As Early Years Professionals we all know how important it is to adequately support children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) in order for them to not only develop fluency in their mother tongue, but encourage and support their understanding and English speaking too. After intense research it has now been proven that by encouraging parents to continue to speak in their mother tongue to their child at home, this supports their language development as a whole and actually makes it easier for them to learn good English once the home language has been acquired. This advice has been up for debate countless times within the sector but with an ever-growing diverse society, it is essential that we get the foundations of language development for children with EAL right from the earliest moments.
As practitioners we need to actively support and adapt our practice where necessary in order to support children with EAL within the setting, it is not essential that at two years old they are speaking in both languages fluently. Once they have acquired their home language, they are at a heightened advantage of acquiring another language (be it English or another language) with ease.
We are keen to support the children in our setting with their language acquisition and so we work closely with parents and families of children with EAL, not only to discuss and learn key words of their home language, but to also to investigate and establish how best we can support each child’s diversity within the setting. It is essential that all children are aware of each other’s differences in all aspects of their life and this includes their home language, culture and diversity, and so it is important that we as practitioners work in partnership with our parents and families in order to understand and incorporate each child’s cultures and traditions into our settings and routines where appropriate. This not only supports the individual children but all of the children as a community as they develop a deeper understanding and interest in different cultures and traditions from an early age which will support them in becoming considerate and supportive young people with an understanding and acceptance for varying cultures and traditions.
As a setting, we not only aim to support children with English as an Additional Language in order to be inclusive and learn about other cultures and traditions, but we have recently launched our own weekly Italian Lessons for our school-aged and preschool children. For those of you that don’t know, Bridgit, after living in Italy for many years can speak fluent Italian and so we have capitalised on an incredible resource and introduced these lessons in order to enhance the learning opportunities we provide whilst also broadening the linguistic horizons of the children in our care.
These lessons have already proved to be a roaring success with our children displaying high levels of interest and enthusiasm for this exciting new learning opportunity and are already able to remember some basic words and respond to questions with simple phrases and this week will only be our third lesson.
Our Italian lessons are not just about learning the Italian language but as we mentioned before, also about learning about the whole Italian culture. For example, in our last lesson we learned the names of the different ingredients needed to make pizza and then spent our afternoon making our own home-made traditional Italian pizza for tea. Learning experiences like these allow the children to not only learn about and develop an understanding of other countries and cultures, but also re-ignite their love of learning and spark a passion for travel and hunger to explore the world with a basic understanding and knowledge of different countries and cultures, which in such an ethnically diverse society, is an invaluable tool.