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In schools where English is the language of instruction we welcome new arrivals with limited English and, step by step, they become skilled in speaking English. These young learners have a gift, the gift of bilingualism. A skill that has a profound effect on their lives. This skills may affect their identity, the way they are educated, their employment, the friends they keep, marriage, where they choose to live, travel and how they think. The consequences are significant.

However, we often see cases of young learners losing their valuable mother tongue as a result of immersion in a new majority language, in this case, English. It’s very easy to focus so much on the importance of the new, majority language that the mother tongue is lost almost completely in some cases.

It is essential to foster the ongoing development of mother tongue in class and with parents and, where possible, try and ensure learners are immersed in their mother tongue from time to time.

To find out more about bilingualism in general and all kinds of question a teacher or parent may have about the area, have a look at Colin Baker’s book: A Parents’ and Teachers’ guide to Bilingualism. It includes an easy to follow list of questions highly relevant questions. Examples include:

Neither of us speaks a second language. How can we help our child become bilingual?

  • My child mixes two languages. What should I do?
  • Is it better to develop two languages together or one language later than the other?
  • Will my child learn two language only half as well as a monolingual child?
  • I do not speak the language of the school. How can I help my children with their homework?

Further learning - Blog

Behaviour assessment using smiley flashcards
Created: Wed 15th Jun 2022

Getting behaviour 'right' is crucially important for all schools. Ensuring that we have a 'fit for purpose' behaviour policy that caters for all pupils throughout their schooling - including EAL pupils - is vital for the feel and culture of our schools, as well as for allowing pupils to feel safe and be in the right environment to learn to their full potential.

Parents and child
Created: Mon 14th Oct 2019

"Parental involvement is invaluable for any new arrival in transition. The learner’s family may be the only group of people who truly understand their transition. The parents may have very little understanding of what happens in an English-speaking school or the approach you have to education. Parental involvement will help you to understand more about the child’s life as well as build a valuable rapport and level of trust between all parties.”
(Scott, 2012)

Created: Mon 6th Nov 2017

Academia Británica Cuscatleca (ABC) in El Salvador joined the Learning Village in April 2015.  However, they weren't fully active across Upper Primary until Communication Across Cultures came to their school in February this year to give an inset on EAL. 

Since then, they have used the Learning Village to support learners with accessing some of the basics of English as well as the curriculum content needed to help them to be successful in their lessons.