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Rebeca Barrera, writing in the Beginnings Workshop Book, Literacy, talks about the importance of a home language as the base for learning a second language:
"My mother was born in Laredo, Texas, as a U.S. citizen. After the untimely death of her mother, she and her three siblings, all under six years old, were sent to Mexico for a few years to be raised by their aunts. When their father remarried and they returned to the United States, the children were immersed in primarily English classrooms, with a generous sprinkling of Spanish to help them along. All four learned English almost immediately, and the two oldest were valedictorian and salutatorian of their classes.
"This is not so unusual. We have countless examples of Vietnamese youths who came to the United States in the 1960s, not knowing a word of English, only to graduate from school at the top of their class a few years later.
"Learning a second language is not that difficult, especially if there is a strong foundation in a home language. The process is much the same as with the first language: listening, speaking, then reading, and finally writing the language. Once you understand the meaning of a word or concept in your home language, learning a new word for the same thing is easy."
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