There are two dimensions of language knowledge that play an important role in learning a new language. Metalinguistic awareness involves thinking and talking about how language works and internal feedback, or the extent to which a learner is aware of the accuracy of his or her language production and is able to monitor and self-correct. When students engage in cross-linguistic learning, they learn how language works by comparing one language to the other as they generate and act on internal feedback.
Metalinguistic ability can be divided into four broad categories:
- Phonological: the ability to think and use phonemes
- Semantic: the ability to think about the meaning of words
- Syntactic: the ability to think about the structure of language
- Pragmatic: the ability to use language appropriately according to purpose, task, and audience
Teachers can promote metalinguistic skill development by thinking aloud about sounds, words, structures, and purpose of language use during shared and guided reading and interactive writing. Teachers also facilitate the development of Metalinguistic Skills and Awareness by providing students the opportunities to engage in comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences between their native language and their new language
By intentionally providing a comprehensible connection between languages, explicit teaching for transfer promotes Metalinguistic Skills and Awareness as students think about the languages they are using and learning. In other words, students develop Metalinguistic Skills and Awareness when they compare and contrast two languages.