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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

Girl studying
Created: Mon 26th Apr 2021

What is a cloze procedure?

Cloze procedures are tasks where learners fill in the blanks in a text from which entire words have been omitted. Learners decide on the most appropriate words to fill the gaps from a bank of provided words. The word 'cloze' (close) is derived from the word 'closure', whereby participants complete a not quite finished pattern or text by inserting or choosing words to give the text closure (Walter, 1974).

Created: Wed 11th Oct 2023

I have taught ESOL (English for speakers of other languages who live in an English-speaking environment) for over 15 years. Many of my students have recently moved to England. Their reasons for learning English have varied greatly; from learning it out of necessity to learning it just for fun. Likewise, their learning backgrounds have been vastly different. Some students have had very little or recent education, while others have had higher education.  

Created: Wed 4th Feb 2015

Including a useful EAL Progress Review and links to different EAL assessment continua

When teaching EAL, assessment procedures need to be in place in order to have a concrete analysis of student starting points.

This area is a minefield! Without other references or expertise to hand, a new teacher often turns to an expert for help… Google! Results popping up on the first page of a search shows the Oxford placement tests on the first page, but are they the answer?