ABCs Should Outrun ESL Intrusions

Currently Latino kindergartners are caught between learning the ABCs and ESL. The winner seems to be ESL. “They have to learn English” is the common refrain expressed all around.

The frequent classroom use of traditional English-only examples, such as “B is for BEAR/oso” and “A is for APPLE/manzana,” unintentionally invites ESL into ABC programs. Because of unknown English terms, ESL gets its foot in the ABC door for Latino students. However, the use of Spanish/English joint word combinations, Cognates – “A is for AIRPLANE/avion”– maintains essential literacy without setting students back.

Although Spanish and English are similar languages and share many letter sounds, this advantage has not become present in everyday classroom activity today. However, with Pan-American user-friendly examples “B is for BICYCLE/bicicleta” or “B is for BOAT/barco”,  Latino ABC will move forward.

There are many ways to improve ABC instruction for Latino kindergartners from Spanish-speaking homes. They already speak and hear many common English letter sounds, such as “L”, D”, “T”, etc. Therefore, all that remains to be taught and learned are the actual letter figures, A, B, C which represent these sounds. Often erroneously both ESL and letter sounds become intertwined.

Yes, there is a strong place for ESL within ABC programs. There are a few English letter sounds which are not spoken in Spanish. “W”, “H”, a couple of other minor letter sounds that which require English pictures to establish. At home, Latino kindergartners never come in contact with them. This is the only genuine reason for ESL. Otherwise, Cognates, user-friendly examples such as “T is for Train/tren” will keep ESL off to the sidelines.

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