English as a Language

Statement of Philosophy

The English Language Learners Department offers a curriculum structured to meet the needs of those international students with limited English proficiency. Current linguistic, psychological and educational research offers insight into the process of learning additional languages and the pedagogy that supports second language learning. Language learning takes place in the community and in classrooms. In the school setting several general principles underlie successful language teaching and learning for all students. The Michigan standards for English Language Proficiency provides an understanding of these principles of language acquisition:

  • Language is functional.

Developing accurate and fluent, listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in English is essential for students to function proficiently in social situations as well as learn challenging academic content throughout the curriculum.

  • Language processes develop interdependently.

The acquisition of language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) occurs simultaneously and interdependently as learners use English effectively in a variety of social and academic settings. This means that English Language Learners (ELLs) need to actively participate in an ESL curriculum that provides learning opportunities that are purposefully designed for the acquisition of English skills.

  • Language acquisition occurs through meaningful use and interaction.

English Language Learners (ELLs) must have multiple authentic opportunities to use language, to interact with others as they study meaningful and intellectually challenging content, and to receive feedback on their language use. Qualified teachers in the area of second language acquisition accelerate the process of language learning. English Language Learners (ELLs) need high quality ESL/bilingual instructional programs that are coherent and purposeful, with instruction provided by teachers professionally prepared to teach English to speakers of other languages as well as other subject area content.

  • Language acquisition is a long-term process.

Language acquisition occurs over time with learners moving through developmental stages and gradually growing in proficiency. Individual learners, however, move through these stages at variable rates. Rates of acquisition are influenced by multiple factors including an individual’s background, first language background, learning style, cognitive style, motivation, and personality. In addition, socio-cultural factors such as the influence of the English or native language community in the learner’s life may play a role in acquisition. In many instances, learners learn conversation skills related to social language more quickly than they acquire academic skills. Education programs must recognize the length of time it takes to acquire the English language skills necessary for success in school. Language learning is cultural learning.  To learn a new language is to learn a new culture. Patterns of language usage vary across cultures and reflect differences in values, norms, and beliefs about social roles and relationships in each culture. General education in U.S. schools often reflects a culture different from that of the ELL. Within a well-designed ESL/bilingual instructional program, ELLs learn to understand cultural differences and expectations for successful participation in the school. For ELLs from diverse cultural backgrounds, the goal is to attain the same high standards as native English-speaking students.

  • Native language proficiency contributes to second language acquisition.

Literacy in the native language correlates positively with literacy in the second language. The level of a student’s native language proficiency varies. Some ELLs come to the task of learning English and content through English already literate in their native language. Native language literacy can assist these ELLs to construct meaning from academic materials and experiences in classrooms where English is the medium of instruction. However, other ELLs may have had interrupted schooling or limited literacy development in the native language. These students need instruction focused on sustained literacy development to fully participate in school.

Department Objectives

  • Develop the reading, speaking, writing and listening skills that allow students to function competently in the United States.
  • Support and help students adjust to everyday life at the Interlochen Arts Academy.
  • Broaden the students’ cultural knowledge through interaction with ideas from a variety of countries including the United States.
  • Develop the technological skills that prepare students for the 21st century.