs involving school-age programs, there is a dearth of information describing such programs for preschoolers. The purpose of this study was to observe and describe an immersion program for three-year-olds, particularly with respect to specific features of early stages of the language acquisition process. The primary area of interest was to determine the existence of and features of a silent period for these children. Secondary goals included analyzing the kinds of speech that emerged in the early stages of language acquisition, to whom it was directed, and the circumstances under which it was produced; discovering when and how the children manifest bilingual awareness; and ascertaining what strategies were used by them for comprehension. Using a qualitative case study approach, eight monolingual three-year-olds attending a Spanish-language immersion school were observed using participant observation methodology for a total of 98.35 hours between September 6, 1994 and March 17, 1995. Classroom observation was supplemented by questionnaires completed by the children's parents, and by interviews of parents. The data generated revealed that although there is wide variation in the amount of speech produced by the children and when it was produced, there was no silent period for most children. These results are inconsistent with the literature which generally assumes that such a period exists. The study also revealed that although language mixing occurred, it appeared to be a function of language dominance and did not reflect mixing in the input. Children used a variety of strategies to make sense of the Spanish surrounding them, the most important of which was attending to context clues. Finally, all the children manifested bilingual awareness at the same time they began to produce Spanish utterances.


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