ELL Assessment for Linguistic Differences vs. Learning Disabilities
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The Meaning of Words  Words and word meanings are one of the most important information cues used in speaking and understanding, as well as in reading. Indeed, the student’s life experience and cultural experience are most relevant to the development of linguistic ‘meaning making’ in any language, which is very important in the communication process.

When assessing for vocabulary knowledge in a child 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 (L1) and foods in his/her native language (L1).
  2. While students who have had some years of schooling in the United States may have a strong ability to understand and use words that they have encountered in school, words more often associated with home may be puzzling to them when encountered in English (Gutiérrez et. al., 2000).
  3. A student who has been educated in Spanish may bring to English academic content cognates such as multiplicar (multiply), dividir (divide), etc.
  4. Words from a student’s native language and culture perspective can carry special associations. For instance, the Spanish words for hammock, tobacco, and potato are derived from Taíno words for these items (Foley, 1995). Therefore, vocabulary and meaning is affected by the history of the region, its political system, and previous environmental variables or indigenous groups.
  5. False Friends (UniLang Wiki, 2005) are those words that look similar but have different meanings such as:

    Actually = en verdad / actualmente = at present

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