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Jaime Thomas

How to Help Young Learners Unwrap the Gift of Language

Language is one of the most important gifts that you give your child and by choosing Concordia, you are choosing to include English as one of those gifts.  However, many parents want to know how to support their child’s English language learning.  The answer is simple: Speak YOUR language with your child at home EVERYDAY!

Why is home language important?

The language you speak with your child is the first language they will learn. It is the first connection to you, the rest of their family, and their culture and community. It is the language that they first use to learn about the world around them. It is the language that helps them get “set for life”, and you are a central part of that process!  This is one of the many ways that parents are their children’s first teachers.

What are the benefits of using your home language?

Using your home language connects your children to your family. It also provides a connection to your important cultural traditions, and to friends and neighbors who speak the same language. Using your home language allows you to teach your children, and to learn new things together. You can talk about new experiences and words; you can practice letters and numbers. All of these things are an important part of your children’s early learning— and it will be easier and more fun for you if you do it in your most comfortable language.

But what about English?

Children at Concordia need English to succeed in school. Fortunately, young children can easily become bilingual. A person who speaks more than one language well has more opportunities to study, travel, and work—all around the world. Being bilingual also helps children build stronger thinking skills.

If I speak some English, should I use it at home?

You should speak the language you are most comfortable using. If your home language is stronger than your English, then you should use your home language with your children to build strong language skills.

Will my children get confused using two languages?

Young children can learn two or more languages at the same time. They learn quickly when they have lots of experiences with adults who speak with and listen to them. Sometimes children will combine words or phrases from both languages. That’s OK!  It may sound as though they are confused, but they are actually learning the rules and vocabulary from both languages and sorting them out in their brains. It is a sign of good learning and thinking.

My children prefer to speak in English. What should I do?

First, don’t worry. Maybe your children prefer English because that is what all of their friends are speaking. Talk with your children about language. Explain that learning both languages is important. Talk about the special people in their lives who speak your language, including favorite relatives and friends. Explain that people who are bilingual have twice as many chances to make friends and learn about new cultures.  Make your home language fun by reading books, singing songs, and playing games in it; and use it when you’re involved in any kind of activity. Your language is a gift, and speaking it keeps your family connected!  Remember that your relationship with your children depends on language. As they get older, communication will become increasingly more important. You will have conversations about a wide variety of topics. This will be easier and more fun for both of you if you are speaking the same language.

What can I do at home?

  • Tell stories and read to your children in your home language.
  • Share rhymes, chants, songs, and poems you learned as a child.
  • Look for fun activities happening in your language, such as story time at your local library, festivals, and cultural events.
  • Look for bilingual books, wordless books, or books in your home language at the library.

Insightful books about bilingual families:

Grandfather Counts by Andrea Cheng

Dear Juno by Soyung Pak*

Sumi’s First Day of School Ever by Soyung Pak

Yoko Writes Her Name by Rosemary Wells*

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits*

In English, of Course by Josephine Nabisco

I Hate English by Ellen Levine*

No English by Jacqueline Jules

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi*

*Indicates that this book is available in the Concordia ES library


This article was submitted by Jaime Thomas, former Concordia student support coordinator.

(Portions of this post pulled from the National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness)