Three young Korean children's English language learning in two American preschool classrooms

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The purpose of this study was to examine the process of English language learning through social interactions in a preschool. Three Korean ELLs in two American preschool classrooms were observed over the course of one school year, and their interactions were analyzed using qualitative methods to describe and explain how their learning developed over time.

ELLs developed English skills using five types of actions and interactions. Non-communicative action (NCA), private speech (PS), Non-verbal communication (NVC), and Non-responses (NR) were used while ELLs became accustomed to their classroom routines and members. As the children understood routines and interactions, they employed verbal communication (VC) by access and initiation with the teachers and peers; descriptions and attention-getting were mostly used to communicate with others.

Three steps of language learning were identified: 1) children actively participated through observation and listening; 2) peer involvement or teachers scaffolding provided understanding and competence through reoccurring instructions and themes; 3) English competencies developed through everyday social interactions with other children. Joint-attention (Yawkey & Miller, 1984) or mutual involvement (Camoinoni, 1979) played a central role in maintaining interactions. For mutual involvement to occur, ELLs had to find cooperative and loyal peers. To build such friendships, ELLs had to use other-centered strategies at the beginning of the school year and become avid observers and active participants. Social relationships thus were essential to facilitate social interactions and shared understanding. Play types (cooperative, parallel, and solitary), selection of friends or play partners, and attitudes toward peers influenced friendship-building and the development of English language comprehensions.