Stages of Adaptation for English Language Learners
Initial Stage or sometimes called "Honeymoon Stage"
- ELL is excited about discovering all the new elements of his/her new life.
- Some students are very cooperative and try very hard to please.
- Other students feel fear and loneliness.
- Usually experience "silent period" of one month up to one year. Student is developing receptive language skills in preparation for speaking.
Summary: This student discusses the silent period; listening so that mistakes are not made; did not want questions so would not have to answer; suggests gestures as a first step in comprehension, and if possible find another student who speaks the same language, to give some comfort. [Listen carefully.] Listen to audio
Uprooting Stage — Reality Check
Summary: This student came to the US from Japan at age 12. She discusses: her emotions; difficulty with talking with schools friends; discovering a content-based way to success, via mathematics; and the help of family and friends. Listen to audio
- ELL realizes that there are differences between his/her own culture and the new culture.
- ELL has mixed emotions about the new lifestyle and culture.
- Frustration, fear, curiosity, loneliness, lack of identity in the new culture are felt not only by the student, but also the family.
- May happen simultaneous to Uprooting Stage or shortly thereafter.
- Frustrating feeling of loss of all the familiar people, objects, connections, and routines from the home culture.
- Mistrusts and fears new situations.
- May show signs of withdrawal, hostility, depression.
- May exhibit academic problems as the curriculum gets becomes more difficult and the ELL is still adjusting to his/her new environment.
Adaptation Stage: Assimilation or Acculturation
ELLs usually take one of two courses of action as acceptance of and comfort with the new culture take place.
- Assimilation: ELL replaces home cultural values and beliefs with the new culture.
- Acculturation: ELL adopts some of the mainstream culture, while continuing with the customs and values of the home culture.
Mainstream Stage: Culture Split or Final Acculturation
ELLs usually take one of two courses of action when fully entering the mainstream culture.
- Culture Split: At home, ELL practices the family culture, in school practices the new mainstream culture. May exhibit embarrassment when the two cultures meet [e.g., parent conferences, school activities, such as concerts, sports, etc.]
- Successful Acculturation: ELL has accepted both cultures as part of his/her new life and integrates aspects of both into his/her lifestyle.