What does being bilingual and multilingual mean?
This is the ability to understand and use two or more languages. The dominant language can change both in different situations and at different times throughout life.
Over two thirds of the world’s population have more than one language and even here in the UK, bilingualism is becoming the norm in many parts of the country. It is therefore vital that we know as much as possible about multilingualism in order to support children in the best possible way.
There are two types of bilingualism: simultaneous, where both languages are learnt at the same time and sequential when a second is learnt once the first language is already established.
How we welcome bilingual and multilingual children.
We celebrate and value all children’s language accomplishments.
Our Montessori environment is relaxed and welcoming and all children are actively encouraged to share their culture and language. Everything is ordered and we have a predictable routine, vital qualities to a child learning another language.
Each child is unique and is given opportunities to both play with activities at their intellectual level, and the time and space to just ‘stand and stare’.
All staff are trained in how language is acquired and some are able to speak at least one other language fluently. At Overton Children’s House we have a native German speaker and at Steventon Children’s House we have a native French speaker on the staff. We also offer weekly French sessions at both settings at no additional cost.
Why should I encourage my child to be bilingual or multilingual?
· It builds up an understanding about how language works.
· It increases the ability to solve problems as thinking is more flexible.
· It helps increase awareness and sensitivity in social situations.
· Research has shown that bilingual children often out perform monolingual children at secondary school, as long as their first language is supported.
How we support children learning additional languages.
We make time to speak to all children and give them space to work things out in their own way and remain silent if they wish. All forms of spontaneous communication are encouraged and respectfully modelled back to them.
Adults talk through what they are doing to help provide meaningful contexts and model English, they ask open ended questions and use repetition to reinforce meaning.
We use a combination of pictures, body language, visual clues and gesture to communicate.
We prefer to have real objects for children to use rather than more abstract formats like pictures. Our Montessori activities often help give a clear representation of a concept.
We have a selection of dual language books and use aids like puppets to help with story telling.
We celebrate a variety of festivals.
Our assessment procedures ensure that all children’s intellectual development is reflected, not just their ability to use English.
We have some appropriate labels and signs in different languages.
We use music and movement to help bridge the gap and bring children closer.
We prefer small group activities and encourage collaboration between children whenever possible including games and activities such as block building and gardening.
We have native French speaking staff in Steventon and native German speaking staff in Overton.
How can you help?
Before your child starts with us, let us know as much as you can about your child, including the languages used, previous nurseries or playgroups, interests, diet and their culture. We can then use this information to help us plan activities at the ‘The Children’s House’ ready for when he or she starts.
Let us know what stories are familiar to your child so we can share them with the rest of the group.
Come in and share your language and culture with us, for example by reading a story or helping with festival celebrations for example.
Help us to pronounce names and words correctly.
Help us to write labels and teach us some phrases.
Record stories or rhymes on CD for us to use at ‘The Children’s House’.
You can help your child by speaking their first language at home. It is important that the first language does not get forgotten, not just to achieve the benefits of being bilingual, but also due to the family and culture ties attached to the first language.
Inviting your child’s friends from ‘The Children’s House’ over to play will also help your child learn English in a relaxed situation.
As well as a good source for books, the local library will also have further information which may be of help.
The ‘Snowdrops Children’s Centre’ is worth visiting as a source of information.
www.little-linguist.co.uk A source of books, music and toys.