Position Statement on Generation 1.5 Learners

in the state of New Jersey

 

NJTESOL/NJBE is a statewide education association representing over 1300 English as a Second Language and bilingual educators.

 

Taking into account the continuous influx of the student population called Generation 1.5, NJTESOL/NJBE recommends that Higher Education institutions of New Jersey acknowledge the existence of these students in a college setting and make any reasonable attempt to accommodate them by creating educational modules targeting their academic English literacy development.  

 

Definition:

The term “Generation 1.5” although once used to refer to immigrants who arrived in the United States as young children, is now applied more broadly to refer to learners who share linguistic and cultural characteristics of both first- and second-generation immigrants.  Whether these learners of English are young immigrants, or U.S.-born children of immigrants speaking a language other than English at home, they have a unique set of educational needs different from other student populations.

 

Characteristics:

While there is a great diversity among Generation 1.5 learners in terms of socioeconomic, linguistic, cultural, and educational background, there are also some shared characteristics among these learners.  Schooled completely or partially in the U.S., Generation 1.5 learners differ from other English language learners in that they are familiar with both the U.S. educational system and American culture. These learners typically have developed to a certain extent social and oral language skills in English while speaking or understanding another language at home, and thus may consider themselves to be bilingual.  As many Generation 1.5 students become translators for their parents and family members who lack English proficiency, some develop strong conversational skills.  Although Generation 1.5 learners vary significantly in their first language literacy skills and may have low proficiency in the academic English required for success in school, they may have a strong cultural identification with the immigrant group from which they come. 

 

Unique Needs:

Because of their unique situation of being “between” generations of immigrants, Generation 1.5 learners acquire language differently than other English language learners, and have different academic and cultural needs.   These learners typically acquire much of their English through social interaction and mass media, and some may not have been placed in English as a second language (ESL) classes or bilingual classes in elementary grades.  Thus, their language skills may be highly uneven, with some domains (speaking and listening) more highly developed than others (writing and comprehension).   For example, they may not be familiar with certain grammatical structures such as proper verb forms, articles, prepositions, and plurals.  Without literacy skills in their first or home language, the development of literacy skills can become more difficult.

 

Programs with a strong focus on literacy skills can help these students in achieving success in academia.  However, being neither recent immigrants nor mainstream students, Generation 1.5 learners often fall through the cracks of the education system.  Without programs that focus on meeting their unique academic and cultural needs, academic success remains challenging, and this situation increases the likelihood of attrition.