English as an Additional Language

The Importance of Home Language - Bilingualism is an asset, and the first language has a continuing and significant role in identity, learning and the acquisition of additional languages.

We at Little Cubs understand that bilingualism confers intellectual advantages and the role of the first language in the child’s learning is of great importance. We know children need to develop strong foundations in the language that is dominant in the home environment, where most children spend most of their time. Home language skills are transferable to new languages and strengthen children’s understanding of language use.

Developing and maintaining a home language as the foundation for knowledge about language will support the development of English and should be encouraged. Insistence on an English-only approach to language learning in the home is likely to result in a fragmented development where the child is denied the opportunity to develop proficiency in either language. The best outcome is for children and their families to have the opportunity to become truly bilingual with all the advantages this can bring.

Home languages are also vital for maintaining positive family connections. It is therefore very important to maintain the language of the home, particularly where older family members who care for children do not speak English. Otherwise this may mean that eventually they are no longer able to have proper meaningful conversations with each other.

Parents who cannot share thoughts and ideas with their children will inevitably lose the ability to shape, guide and influence their lives.   We would like to  reassure parents that maintaining and developing their home language will benefit their children and support their developing skills in English. 

How do we develop English as an additional language?

We at Little Cubs:

  • Support continued development of first language and promote the use of first language for learning which enables children to access learning opportunities within the Early Years Foundation Stage.
  • Ensure that cognitive challenges are kept be kept appropriately high through the provision of linguistic and contextual support.
  • Ensure that language acquisition goes hand in hand with cognitive and academic development, with an
  • inclusive curriculum as the context.

Challenges and Dilemmas 

Secure and trusting relationships with a key person are vital to a child’s development in all areas. Bilingual support is a highly desirable resource, however appropriate first language support may not be available for all children in all settings all the time.

The Ethnic Minority Achievement Services or Inclusion teams within Children’s Services, Early Years  can provide support in the home language.  We can contact our Early Years Advisers who will be able to signpost us to the appropriate service.

We ensure:

  •  Little Cubs really does say ‘welcome’ to one and all.
  • Access to interpreting and translation services where possible.
  • That all families feel included and are able to participate in their children’s care and learning experiences in the setting.
  • That we keep children safe when they may not understand our verbal instructions.
  • That we aim for all our practitioners in the setting receive training on EAL, and equality and diversity; and reflect on how that it impacts on practice.
  • All our practitioners and children feel comfortable and unselfconscious about hearing and using languages other than English.
  • That  names are correctly pronounced.
  • That children are given ‘time out’ from English and space to think their own thoughts.
  • That we understand that many children will go through a ‘silent’ period at some stage, sometimes for an extended period; being patient during this time and continue to expect that children will respond.
  • We share knowledge and understanding about the child’s needs with their parent or carer  in an appropriate way -using translation.
  • That we find a way to have meaningful contact with parents if older siblings usually bring the child to your setting.
  • That we find mutually acceptable solutions when culture or religion conflicts with policy.
  • We approach parents about toilet training or eating habits, which can be very emotive subjects if you are having difficulties.
  • We understand and respond to culturally diverse child-rearing practices.
  • We try to learn a few phrases of a child’s home language to show your respect and interest
  •  That children learning EAL understand routines and know what they can access independently and when to seek adult support

Learning and Development

The expertise of our team is vital to the successful learning of EAL. Our positive and welcoming ethos and attitude is crucial for underpinning success. We build on this in our observation, assessment and planning for children’s play, active learning and creativity across all areas of Learning and Development.

At Little Cubs we understand that children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates and all areas of learning and development are equally important and interconnected. With reference to the  EYFS practice guidance which has  specific references to the needs of children learning EAL, we:

  • Are aware that second language learners will acquire much of their language incidentally through interacting with peers and adults in meaningful contexts.
  • Ensure close observations of those interactions and the resulting language used will enable us to decide what aspects of language we might plan to teach in a more structured way.
  •  Ensure the social language children acquire can be built on and will inform our planning.
  • Ensure we know about the different languages the children speak at home which can help us to understand some of the typical errors children learning EAL will make. 
  • Ensure the we  model language and behaviour as its is important to introduce children to new language structures and vocabulary.
  •  Ensure that children hear language used in a meaningful context before they can rehearse and use it themselves and  that this is what  practitioners and parents  do naturally to encourage children’s language learning.
  • Inderstnad the importance  to be encouraging without being demanding and to use modelling to correct mistakes rather than tell children they are wrong – this will only serve to inhibit their attempts and damage self-esteem.
  • Understand that questions should be used with great care – avoid using questions such as ‘What is this?’, or ‘What colour is this?’ too often. If they know the answer and can express it in English, it may boost selfesteem, but overuse of closed questions limits learning and, if they do not know the answer, itincreases the sense of failure. Such questions do not lead to an extended use of language.
  • Use open ended questions such as ‘Why is he crying?’ provide opportunity to use language extensively.
  • Talk to children as we play alongside them, for example saying ‘Can you give me the scissors please?’, ‘Yes those are what I need’, or ‘Oh, that’s the stapler, I don’t need that yet, here are the scissors’, is a more effective way of finding out if a child has understood you and supplies children with the information they may not have known.
  • Recast or remodel language which provides a positive way of dealing with errors children make as they try out new language. For example, if a child says ‘I goed to the park’, the practitioner acknowledges the successful communication of meaning and models the correct form of language by saying ‘You went to the park…did you go with your brothers?’
  • Ensure careful enunciation of words and phrases as it  is important, speech should not be exaggerated or amplified but delivered clearly and not too fast, with appropriate gesture and expression.
  • Ensure repetition which is important, not only in stories, songs and finger plays, etc., but repeating and confirming children’s own attempts at speech. By showing your interest in this way wel encourage children to continue in their attempts to speak. By repeating and adding to the child’s spoken language we scaffold their language learning, consolidating and adding to their knowledge of language structure.
  •  ‘self-talk’ through activities when children are engaged, so that we give them a commentary on their actions, for example ‘I’m putting the banana on the plate, now you can help me cut it’, or ‘parallel talk’ where we provides a commentary on what the child is doing. Both strategies can be very helpful for short periods but should not be extended to the point where they become intrusive or inhibiting.
  • Understand that children need time to think, reflect and quietly absorb language around them. We are ready to respond as they are to initiate conversation and interactions, taking their lead from the child’s needs or interests.

To Conclude

Little Cubs give children space and time, our patience and support, with a thoughtful provision, and acknowledgement of their skills in their home language will give them the confidence to achieve in English. 

We know that children are natural linguists and with our support and the support of the family children's learning EAL will have the best foundation for becoming truly bilingual, with all the intellectual and social benefits this confers.

Supporting EAL in Early Years Settings

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Supporting Children learning English as an Additional Language

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Talking Point - the first stop for information on children’s communication

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NALDIC is the national subject association for English as an additional language

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