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Application: Language Development Face-to-Face

Part 3: Interview on Second Language Learning

This week, you have the option of interviewing one of the following:

  1. An older student or adult who is bilingual, about the experience of learning two languages: English and his or her native language
  2. A teacher who works with young English language learners about children’s experiences of learning two languages at the same time
  3. A foreign language teacher about his or her students’ experiences while learning a second language

The goal is to increase your understanding of the complicated and challenging experience of learning and using English and another language.

To complete the assignment:

Plan: Choose a person to interview. Explain that the purpose of the interview is for your own educational development, and obtain permission to tape-record the conversation. Here are tips for planning the interview:

  • Agree on a specific date and time. (Plan for 30 minutes.)
  • Use a tape recorder, as you did for the observations in Weeks 2 and 3. Test your recorder before the interview to be sure it works.
  • Review information from this week’s readings about second language learning.
  • Click on the link below to download, print out, and review the document you will use to record your interview, which includes sample questions to ask:

Part 3: Second Language Learning Interview Guide

  • Review the appropriate questions in advance. You may want to ask the introductory questions when you are setting up the interview, to get a sense of the person and his or her experience before the interview.
  • Think about other questions that are not on the list you would like to ask.
  • Take notes during the interview on key points you want to remember.
  • Be respectful of your subject’s experiences and points of view.
  • Remember to thank your interview subject for his or her time.

Interview: Ask questions from the Interview Guide. Listen carefully to the person’s answers. You may need to ask for examples to help clarify a point, or follow up with a “why” or “how” question. Although you will record the conversation, also take notes on the person’s answers. Some additional guidelines:

  • Keep your attention focused on the interviewee.
  • Remember that this is one person’s experience and perspective. Although it can be informative and instructive, keep that uniqueness in mind as you listen to and later reflect on the interview.
  • Be respectful of the person’s time. Stick to the time period you agreed to for the interview. Be sure to thank the person for his or her cooperation.
  • Remember that this interview experience is intended as an opportunity to learn.

Reflect on the interview. Review your notes and listen to the tape recording of the interview as many times as necessary to complete the following:

  • How did what you learned from the interview compare with what you learned from this week’s readings?
  • How might you be able to use what you learned from the interview in your future work with children and families? (These might be specific tips and strategies for helping a child who is learning English, or a heightened awareness of the problems and challenges that children learning a native language and English may face.)

Note: Do not use the real names of the interviewee or the children or families discussed in the interview. Use only first names, initials, or fictitious names to protect their privacy.

Assignment length: 2–3 pages

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