Often, for busy EAL teachers, the focus is on the child; however, it is important to remember that the transition period can be just as difficult for some parents. Many parents worry about bringing up their child with two languages and question whether it would be more beneficial for their children if they simply speak the language of the new country, to help them become more competent in this and learn it faster.
We need to discourage this approach, supporting parents in understanding the value of using their mother tongue. Parents should appreciate that language is as much about identity as it is about communication (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.
It’s essential to provide parents with the right information about how to successfully support their learners at home. Books to help both teachers and parents understand more about bringing up a bilingual child include:
It is crucial that children 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).
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?