Creating a successful early learning environment can be challenging under any circumstances. So what happens when the children are dual language early learners?
As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education noted: “Data indicate that children who are [dual language learners] in the U.S., on average, lag behind their monolingual English-speaking peers in academic achievement. These patterns may suggest that there is a mismatch between the learning experiences these children need to meet their potential, and the quality of experiences they are currently receiving.”
Further: “Given the growing number of young children who are DLLs and the sizable proportion of the workforce they will make up in the coming years, ensuring they are prepared for school and do well once they arrive is an economic imperative that will directly influence the competitiveness of the U.S. in an evolving global economy.”
Tips for Parents of Dual Language Learners
So what can parents of dual language learners do to best prepare their children — and the schools — for best learning?
Zero to Three notes that “Partnering with your child’s teachers can help to ensure that your child’s language skills continue to grow, along with her connections to family, community and culture.” Tips include:
Approach the school and ask to meet with teachers before your child’s first day.
Provide teachers with a list of common words your child uses in her home language.
Suggest ways you can provide support.
Set up outside-of-school play opportunities.
Make your home a nurturing language environment.
Tips for Teachers of Dual Language Learners
Of course, teachers will want to be prepared for dual language learners. As the National Association for the Education of Young Children writes: “It’s important for teachers to create a welcoming environment for children and families from all cultures and who speak different languages.”
The NAEYC provides some actionable tips for teachers:
“Find out what languages will be spoken by children in your class and focus your classroom setup on what will most effectively support children who speak those languages.”
“Stock bookshelves with bilingual and monolingual books in each of the languages needed.”
“Ask families to send in photos of things that are meaningful to each child, such as foods, celebrations, and family activities. Ask them to help you label the images with words in both English and the home language to give you lots to talk about with the children.”
“Add labels that reflect the represented languages.”
“Play music from different countries and in different languages.”
“Learn to say 10 to 20 key words in each child’s home language to help them feel welcome, safe, and comfortable starting from their first day.”
“Make a picture communication board to help all children communicate their needs and feelings.”