Often children speak a language at home that differs from the language of instruction. Many educators argue that respecting learner’s cultural and linguistic backgrounds in the educational setting is crucial to fostering their self confidence as persons and community members, and in encouraging them to become active and competent learners.
A classroom that supports dual language learners has an open environment of learning and acceptance. Where everyone has the courage to speak the others language and no one is concerned about making mistakes, encourages learning confidently.
There are certain strategies that can be used to support children’s home language in the Preschool:
- Books and games in the home language of children are evident.
- Labels in home language are posted throughout the classroom (along with pronunciation, if needed) to help the teacher use those words.
- Sometimes during small group activity, children can be instructed in their home language. Hence they will not have to struggle with a new vocabulary and can concentrate on content.
- Parent volunteers can read books in the home language of the children.
- The teachers engage in conversation with children in their home language.
Bilingual education programmes will only be effective if they are delivered by skilled Early Childhood Educators and teachers who are fluent in one language and have access to language-rich resources. Children must be motivated to learn their home language by their parents to do so. Existing studies provide a basis to draw some general conclusions:
- Children’s home language is important for their overall language and cognitive development and academic achievement.
- Children need to be highly proficient in their home language before engaging in academic work in the school language.
- Becoming highly proficient appears to take six to eight years of schooling.
Younger children do not reflect consciously on how they use language, including the definition of words, how meanings are conveyed or change with various word choices or combinations, or how the languages they speak differ in terms of their structure or rules. Hence, early childhood practitioners should be encouraged to
- Promote children’s efforts to communicate in home language as well as school language
- Design activities for younger children that place greater emphasis on language that is associated with doing things, that is grounded in the context and involves simple cognitive operations.
- Build on the children’s knowledge of their first language.
- Nemeth K: Meeting the Home Language Mandate “ Practical strategies for All Classrooms
- UNESCO (2011): Enhancing Learning of Children from Diverse Language Backgrounds: Mother Tongue Based Bilingual or Multilingual Education in the Early Year