American Renaissance

Report Details Long Road to English-Language Fluency

Immigrant students from nine ethnic groups average from 3.6 to 7.4 years to become fluent, a state study finds.

Erika Hayasaki, L. A. Times, Feb. 14

California students who speak Spanish as their first language take nearly seven years to master English, lagging behind most other immigrant children, according to a state report released this week.

Spanish speakers take an average of 6.7 years to become fluent, compared with 3.6 years for Mandarin speakers, who take the shortest time among nine major language groups, the report by the legislative analyst’s office found. Hmong-speaking students take 7.4 years, the longest of the groups.

“Regardless of the language, it’s taking much longer to transition kids to fluency than people expect,” said Rob Manwaring, a policy analyst who administered the report. “We’re suggesting that there are kids who can go all the way through kindergarten to 12th grade and still be considered English language learners.”

The report was based on two years of results from the California English Language Development Tests, which assessed proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing for 1.3 million children learning English in 2001 and 2002.

The report did not suggest any reasons for the differences among ethnic groups.

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