Oral language is crucial to a child’s literacy development, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. While the culture of the child influences the patterns of language, the school environment can enable children to refine its use. As children enter school, they bring diverse levels of language acquisition to the learning process. Therefore, teachers face the challenge of meeting the individual needs of each language learner, as well as discerning which methods work most effectively in enhancing language development. This essay explores how young children acquire their first or home language and how they are to learn a second language. It is usually English in an early childhood setting. These children are referred to as English language learners.
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Tabors (1997) mentioned that young children who know more than one language, through family or school, depending on when the second language is introduced are considered to be bilingual. Some children become bilingual as the two languages are spoken in the home setting over the same period of time. For example, one parent speaks Chinese to the child, the other English, and the child learns both languages simultaneously. For most children the home language is learned first and then the second language, such as English, is learned later, often when the child enters a preschool or school setting.
Slavin & Cheung (2003) pointed out that learning a second language, such as English should expand the child’s vocabulary. While the new language is being learned, the home language should be maintained the ultimate goal is bilingualism. In fact, research indicates that having a strong foundation in the home language is an advantage while a child is learning a second language. A recent review of research also concludes that English language learners may be more successful in learning to read when they are instructed in both their home language and English.
Children are born without knowing how to speak or even understand the language spoken by their parents and caregivers. But they are born with the ability to learn. Over time and with exposure, they begin to understand what others say and to produce language themselves. They learn the meaning of communicating language through listening and speaking. As their routine repeat throughout the day of their mealtime, bathing, play, sleep and dressing, the language they hear becomes more and more understandable. Wells (1986) stated oral language emerges as young children interact with others to socialize, to convey needs and have them met, to share ideas and learn about the ideas of others, and to entertain or be entertained through play.
To be able to maintain first or home language it is important to talk frequently to the children and listen to the use of language, encouraging children to talk and allowing them to explore around would help them improve in their use of language (that linked to HSIE outcomes). Young children can get fluent in the second language when they are exposed to in English-speaking settings. A place, that they can have meaningful experiences while learning (California Department of Education 1998; Quinones-Eatman 2001).
HSIE CUS1.3: Identifies customs, practices, symbols, languages and traditions of their family and other families (Appendix 1). Greetings are part of the rituals of a culture. The way we greet people that we know or don’t know, in different situations, of different age groups is part of our personal heritage. These lessons look at the greetings used by students, their family, friends and others around the world The lessons involve hands-on activities, class discussion and computer-based activities to reinforce basic concepts of cultural heritage.
HSIE CCS1.1: Communicates the importance of past and present people, days and events in their life, in the lives of family and community members and in other communities. HSIE CCS 1.2: Identifies changes and continuities in their own life and in the local Community (Appendix 2). There is a fascination with identifying differences and similarities between others and ourselves. The process of identification can provide the basis for many discussions leading to a greater degree of tolerance and acceptance of other cultures. This series of lessons assists students in becoming aware of their own unique characteristics as well as the characteristics that they may share with others. The initial lessons develop a field of knowledge about the body (similarities and differences), and involve hands-on activities, class discussion and computer-based activities to reinforce basic concepts.
Rivalland (2000) mentioned that a rich environment is vital in early childhood settings. As children are able to gain a greater understanding of literacy and will become more skilled at reading. It is important to promote home literacies in the centre by providing a range of texts in a variety of children’s home languages and dialects such as books, newspapers, electronic media, and popular culture texts are set out throughout the day, not just focussing on book corner or group times, but across different areas of the curriculum (Robinson & Jones Diaz, 2006).
For bilingual educators to use their first or home language to talk to children with whom also speak the same language for them to develop a close bond. We offer ongoing support of children’s home languages and dialects (Robinson & Jones Diaz, 2006). Also, support children in speaking their diverse language in order to access their literacy practices and acknowledge multilingualism and diversity (Kennedy, 2006).
The diversity of languages and dialects need to be valued and taken into account when planning and programming for children. It is crucial that we consider this, and have a multicultural and inclusive approach by recognising the diversity of cultures and their languages. This is influencing our multi modal approaches to pedagogy teaching. Such as developing programs that closely match and reflect children’s home and cultural values and literacy practices, recognising and adapting children’s different learning styles, teaching and exploring children’s culture and languages to provide an inclusive environment promoting bilingualism.
These influences from a socio-cultural context have outlined the clear advantages for language- minority students. This socio-cultural approach to literacy has emerged from the emphasis that learners benefit from participating together socially to construct knowledge (Warschauer, 1995). Therefore it can be seen that literacy is changing in terms of how our literacy skills are shaped and developed.
By collaborating with families, educators gain vital information that can help us to understand and support children; in addition children will feel more comfortable and confident in the classroom. Xu, H.(2003) mentioned for educators to be able to understand and support children’s literacy needs in the centre, they will collaborate with parents/family members to gather information about Knowledge and experiences children have acquired through their home language, and what can be used to help learn the English language that parents carry out home literacy practices e.g. Listening to your child read, printed materials they have at home e.g. magazines, newspapers, T.V, books, computer, how children use language and learn language at home. The child’s culture, to better understand the child’s social and cultural practices and the child’s interests at home e.g. favourite shows, stories, movies etc., as this will help when developing programmes for motivational purposes.
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Hill (2006) has suggested ways for encouraging language development through play, reading books aloud to children, having show and tell and by scaffolding children’s language skills and I am sure we will discover more as we learn too. Teachers can enhance the development of language by elaborating on children’s stories, rather than correcting them. The diversity of languages and dialects brought to the classroom by children and teachers enhances such opportunities for teachers to use when working with children who are English language learners.
A well-planned environment provides children access to materials needed for exploration and talk with peers about their ideas. Within these social interactions, children negotiate their understandings of the world and their role in it. In this essay, the reader can find examples of appropriate materials for centres in the classroom that enhance children’s language development. When teachers plan centres on a common topic, children are more likely to make connections with their world and construct associated language.
Encourage interactions with adults and peers, in the context of play experiences, one-to-one conversations and small group interactions. Makin, Campbell and Jones Diaz (1995:93) maintain that the functions for which children learn to use language will depend on their interactions with others and that interactions with peers in small group situations are a powerful way of offering children the time, space and freedom to practise new uses of language;
Barratt-Pugh et al (2006) stated that those children are viewed as competent and capable users of oral and written language and the teacher’s role is to scaffold children in their social construction of language. Through talk, asking open-ended questions, use new worlds, sharing and show and tell, use everyday opportunities, group projects, diverse practices and materials. Learning happens best through active and meaningful engagement with experiences that are meaningful to children.
The ability to speak one or more languages given all children’s identity, the emphasis on the acquisition of English as an additional language belongs in strategy of inclusion. As educator, it is important to realize that home language is important in learning English. At the end the most relevant point is to remember that the use of home languages should not be left to the least powerful and most vulnerable members of staff to lead the way.
When both languages of a child are supported it is then that we are able to create a both worlds approach for children who speak English and a home language. In guiding the development of both first and second language learning, people communicate in a variety of ways about day-to-day topics, the children will be motivated to communicate back. With the support the bilingualism among the children and families, as well as among the staff who provide services. Is willing to encourage English language learning experience provides a positive environment for English language learners to become bilingual.
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