Here are some resources to help teachers understand both their students with dialects and their emerging bilinguals’ language development. For example, instead of asking “Why do I think this is incorrect grammar?” ask “Why do my students use language this way?” As you study the International Phonetic Alphabet and develop awareness that grammar is a cultural and social construct, you will begin to see the logic of dialects and of English language learners’ “mistakes” so will be better prepared to support their learning.

I Am American



Topic/Term What is it?  Examples
External Links
Semanitics is the branch of linguistics concerned with meaning.



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“Phonology is the study of sound how speech sounds are structured based on rules in a given language” (Razfar & Rumenapp, 2014).

“The alphabet was developed as a way to describe the sounds of a language, so one who knew the symbols could understand the sounds they represented.”

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Fun link!

morphology “Morphology is the study of a language’s morphemes and the rules governing its transformations for communicative purposes” (Razfar & Rumenapp, 2014, p. 112)


In contrast, etymology deals with word origins, often by tracing its development over time.



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Etymology Nerd

Syntax “On the basic level, syntax is concerned with how languages build sentences” (Razfar & Rumenapp, 2014, p. 86).

Consider this:

“Disaggregating syntax from the social and cultural relationships that govern its communicative uses severs the connection between linguistic form, function, and meaning” (Razfar & Rumenapp, 2014, p. 100)

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and see

Blog Post

pragmatics “The area of linguistics that puts meaning into context is called pragmatics.” –Taylor, from Crash Course Linguistics

Consider this:

The Cooperative Principle
“Whenever someone says something that doesn’t make sense at a literal level, we can figure out or infer what else they might have meant” (assuming cooperation).
–Taylor, from Crash Course Linguistics

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sociolinguistics “Looking at the social element of language, and how language forms part of our identity, is the study of sociolinguistics.” –Taylor, from Crash Course Linguistics Learn Here
World Englishes “The term World Englishes refers to the differences in the English language that emerge as it is used in various contexts across the world. Scholars of World Englishes identify the varieties of English used in different sociolinguistic contexts, analyzing their history, background, function, and influence.” —Purdue Online Writing Lab Learn Here
Neighbors Phonetics, stress and intonation (musicality) patterns, and the phonetic environment have everything to do with pronunciation. “Phonetic environment refers to the surrounding sounds of a target speech sound, or target phone, in a word” (Wikipedia)

Phonetics is the art of pronunciation. It is a system of speech sounds.

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and listen:

International Phonetic Alphabet All speech sounds of every language in the world are summarized in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). “In the IPA, each symbol stands for a distinct sound in a language.” (Razfar & Rumenapp, 2014, p. 43) Learn Here
morpheme Morphemes Learn Here
When considering parts of speech, we must understand their structural, semantic, and functional characteristics.

Consider this:

“Every language is different. In English, an adjective comes before a noun (“red house”), whereas in Spanish, the adjective comes after (“casa [house] roja [red].”) In German, you can put noun after noun together to form giant compound words; in Chinese, the pitch of your voice determines the meaning of your words; in American Sign Language, you can convey full, grammatical sentences with tense and aspect by moving your hands and face. But all languages have structural underpinnings that make them logical for the people who speak and understand them.” [Source]

Semantics to Syntax


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Range of Written Genres Did you know? Language features vary according to the genre of a text.

For example, an explanatory text is typically written in simple present tense. “Hedgehogs wake up again in the spring.”

On the other hand, an adventure story usually has a cinematic quality, with powerful, evocative vocabulary and strong, varied verbs for action scenes. “He leaped from his horse, charged into the banquet hall and hurtled himself onto the table where the prince was devouring a chicken.” 


Windows & Mirrors

Understanding genres has application to the classroom. When students write, we can learn about them. When students read, they need to have the same connection to the text that they would if they wrote from their personal reality.

Communicative Competence “Success in language learning means being able to understand and convey real meaning in actual communication situations, not (necessarily) being able to use the language exactly as a native speaker does.”


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and see

Graphic by Leigh

sociolinguistic competence “The ability to adjust one’s speech to fit the situation in which it is said is called sociolinguistic competence.”



Great explanations begin at 04:28.
inconsistencies “Why is it that writers write and painters paint, but fingers don’t fing?  Why don’t grocers groce, why don’t hammers ham, and why don’t dumpsters dumpst? If teachers have taught, why haven’t preachers praught?  If a vegetarian eats vegetables, then what does a humanitarian eat?  Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.  In what kind of language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?  Must we ship by transport and transport by ship?  Who else has noses that run and feet that smell?”


On Spelling:

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dialects “Worldwide, some mutually understandable ways of speaking, which one might think of as “dialects” of one language, are actually treated as separate languages. At the same time, some mutually incomprehensible tongues an outsider might view as separate “languages” are thought of locally as dialects.”


Various archives of dialects and accents:

Language Registers “In linguistics, the register is defined as the way a speaker uses language differently in different circumstances.”


Why it Matters

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The ‘articulators’ are the instruments (e.g. your tongue) used to make a sound. The locations on the mouth, where the articulators are placed, are the ‘places of articulation’. Example: The two lips (the articulators) meet to form the bilabial sounds of /b/ and /p/. Learn Here
“Stress is usually represented in the phonemic chart (simplified version of the IPA) and transcription by the symbol /ˈ/ placed before the stresses syllable. In words that have secondary stress, we include the symbol /ˌ/ before the appropriate syllable (e.g. everybody: /ˈev.riˌbɒd.i/).”


Word Stress Rules with Audio


voiced or voiceless All sounds are either voiced or voiceless. Voiced sounds are those that make our vocal chords vibrate when they are produced. Voiceless sounds are produced from air passing through the mouth at different points. Take a quiz!

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academic or social “Academic language refers to the oral, written, auditory, and visual language proficiency required to learn effectively in schools and academic programs.”


English language learners must learn academic language in school, and it takes them longer to learn it than social language. Social language is informal and is used among friends and family.

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SLA SLA Theories

Second language acquisition theory seeks to quantify how and by what processes individuals acquire a second language. The predominant theory of second language acquisition was developed by  Steven Krashen (USC).

Languages are more than “self-contained, compartmentalized, and isolated entities housed in the brain.” (Razfar & Rumenapp, 2014, p. 179)

Scholarly Article

Krashen’s Theories

5 Stages of SLA

Structured Immersion

Dual Immersion

Transitional Bilingual Programs

Heritage Language

BICS/CALP BICS and CALP are both acronyms that refer to the amount of time it requires new English language learners to develop the necessary conversational and academic skills in the English language.

BICS: Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills
CALP: Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency

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hypothesis The hypothesis posits that older learners may be able to speak a second language but will lack the native fluidity of young learners.

The critical period may also be called the “sensitive period.”

Teachers must be aware of the Zone of Proximal Development, which is defined as the space between what a learner can do without assistance and what a learner can do with adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers. (Lev Vygotsky)

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First Language Acquisition

  • Refers to a child’s acquisition of his native language
  • It is subconcious.
  • It does not require explicit instruction.
  • Learners reach native fluency.

Second Language Acquisition

  • Refers to learning a language after acquiring a native language.
  • It is an active and conscious process.
  • It requires explicit instructions or education.
  • It is difficult to reach native-like fluency.
Language Acquisition & Universal Grammar

Simultaneous Bilingual First- Language Acquisition.

Then learn about second language acquisition here.

A Brief Comparison

The Wug Test

input - output Click image to enlarge.

[Graphic Source]

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phonics Phonics is the understanding that there is a predictable relationship between phonemes (the sounds of spoken language) and graphemes (the letters and spellings that represent those sounds in written language).


Phonemes are the sounds we hear in words. Graphemes are the letters that represent speech sounds. Phonics knowledge allows children to understand the link between sounds (phonemes) and letter patterns (graphemes). Through phoneme-grapheme mapping, English learners can build word recognition skills.

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Mapping Excerices (mid-page)

This is an interesting tool. Would it be helpful for students learning English as a second language?


“Literacy enables a built history and allows events to live in the memories of the culturally literate.” (p. 163)

Written language transforms oral speech into discrete words and letters whereas in spoken language, no real separation between words exists as it is continuous. (see p. 163)

“Culture and the reorganization of culture are extensions of literacy’s effects on an individual’s mind.” (p. 164)

(Razfar & Rumenapp, 2014)

“Successful literacy development [in a second language] is tied to meaningful and authentic communication.”

(De Jong, 2011, p. 78)

TESOL Position Paper

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Video: Vocabulary Sort to Support Literacy
Development in ELs

“Building prior knowledge, building on what students already know in the second language, and developing vocabulary make important contributions to the literacy development for second language learners, in addition to providing specific opportunities for developing understandings about sound-letter correspondences (phonics), word formation, and sentence structures.” (De Jong, 2011, p. 79)

literacy “Research in second language development has shown that literacy in a second language is much more easily achieved when literacy is developed in the native language, as literacy skills are more easily transferred from the first language to the second language.”  –TESOL Learn Here
factors “Emotions can profoundly influence reading and any outcomes resulting from reading…”


Education as the Great Equalizer


Scholarly Article

Identity, personal agency, and self efficacy also affect a student’s ability to learn, as shown in this award winning video. [Source]

translanguaging “Translanguaging is the act performed by bilinguals of accessing different linguistic features or various modes of what are described as autonomous languages, in order to maximize communicative potential.”
Ofelia Garcia“There is no doubting that our English Learners respond far better when they feel that their home language is valued and respected in the classroom. More than that, their native language can help them increase the speed at which they aquire English.”[Source]
Learn Here (CUNY)


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podcasts The Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) “has produced a series of practice briefs and podcast episodes on instructional approaches and strategies for educators who serve English learners (ELs) and their families. These resources highlight promising practices related to STEM, language instruction educational programs, teacher preparation, and early childhood instruction.” Link here image
asl “American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, natural language that has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages, with grammar that differs from English. … It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing and is used by some hearing people as well.”


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Parental Advisory (Explicit Language)

“What do Game of Thrones’ Dothraki, Avatar’s Na’vi, Star Trek’s Klingon and LOTR’s Elvish have in common? They are all fantasy constructed languages, or conlangs. Conlangs have all the delicious complexities of real languages: a high volume of words, grammar rules, and room for messiness and evolution.” [Source]

What does this have to do with #CRT? Again, when a teacher understands the Internation Phonetic Alphabet and the full range of sounds made by the huma voice (in all languages, and in conlangs), that teacher can better assist students with dialects or who are emerging bilinguals. The second video in this section is very relevant, informative, and entertaining.

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book Razfar, A., & Rumenapp, J. (2014). Applying linguistics in the classroom. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

De Jong, E. (2011). Foundations for multilingualism in education. Caslon Pub.

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