Often, for busy EAL teachers, the focus is on the child, however it is important to
remember that for some parents, the transition period can be just as difficult. Some parents worry about bringing up their child with two languages and question whether it would be more beneficial for the child if they speak the language of the new country to help them become more competent in the new language and learn it faster.
We need to discourage this approach, supporting parents in understanding the value of using their mother tongue. Parents need to appreciate that language is as much about communication as it is about identity (Baker, 2007), that language is fragile and easily lost (Cummins, 2001) and that to continue to support and teach a child’s mother tongue actually provides a better platform for developing a second or third language.
That said, it’s essential to provide parents with the right information about how to successfully support their learners at home. Some books to assist both teachers and parents in understanding more about bringing up a bilingual child include:
It is crucial that families are encouraged to maintain their mother tongue to remain connected to their parents and extended family. As Joseph Shaules points out, “a positive and encouraging attitude to a child’s home language is motivating and can only have favourable repercussions.” (Shaules, 2007).
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Shaules, J (2007) Deep Culture: The Hidden Challenges of Global Living
Cummins, J (2001) Bilingual Children’s Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education?