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Often, for busy EAL teachers, the focus is on the child, however it is important to remember that for some parents, the transition period can be just as difficult. Some parents worry about bringing up their child with two languages and question whether it would be more beneficial for the child if they speak the language of the new country to help them become more competent in the new language and learn it faster. We need to discourage this approach, supporting parents in understanding the value of using their mother tongue. Parents need to appreciate that language is as much about communication as it is about identity (Baker, 2007), that language is fragile and easily lost (Cummins, 2001) and that to continue to support and teach a child’s mother tongue actually provides a better platform for developing a second or third language. 

That said, it’s essential to provide parents with the right information about how to successfully support their learners at home. Some books to assist both teachers and parents in understanding more about bringing up a bilingual child include:

  • A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker (2007). An excellent book written entirely in question and answer format. 
  • The Bilingual Family: A handbook for parents by Edith Harding-Esch, Philip Riley (2003). Written by two linguists who bring up their children bilingually, includes many case studies. 
  • Does Anybody Else Look Like Me?: A Parent's Guide To Raising Multiracial Children by Donna Jackson Nakazawa (2004).  The focus is not on bilingualism but on raising biracial children. 
  • Growing Up with Two Languages by Una Cunningham-Anderson. A down -to-earth guide written by a bilingual couple raising their children to speak English and Swedish (2011).
  • Language Strategies for Bilingual Families: The One-Parent - One-Language Approach (Parents' and Teachers' Guides) by Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert (2004).
  • Raising Bilingual-Biliterate Children in Monolingual Cultures by  Stephen J. Caldas (2006).
  • Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth van Reken (2009).

It is crucial that families are encouraged to maintain their mother tongue to remain connected to their parents and extended family. As Joseph Shaules points out, "a positive and encouraging attitude to a child's home language is motivating and can only have favourable repercussions." (Shaules, 2007).

See below for your free parent information card!


Shaules, J (2007) Deep Culture: The Hidden Challenges of Global Living

Cummins, J (2001) Bilingual Children's Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education? 

Further learning - Blog

learning display
Created: Mon 25th Mar 2019

Lea Forest, my school in Birmingham, has been using the Learning Village for over three years. It has proved a highly effective learning and teaching resource, with the children making strong progress. The Learning Village asked us to pilot its newest feature: the Sentence Analyser!

We were seeking a resource that would help us teach the average 75,000 words needed for the children’s language to flourish and to deepen their morphology skills. We thought the Sentence Analyser may be a useful resource.

Created: Fri 25th Sep 2015

The lack of a common language between children can be frustrating so we often assign buddies who have a common language to help our learners. Someone who speaks the same language can help the new student feel less alienated by speaking the same language and recounting what is being said and explaining what is happening. Students are often used as interpreters in schools. However, as with any translation, it can result in unintentionally misinterpretation.

Created: Thu 2nd Oct 2014

The start of a new school year can be a daunting experience for new EAL arrivals. Some may be devastated to leave their friends, schools and homes. Some may be excited at the experience of a new adventure, but for all arriving with little or no English can be an alienating and exhausting experience. It is important to gain an understanding of how the child feels about the move to enable them to settle well.