Children and families should be encouraged and supported to continue speaking their first language at home and educators should make efforts to encourage the use of this home language in the school or early childhood service.
There is growing evidence to suggest that supporting a child’s home language while learning English fosters:
- the potential to develop bilingually
- a sense of belonging and confidence
- higher levels of achievement in English in the long run
- a strong foundation for learning, which assists with the development of English as an additional language.
Multiple studies have shown that when bilingual learners have high quality interactions in both their home language and English, they can successfully become bilingual, which carries significant advantages in cognitive, socio-emotional and linguistic areas of development.
Fostering belonging and confidence
By valuing a child’s home language educators communicate that they value not only the child’s language but also their culture.
This gives the child a sense of belonging and a confidence to learn, and validates the whole child. If children and their families feel welcomed and valued they are more likely to participate actively and confidently in learning.
Building on children’s experiences
Children with EAL come to school with a wealth of knowledge and experiences acquired through use of their home language.
It is essential that the place of the home language is acknowledged and supported, at early childhood services and school, because it provides a foundation for later learning.
To encourage the children to continue using the home language, they may need to be supported by bilingual staff so that they can communicate what they know and what they need.
How to help children retain and develop their home language
Educators can help children retain and develop their home language through activities:
- Read to children using books in the child’s home language (by teachers, families, multicultural aides).
- Create books that include children’s home languages.
- Teach songs and rhymes, letters and numbers in the child’s home language.
- Teach appropriate greetings and key phrases using the languages represented in the setting.
- Play games from the different countries represented in the setting.
- Point out cognates and connections between English and the home language.
- Include families in the program and teaching concepts.
Watch how schools and services support children’s home language
California’s Best Practices for Young Dual Language Learners
Raising children in more than one language
More languages, more benefits
Early Education for dual language learners: Promoting school readiness and early school success
Some common fallacies about Multilingualism and Second Language Acquisition