Model Strategies

One technique that helps children buy time while they process English is the use of verbal and non-verbal hesitation. This strategy signals to a English-speaking listener that the conversation is in continuation and that the interlocutor is in the process of formulating what he or she is about to say. Children who are new to English may use hesitation techniques that belong to their native language and culture or not use any at all. This tends to confuse the native speaker interlocutor who may interpret silence as an end to a topic or the conversation itself. Words and noises are foreign to a native-English speaker's ear and may be distracting to the listener rather than doing the job that the child intends -- to maintain the listener's attention while processing and formulating speech. Effective hesitation buys the speaker time. It signals to the listener to stay with the speaker, not change or end the conversation. This is a powerful strategy for the ESL child to cope with both instructional and social situations. Be conscious of the usefulness of the strategy. Model hesitation techniques and point out the English-language forms to the ESL children who may need to learn them.