Parents of EAL children often ask if they should stop speaking their home language and use an ‘English only’ policy at home, once their children attend an English medium school. Although exposure to English outside of school supports children’s acquisition of the language, there are various reasons why it is essential for parents to continue developing their children’s home language, a few of which are briefly discussed here.
Whether parents take on the task alone or find a home language teacher to work with their children, maintaining children’s home languages allows them to:
- Communicate and express themselves, freely and in increasingly complex ways. This helps children nurture relationships with family and friends in their home country for a continued sense of belonging
- Develop and maintain a positive, cultural identity in which children know that their home language is valued and important.
- Transfer linguistic strengths, general skills and knowledge from their home languages to the language being learned, thus promoting proficiency in two languages and fostering bilingualism.
Linguistics expert and educator, Maurice Carder, encourages parents to
“Speak your language at home all the time. Encourage your children to read books in it. Visit your country regularly, otherwise they will lose touch with it, along with the abilities and skills which will bring the advantages of bilingualism” (p. 133, Bilingualism in International Schools).
Ensuring development of your children’s home language is important for confident communication and positive identity development. Additionally, it enables children to benefit from the rewards of bilingualism and to avoid what author Amin Maalouf describes by saying,
“People should not feel like mental expatriates every time they open a book, watch television, talk to people or simply think” (p. 137, Bilingualism in International Schools).
There are various resources on the web and in print, aimed at supporting multilingual families. One I would like to recommend here is the Bilingual Family Newsletter at www.bilingualfamilynewsletter.com. New articles are no longer being written for this newsletter, but there is an interesting collection of archived articles available to read free on-line.
If you have any questions, comments or raising multilingual children resources to share with others, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit EAL Room 9.
Primary EAL Teacher