Supporting children to be bilingual
Many of our children join us from homes where the family speak other languages than English. We value the sharing of cultures, language and diversity that this can bring to our Nursery School.
It is very important that we welcome home languages at Nursery
We want the children to be comfortable in their new setting, and then ensuring there are plenty of engaging learning opportunities for them to develop their skills.
Because EAL children will initially be most comfortable with their own language, we include pictures, notices, labels and books in that language, wherever possible.
It will help them to associate this new experience with something more familiar.
We can use ‘Google Translate’ in real-time to help children understand the learning and routines, as appropriate.
Parents can help us with proper pronunciation of their child’s name, some 'survival' language (e.g. toilet, coat, boots etc), and give you the family background to understand the context to the child’s community. At the home visit we will also find out about any religious and dietary differences that we can support, and learning about the kind of activities the child enjoys can help us plan learning experiences that are both familiar and challenging.
We appreciate the rate at which children with English as an Additional Language learn and use this to consider their learning and teaching opportunities;
- The silent period – Often the child will start with a silent period, possibly combined with gestures and some use of their home language. This is not a passive time, but the time at which they will be applying what they know to new contexts. Continue to speak to them as much as possible and try to pick up on non-verbal responses when possible. Can last around six months.
- Echoing words – The child may echo words or very short phrases in response to the practitioners. For example, if you ask them ‘Do you want to go outside?’ this may be met with ‘Outside’ or ‘Go outside’. All attempts to speak should be heavily encouraged and praised.
- Language with meaning – They’ll start to copy chunks of speech that give real meaning, such as ‘Daddy will come soon, or ‘My turn’.
- Joining in – You’ll start to notice increased involvement with refrains in stories and songs, learned by imitating other children.
- One word, many meanings – This stage is characterised by single word answers (usually nouns) that the children use to perform a variety of functions including questioning, responding and naming things.
- Multiple words – Independent use of two or three-word phrases will start to become commonplace, usually with function words omitted. This is usually about communicating meaning such as wants or dislikes and can be accompanied by non-verbal gestures.
- Extended phrases – Children will start to use extended phrases that include verbs, adjectives and nouns.
- Normal speech – Eventually this will lead to longer sentences and general speaking competence, although some minor irregularities are likely to still be present as a result of the difference in usage of things like tenses compared to their home language.
All children with EAL will be given opportunities to play and learn alongside their friends and adults who will support their acquisition of English in fun and accessible ways.