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How to support bilingual children

You can support bilingual children by:

  • making sure you can pronounce their name correctly
  • finding out from their parents how much they understand the languages spoken at home
  • giving them plenty of listening time. Children usually go through a silent period before they are ready to speak, so make sure you keep talking even when they do not respond
  • using their home language as much as possible, especially when they first arrive and are settling in
  • praising them for any attempts to communicate
  • limiting your questions
  • using plenty of visuals (gestures, pictures, real objects, visual timetable) to help their understanding
  • demonstrating your instructions alongside the words you are using
  • repeating and emphasising key words
  • modelling language while playing next to them and commenting on their play
  • telling repetitive stories and playing games that involve repetitive language
  • allowing time for them to respond (10 second rule)
  • keeping records of their progress to share with parents and colleagues
  • advising parents to speak their first language at home. This will support their child's developing English language skills
  • inviting parents into your setting to share books, songs, pictures, toys, traditional costumes and food from their own cultures
  • remembering that: children are natural linguists.

We can help you by:

  • providing advice and guidance to practitioners working with early years children in nurseries, pre-schools, childminder settings and family hubs
  • training to promote bilingualism and share a range of strategies to support young children new to English language
  • holding workshops for bilingual families in family hubs where parents can find out the importance of their child’s first language when their child is learning English.

Please contact your linked early years and childcare adviser for further support.

Bilingual Beginnings Support Audit

A handy audit for Early Years Providers to check everything is in place to support children learning English as an additional language.

Useful websites

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