Diversity and Inclusion, English Language Learning, K12 Language Education

What Emergent Bilinguals Need to Be Successful This Year

The pandemic has shed new light on the ways schools and districts engage, teach, and measure the success of emergent bilingual students, also known as English language learners. 

As administrators and educators navigate a new way forward, using one of three models—remote, hybrid, or in-person—it’s essential to consider the specific needs of these students. What are the keys to their success? (For a quick overview, download the Rosetta Stone Education infographic.)

Parent involvement helps, along with the use of heritage language

Whether at home or in school, parent/caregiver support is essential to drive better outcomes for emergent bilinguals. Research connects increased parent engagement to better student attitudes, improved academic performance, and a reduction in dropout rates (NEA, 2019). 

The use of heritage language by those at home is also important. Evidence shows that educational programs that incorporate the use of heritage language can help students achieve higher levels of academic success than those in English-only programs (Genesee, 2010).

Find out how you can better support parents for successful emergent bilingual learning in our Rosetta Stone Education white paper.

Students need opportunities to practice speaking

While incorporating heritage language is important, it’s equally as important to provide students with opportunities to practice speaking English. Ultimately, to learn a language, you have to speak it. 

  • Research shows that students are more engaged when they’re participating in group discussions or actively presenting (Yair, 2000).
  • Classrooms where students talk more show greater learning (Fisher, Frey & Rothenberg, 2008).
  • For language learning specifically, speaking is critical for practice and feedback (Swain, 1995).

A successful path for emergent bilinguals

Taking all of this into account, what can educators and administrators do to help ensure the success of their emergent bilingual students during this unusual academic year?

  • Enable small-group interactions for more speaking practice—this is easier to do in the in-person and hybrid models, but it can also be achieved virtually via small-group Google Meet sessions or Zoom breakout rooms
  • Provide one-on-one time with educators—again, this can be done either face-to-face or virtually; educators should be sure to ask critical-thinking questions to not only get emergent bilinguals talking, but to also support and enhance their academic language skills
  • Encourage parent/caregiver involvement and the use of heritage language—as the evidence shows, this can enhance both academic subject-matter and language learning; for practical tips as to how to do this, read our blog post about emergent bilingual remote learning

Choosing the right language learning program for emergent bilinguals

For all learning models, another key to success for emergent bilinguals is the right EdTech learning solution—one designed specifically for them. Used both in the classroom and at home, educational technology has been shown to be beneficial for language learning, especially the use of speech recognition to provide practice and pronunciation feedback in a safe, nonjudgmental space (Golonka, et al., 2014).

The right solution for emergent bilinguals should:

  • Increase English language proficiency levels
  • Teach academic language and grammar skills
  • Enhance student engagement and motivation
  • Instill linguistic competence and confidence
  • Target and personalize instruction
  • Support educational equity
  • Improve academic outcomes
  • Incorporate culturally responsive pedagogies

As you consider what’s needed for emergent bilinguals’ success this year, download the Rosetta Stone Education infographic, Our New Reality: Ensuring a Successful Path for an Emergent Bilingual Student.

Say hello to Rosetta Stone® English 

Rosetta Stone English is an adaptive blended learning speaking and listening program for emergent bilinguals in grades K–6. It supports students’ English language development through academic conversations, incorporating speech recognition technology and immediate, corrective feedback to help build linguistic confidence. The program can be used in the classroom or at home, making it an ideal solution for any learning model this year.

To learn more about Rosetta Stone English, reach out today, and a sales representative will be in touch.


Fisher, D., Rothenberg, C., & Frey, N. (2008). Content-area conversations: How to plan discussion-based lessons for diverse language learners. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Genesee, F. (2010). The home language: an English language learner’s most valuable resource. Colorín Colorado. Retrieved 10/22/20 from https://www.colorincolorado.org/article/home-language-english-language-learners-most-valuable-resource.

Golonka, E.M., Bowlesa, A.R., Franka, V.M., Richardson, D.L., & Freynika, S. (2014). Technologies for foreign language learning: a review of technology types and their effectiveness. Computer Assisted Language Learning. 27(1):70-105.

National Education Association. (2019). Partnering with families and communities. Retrieved 10/22/20 from http://www.nea.org/home/63601.htm.

Swain, M. (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning. In G. Cook & B. Seidlhofer (Eds.), Principle and practice in applied linguistics: studies in honour of H. G. Widdowson (pp. 125-144). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Yair, G. (2000). Educational battlefields in America: the tug-of-war over students’ engagement with instruction. Sociology of Education. 73(4):247-269.