A growing number of South Dakota's young children speak a language at home, other than English. It is important for teachers, child care providers, and administrators to understand how children, who speak a language other than English, develop in order to support their progress on the skills and knowledge described in The Early Learning Guidelines.
Defining "Dual Language Learners"
There have been different terms describing children who speak a language other than English. Throughout The Early Learning Guidelines the term "Dual Language Learners" will be used.
- English language learner
- second language learner
- limited English proficient
A Dual Language Learner (DLL) is a child who is learning a second language, in most cases English, and at the same time learning his/her home language. DLL highlights the fact that the child is becoming bilingual.
The Dual Language Learning Process
Teachers and caregivers should think about how the child is learning their home language and English. Some children may be exposed to both languages at birth, while others may only be exposed to one and begin to learn English in a child care or preschool setting. DLL children go through the similar stages of language like babbling saying first words, putting sentences together and eventually speaking full sentences. However, there are differences that can occur during the process when learning two languages at the same time. For instance, they may use the language they know best and include some of the second language in the same "sentence". This is called "code switching". For example: "Me gusta cookies", mixing the Spanish words with an English word. This shows the child is making progress in learning the second language even though it may seem like they are confusing their home language with the second language.
Children's ability to learn a second language can be influenced by many factors:
- "How" they are exposed to the new language
- The child's temperament and the "need" to use the language to communicate
- Children who are shy may not learn as quickly as children who are outgoing
- Children in settings where home language is used frequently may not learn as quickly as those children in settings where the second language is used more
Click here to learn about the four Dual Language Learning Stages.
Research as shown that children learn English more effectively if they are in settings where both their home language and English are used. When children can hear their own language and English, they pick up the concepts more easily and begin to understand what the English words mean because they can use clues from their home language. This can be difficult in some learning programs and schools because teachers and caregivers may not speak the children's home language. However, providing no support in the child's first language can have a negative effect in many aspects of the child's cognitive development. Wherever possible, it is worth trying to help the children use both their home language and English.
Culture and the Importance of Families
- Think about the culture that children experience in their families and communities.
- Consider variations in individual cultural practices.
- Be sensitive to cultural differences in how and what children learn.
- Family members can provide insights into the child’s development, particularly language development.
- Use strength-based approach when working with DLL families.
- Ensure families have the support they need, including translation of written documents or interpretation services for oral communication.
- Take steps to understand the challenges or barriers that DLL families face when participating in a program.
- Build mutual trust. Be aware of what and how communicating is occurring.