language acquisition

Children, like adults, learn second languages the way they learn their first ones.  An infant is not born speaking their mother’s tongue.  Rather, they spend months or even years listening before they speak.  The vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation of that language are not perfect.  Think back to your toddler or young child’s first words & sentences!

In this way our preschoolers learn a second language.  The following chart is based on Stephen Krashen’s Natural Approach to Language Learning. It outlines the stages of language development and the students of La Escuelita Semilla have moved through the stages in  the last 3 years. 


Identifying & Developing Language Proficiency

1st Stage

In our experience the first stage takes place over a preschooler’s first year of classes.

  • Do not yet produce speech.
  • Listen and begin to respond by using nonverbal signals.
  • Internalize significant pieces of information.
  • Participate through physical actions.

Examples from our students look like this: Students play games, follow gestures of finger plays and songs, respond to questions by pointing or simply following directions. 


2nd Stage

In our experience the second stage takes place over a preschooler's second year.

  • Respond with one or two words.
  • Attend to hands-on demonstrations with greater comprehension.
  • Initiate conversation by pointing and using single words.
  • Respond nonverbally to a wider range of language input.

Examples from our classroom look/sound like this:

Students sing the circle time and transition songs.  They also answer questions such as “What is your name?” & “How old are you?”

3rd Stage

 All our students who have attended our program for 2+ years, are in this stage.

  • Begin speaking in phrases and short sentences.
  • Use speech that sounds telegraphic; “I go home now."
  • Make many errors of grammar and syntax as they experiment with language.

Examples from our students sound something like this:  Students say “Me entiendes?” (Do you understand me?),  “Hace frio aqui.” (It’s cold here.),  “My 'pelo’ is ‘calor’.” (My hair is heat.)

4th Stage

A few of our students are approaching this stage.


  • Respond with a flow of related phrases & sentences.
  • Engage in discourse.
  • Communicate their thoughts effectively.
  • Engage in everyday conversations without relying on concrete contextual support.
  • Begin to develop more academic language.

Adapted from Stephen Krashen’s Language Proficiency’s Stages based on the Natural Approach to Language Learning