BOSTES Review

Stimulus Question 27.

Some parents and educators believe that if a child maintains their home language, their English suffers and that they would fall behind when they start school.
Have you experienced this scenario in early childhood? How would you respond?


Responses

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6 responses on “Stimulus Question 27.”

  1. Meni T says:

    This is something that we sadly hear quite often at Multicultural Children’s Services from both families and Educators. It is especially alarming the number of times we hear this comment from professionals (including some speech pathologists).
    Parents have their own personal reasons for not encouraging the use of home language with their children. The most common reason we hear is that “We are in Australia now and we don’t want our children to be disadvantaged”. They also believe that speaking another language impacts on their learning English and disadvantages them at (pre)school.
    As Educators we play a significant role in educating families about the importance and benefits of bilingualism and maintenance of home language. We need to start by educating ourselves about these benefits and ensuring this information filters through to our families.
    Multicultural Children’s Services responds to this comment in many different ways!:
    * Developing resources for Educators & families on the importance of Bilingualism. Check out our website for translated information http://ecsc.org.au/our-programs/multicultural-childrens-services/resources-for-educators
    * DVDs highlighting the investment of raising children bilingually in Australia. Our DVD was launched at our first Bilingualism Conference (Conference Proceedings & video recording of Conference available).
    * We are currently working on a DVD specific to this issue for families and Educators (to be released shortly).
    * We offer Professional Development to the Early Childhood sector on “Learning a Second Language in Early Childhood”
    * We deliver forums for parents on “The importance of bilingualism and why learning two languages does not result in language delay or disorder.”
    * We deliver the Bicultural Support Program – a unique, human bilingual child care worker resource
    * We deliver the “Speech, Teach & Reach for the Culture of Each” Program – offers coaching and practical support to Educators , to support the inclusion of children with communication delays. Our expertise lies in the delivery of speech pathology perspectives for bilingual children.

    Next time you hear a parent or Educator express concern about maintenance of home language being detrimental to their learning – put them in touch with Multicultural Children’s Services!

  2. Rosa C says:

    I have experienced this many times and I have spoken with families about the importance of keeping the home language as this will support the connection with the family and the child’s cultural background. Many parents are concerned that their child will be at disadvantage if they do not speak English and they believe that by stopping the home language in the centre or school, the child will learn English faster. However, this creates confusion and social isolation for the child as his/her only way to communicate is not longer seen as valuable. I have always been concerned about this in Australia. In European countries most children speak several languages and this is celebrated and admired. Here it can be seen as a disadvantage, but it is not.

    1. Meni T says:

      Could not agree more Rosa!

  3. I have been faced with this a few times in my career. Some families are worried that if they continue to hear/use their first language they will never learn English. In some instances it has been a battle trying to explain to these families that the maintenance of a child’s mother tongue is important, preferred and in most instances beneficial to learning a new language. I believe that when a child learns their mother tongue they learn everything they need to know about a language. This helps them learn a new language much easier. When they learn the correct grammatical structures and meaning in one language, this helps them pick up other languages. I think I read it somewhere that even babies can hear the differences in languages. So if mum speaks in Vietnamese with them at home and teachers in English at school, the children understand the difference and can easily pick up both languages as long as there are good models in both languages. I have witnessed this in some cultures at our service. For example, our Chinese speaking children usually attend our service with little or no English. They speak fluent Mandarin/Cantonese with their parents and in no time, they are understanding and speaking in English. They have had excellent language models in their first language and picking up their 2nd language is easier with lots of immersion and good English speaking models.
    On the other hand, my understanding is when children are not given a good example of their first language, it is somewhat difficult for some to pick up the new language. Their understanding of language and structures was not offered in the first language.
    I know I waffle on but I really wanted to comment but am soooooo busy with other work I must complete!
    Have a nice day all !

    1. Meni T says:

      You’re not waffling at all Oriana! I could have read more! So pleased to know that there are Services out there such as yours that embrace the importance of bilingualism, diversity, inclusion and the importance of home language in early childhood. When I read comments like yours I can’t help but smile knowing that the important work of Multicultural Children’s Services and the Bicultural Support Program is filtering through to the Services, children & families 🙂
      Thank you!

    2. Thanks Meni! I feel that many parents feel this way because of the huge demands that are placed on children prior to starting school. It is almost expected that children need to know how to read prior going to school! There has been a huge shift in school readiness and although many schools require sensible and realistic prior learning, I feel it’s the parents who are expecting their children to do so much more before school! The standard that was expected prior to starting school when I was teaching 20 years ago has definitely escalated 10 fold. This may also add to the reason why so many parents do not want their child to maintain their mother tongue – they feel they will be disadvantaged!
      Thanks for the link..will definitely be adding to our parent library and newsletters!
      Oriana