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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

Child trying to pronounce
Created: Mon 17th May 2021

As school teachers faced with EAL learners in our classrooms, we often push the teaching of phonics down the list, especially at secondary school level. Yet communication is dependent on comprehensive pronunciation when speaking, and on decoding graphemes when reading. Consider for a moment the impact mispronunciation can have on accurate communication. For example, if I ask for soap in a restaurant, I might be faced with a blank stare! This error is caused by confusing two very similar phonemes in soap/soup.

Dialogic teaching
Created: Sun 8th Nov 2020

Think about the last lesson you taught to English language learners. I’m sure you did some form of planning beforehand. I imagine you probably asked several questions throughout the lesson as well. After all, the foundation of effective teaching is interaction with learners. However, did you think about the questions you were going to ask when you were planning? Did you write down any key questions?

Change graphic
Created: Mon 25th Feb 2019

How can you take your EAL department forward to play a part in a whole school development strategy? Over the years, I have found that this can be a real challenge. A plan for a whole-school approach to EAL can have a significant impact, and not only benefits the EAL learners, but the whole school population.

Common themes

Blair and Bourne (1998) researched some successful schools and identified some common themes with regard to EAL: