‘Language has a major role in supporting children’s process of identity formation and in helping them understand where they fit in the new environment they are entering. The acquisition of language is essential not only to children’s cognitive development, but also to their social development and wellbeing.’ Clarke 2009
Children learning English as an additional language (EAL) have differing experiences of English when starting school. They may be:
- starting school with no previous early childhood services experience
- starting school with limited English and limited exposure to early childhood services
- starting school with well-established English learned in early childhood services
- newly arrived in Australia and beginning school with little exposure to English.
These different experiences directly impact the children’s language ability and also their ability to relate to others in the social context.
Four stages of progress
There are four stages of progress in learning EAL in the early years before school.
Stage 1 – New to English
Stage 2 – Becoming familiar with English
Stage 3 – Becoming confident as a user of English
Stage 4 – Demonstrated competency as a user of English
In the years before school, the main focus for young children is developing oral English language through the dimensions of listening and speaking.
Supporting Children Learning English as a Second Language in the early years (birth to six years)
Children in the early years of school progress in two stages as shown in the
EAL Developmental Continuum.