"Ingles es loco": Teaching English to Latinos who don't speak English and who have varying levels of literacy in Spanish

Sarah Frances Ross Carpenter, Purdue University


The site of this study was a Roman Catholic church in a small city in New England, where classes in English as a second language (ESL) had been taught for several months to Latino adults with widely ranging literacy levels in both Spanish and English. Ten members of the classes volunteered to serve as participants in the study, and five of these were selected as target students and given a thirty-minute tutorial each week in addition to the two-hour classes that all the students received. The basic components of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English were taught in all the classes and tutorials. After an initial pilot study, data were collected on the participants' progress in these four areas using audiotapes, written samples, and attendance records, and when the data collection interval was over the data were analyzed for trends. The study concluded that Latinos have a greater need initially to learn to speak and understand English rather than to learn to read and write it, and in most circumstances these oral skills are better taught using the Spanish phonological system than the English phonological system. Gains in the learners' knowledge of the English language and the skills needed to use it were found to be independent of the learners' age, literacy in Spanish, and the number of years they went to school in their home countries. Learners who were new to this country and who had never studied English before were found to be most at-risk in the ESL classroom. A mix of classroom instruction and tutorials was found to be the most effective way to teach the learners the fundamentals of the English language and the skills necessary for using it, and to encourage gains in the learners' use of English outside the classroom and in their confidence that they would someday be competent in English. ^




Major Professor: Beverly E. Cox, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Adult and Continuing

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