ELL Assessment for Linguistic Differences vs. Learning Disabilities
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The Meaning of Words  Words and word meanings are among the most important information cues used in language when understanding, listening, speaking, reading or writing. Life experience and cultural specific frames of reference are most relevant to the development of linguistic ‘meaning making’ in any language. This fact is vital in communication and educational assessment.

When evaluating a child for vocabulary knowledge, who is learning in two languages (or only in the second one), it is important to take into account the following factors:

  1. Word meanings may be dispersed in the two languages with ‘context specific’ vocabularies in each language. This means that a student may only know colors in English (L2) and foods in his/her native Language (L1)
  2. Vocabulary is not inadequate simply because a student has difficulty labeling items in a particular category. Children’s vocabularies may be constrained by the lexical frequency of the words or word classes in their dominant language.
  3. A student who has been educated in the native language may bring to English academic content cognates such as adicionar (add), subtrair (subtract), multiplicar (multiply) etc.
  4. Words from his/her native language and culture perspective.
  5. False Friends (UniLang Wiki, 2005) are those words that look similar but have different meanings such as
    actually = na verdade / atualmente = at present
  6. Cognates are those words that look similar and mean the same.
    Mathematics = Matemática
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