Bilinguals around the world will tell you that they do not have the same degree of fluency in all of their languages. A language that is used primarily in academic situations may come across as stiff and stilted when used in less formal situations. Family issues are often more easily discussed in a home language. Depending on where we live when our first child is born, we may only know the vocabulary for baby items in one language and find the same discussions difficult when visiting family in our country of origin. The concept of a “balanced bilingual” is rarely a reality in the world of multilingualism.
Despite this, we very easily fall into the trap of believing that bilingual children are the exception to the rule. We have come to expect that they should have equal mastery of both of their languages. However, just as with adults, a child’s level of linguistic ability will differ depending on situation and language. For example, it may be difficult for a bilingual child to recount events in a home language that took place in the school language. Words, phrases and meanings used in a school setting are not necessarily used in the home language. Continue reading Dual Language Books Benefit Bilingual Children
Summer is such a wonderful time for children: playing with neighbors in the sprinkler, splashing with friends at the local pool, eating popsicles on the back porch. Summertime freedom is expansive and overwhelming.
The downside of summer for many teachers, especially those teaching English Language Learners (ELLs), is that they often worry that all of the hard work that their students put in during the school year will decline during the summer months. Without daily input of spoken and written language, a student often starts to forget what she has learned and ends up working hard to get back on track in the fall. However, this need not be the case.
There is no reason why literacy has to be put on hold during the summer months with bilingual children. In fact, summer is a perfect time to give home and school languages the undivided attention they deserve. Without the need to focus on homework and after school activities, bilingual children and parents can have a wonderful time with literacy. It doesn’t take a lot of work. It just demands a good set of resources to work with and the willingness to follow through. Continue reading Keep Literacy Alive for Bilingual Children During the Summer
Research continues to show that support for the home language is an essential element in supporting children’s academic skills. Parents who engage with their children in their home language through discussion, reading books out loud and in everyday activities help children to do better in school, even if the school language is different from the home language. This is in contrast to research many decades ago that encouraged parents to speak the community language at home with their children, believing this would strengthen their children’s academic language skills. We now know that this past research was flawed and that, in fact, the opposite is true.
Bilingual books are wonderful tools to help create a bridge between languages. They give teachers the opportunity to educate children in the school language, while at the same time they foster an appreciation for the home language. Bilingual books encourage parents to continue using their home language, knowing that it will benefit, not detract from, their children’s school language learning. Continue reading 10 Ways to Use Bilingual Books with Children
According to the US Census Bureau, over 20% of the US population is of “foreign stock” – that is, they are either foreign-born or have at least one parent who was born in another country. In 2000, 47 million people in the United States spoke a non-English language at home, an increase of over 45% in just one decade. The number of native-born Americans with close ties to another country is expected to grow even more over the next few decades.
While these demographic changes present many challenges for educators, they also offer terrific opportunities to teach children about our world. Rather than trying to “Americanize” the ethnic community, we should make efforts to better involve English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students and bilingual families in the classroom by encouraging them to share their language and culture. Continue reading Expand a Child’s World: Involving bilingual families and English language learners in the classroom and at home.