Working with bilingual families

These suggestions may help to support a child who is growing up with more than one language:

  • It is important that parents are encouraged to speak to their child in their strongest language, which doesn’t have to be English.
  • Developing competency in the home language provides the foundations for learning other languages, like English.
  • When children are learning a second language they may go through a ‘silent period’ where they do not talk much. This is normal and can last for several months.
  • Children should be able to speak in their home language when they are at nursery/preschool.
  • It is typical for children to mix English and their home language in one sentence.
  • Familiarise yourself with the languages and cultures of the children in your setting, e.g. learn some common words/vocabulary in the other language.
  • Time spent with peers is the best language learning opportunity. It is easier for the child to learn from their peers, who act as natural role models, rather than adults.
  • There is lots of evidence that learning to speak and use more than one language can benefit children’s overall academic progress.

If a child is presenting with difficulties in both their home language and their second language, this indicates language difficulties and they will benefit from a referral to the Speech and Language Therapy Service.

Share these handouts with parents in your setting:

  • Speak in your home language- English
  • Speak in your home language- Urdu
  • Speak in your home language- Polish
  • Speak in your home language- Lithuanian
  • Speak in your home language- Turkish
  • Speak in your home language- Romanian
  • Speak in your home language- Chinese (Simplified)
  • Speak in your home language- Arabic
  • Speak in your home language- Albanian
  • Speak in your home language- Russian
  • Speak in your home language- French
  • Speak I your home language- Somali
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