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Foreign children take at least 6 years to learn the language used in school
Date:9/21/2011

There are now more and more foreign children in the classroom, and many of them speak a different language to that of their sociolinguistic environment. A study by the University of Gerona has assessed the knowledge of Catalan and Spanish amongst these children and confirms that they take at least six years to acquire the same language levels as native pupils. Researchers propose a new system that has proven successful in other countries as a way of stopping language from becoming a barrier to academic development.

"Along with previous studies, we have assessed every stage of nursery and primary education and there is a significant difference between the native and foreign pupils when it comes to their knowledge of the languages used in schools (Spanish and Catalan)," says Jos Ignacio Vila, head of Developmental and Educational Psychology and researcher and the University of Gerona.

Vila and his team assessed the knowledge of Catalan and Spanish of 153 Arabic-speaking pupils, 45 Romanian pupils and 259 Spanish-speaking students from Latin America in their final year of primary school (11-12 years old), all from 72 classes in 52 schools in Catalonia, Spain. All of the pupils had been schooled in this autonomous community since nursery age, and those who joined during primary school had been previously schooled in their own countries.

"Initially we selected 57 schools from a list provided by the Catalan Government of the 570 public schools across Catalonia that have more than 10% of foreign students. The selection process followed two criteria: percentage of foreign students in the classroom and the language of the school (either Catalan or Spanish)", he explains.

Within this selection, only 52 schools taught Romanian, Latin American or Arab students. Some 69% of pupils attended predominantly Spanish-speaking schools and 31% attended schools that use Catalan more habitually. Researchers assessed the children by testing the
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Contact: Jos Ignacio Vila Mendiburu
ignasi.vila@udg.edu
34-972-418-254
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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