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There are so many children and toddlers for whom English is not their first language; when it comes to observing these children in a childcare setting, whether it be a nursery or childminders, it is very easy for the carer to suggest that when it comes to communication, that the child has"no language". In fact, they do have a language, its just they are not using it or English in the setting, so carers need to be careful in these circumstances. Children need to be encouraged in both languages when they are little to avoid problems of alienation and isolation.
Why should parents, carers and teachers encourage bilingual children?
- It means the child usually knows about 2 cultures, 2 sets of traditions and 2 sets of rules for speaking
- It means they may be confused about different words or phrases which are used in different situations
- They can be scared to take chances when it comes to speaking or answering questions
- Making friends may be harder or even impossible if the other children can communicate more easily
- It may make the children more inclined to listen carefully and think about things or answers to questions even if they do not actually speak or contribute; they may still know the answer
How to help:
- Be calm and patient. Don't expect them to speak with the same confidence as children where English is the first language
- Allow them to listen and observe before addressing them with a question
- Speak to them just the same as you would other children; look into their eyes and address them with warmth and clarity; move your mouth to create the words and don't speak until you make eye contact
- Point and gesticulate too and use sign language to help communicate
- Sing lots of songs and rhymes together
- Keep any setting quiet and calm so everyone can hear well and communicate without shouting
Children learning more than one language at a time do generally start speaking a little later, but in the long term, but this does not mean that they will never learn to talk. In the medium term they will rapidly grasp both languages and they will have a beneficial skill that will put them in a strong position throughout their lives!