My younger brother and I had different language acquisition models

Language acquisition models

In Updates by Punita Rice

Did you know kids who are born in the United States (Native-born) and kids who immigrate here have different language acquisition models? In schools, we lump kids who speak English as an Additional Language together, but there’s actually a lot of diversity among them. Culturally and linguistically diverse students are, in fact, pretty diverse. Even in my own family, there’s some diversity in language acquisition models.

My younger brother and I were born in India, and our first languages were Hindi and Punjabi. When we were really young, our family moved to the United States. By that point, I was comfortable talking in our first languages. I learned English in school in India, too, but it wasn’t the language we spoke at home, so I didn’t learn it in earnest until we moved to the United States. But becoming fluent in English was fairly easy for me because by the time we moved here, I already understood how languages worked, and had a strong language acquisition model.

My brother, on the other hand, was less than a year old when we moved to the US (so, for all intents and purposes, it might be easier to think of him as native-born). When we first moved here, we all spoke mostly in Hindi at home, and his first experiences with talking were in Hindi. But after a year, I started speaking English at home. The introduction of a new and fundamentally different language at home, while my brother was still developing his basic language acquisition model, created a problem. My brother actually stopped talking completely for a few months (naturally terrifying my parents in the process)! This reflected his confusion in language acquisition.

Eventually, we switched to only English at home. (My Mom says a pediatrician recommended this! I’m not sure that was the right advice!) But anyway, he started talking again. But from then on, he only spoke in English! Today, he has perfect fluency in English, but not in speaking Hindi or Punjabi.


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  • Lee, S. J. (2015). Unraveling the” model minority” stereotype: Listening to Asian American youth. Teachers College Press.
  • Nieto, S. (2008). Affirmation, solidarity and critique: Moving beyond tolerance in education. In E. Lee, D. Menkart, & M. Okazawa-Rey (Eds.), Beyond heroes and holidays (pp. 18-29). Washington, DC: Teaching for Change.

Do you speak another language? And what do you think about the terms EAL (“English as an Additional Language”) vs. ESOL (“English for Speakers of Other Languages”)?

Photo in this post of me and my brother as kids.