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We are all faced with very different learning situations at the moment and home learning has become the current norm. The challenges it poses are significant. Parents often have limited time available to support learners, limited understanding of where to start, sometimes a lack of technological know-how in accessing online classrooms - or even a lack of access to an online environment altogether. These issues are exacerbated amongst parents with limited understanding of the school language. Whilst some parents are well ahead, their language-learning counterparts are facing the huge task of supporting a child who is learning in a language they aren't confident in speaking themselves.

The importance of the mother tongue

There is a large body of research showing that the use of mother tongue benefits second language development. Learners are more likely to be successful in English (or any language) if they use what they know in their mother tongue to help them with their new language (Cummins, 2000). 

"In the process of learning English, children's primary cultural and linguistic identities should not be submerged, nor should the process of learning a new language and culture be a one-way journey away from family and community."
Gibbons, 2015.

The impact of using mother tongue to discuss learning at home

Working from home provides a wonderful opportunity for parents to support the development of a learner's home language. The chance for learners to discuss learning in their home language provide learners with:

  • additional confidence in their school work, in both languages
  • additional vocabulary in both languages​
  • valuable time spent thinking and working in their home language, using this as a support for articulating themselves in English
  • support in reading in their home language (perhaps on curriculum topics)

​Our Parent Information Card, which gives parents some key questions they can ask in their home language, can be downloaded by clicking on the button below.

References:

Cummins, J (2000) Language, Power and Pedagogy Bilingual Children in the Crossfire.​ Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

​Gibbons, P. (2015) Scaffolding Learning: Teaching Second Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

Further learning - Blog

Created: Sat 21st Dec 2013

Supporting the learning of the new language is by no means the only aspect of helping a new arrival to feel ‘at home’ in their new country. However, as it can be one of the most stressful aspects of their life change and therefore a carefully tailored plan to accommodate for their language learning needs is essential. There are a wealth of resources available for supporting teachers in helping children in their first steps of learning English.

Created: Wed 2nd Nov 2016

An additional adult can be very effective in supporting teachers with EAL learners in the classroom. An additional adult may be a teaching assistant, learning support assistant or just a regular volunteer. They can significantly enhance support for learner motivation, confidence and self-esteem (Wilson et al, 2003). If you are a classroom teacher, you may be observed on how best to deploy your additional adults against your school standards.

Graph and problem-solving activity
Created: Wed 4th Mar 2020

It is often easier for learners who are new to English to cope with the arithmetic areas of the mathematics curriculum, rather than with problem-solving activities, as the former require the use of less English. It is important that children learning EAL are familiar with and able to use mathematical language to achieve their potential in all areas of the subject.