BM Director Naomi Flynn gives advice no how to best support bilingual and multilingual children during school closure.
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Find the transcription of the video below:
Hi, I am Naomi Flynn of Bilingualism Matters@Reading and this brief video is to help parents who are bilingual or multilingual think about ways in which they can support children at home during the school closure and the lead to home-school. We have been getting a lot of questions in from parents, who are worried about whether to continue to speak their home languages, whether to switch to English and so on. We are going to clarify a couple of points for you. One of the questions is: my child is no longer going to nursery and I am afraid her English is going to disappear. What should I do? Should I speak to her in English even if it’s not our first language. It’s certainly the case that during this period of prolonged isolation children are going to have fewer opportunities to spend with anyone outside their immediate family and that obviously means fewer opportunities with which to hear speak and use English. You are of course worried that your child’s English might suffer, and you may wonder if you should switch to English at home. Our advice is if you don’t typically use English at home with your children, now it’s not necessarily the time to start, because there are many ways in which your children can still continue to hear and speak English even without leaving the home. For example, by chatting over the phone on by social media with friends; they may hear it on the television or they will be reading it on the internet. I think something to remember is while these additional sources of English are important, the interaction that children have with this type of media is not the same as holding a conversation with a real speaker and there is no substitute for the back and forth of talk with another person. However, this is not a reason to stop talking in your home language with your children, because your own back and forth conversation with your children in your family language is really going to improve and strengthen those home languages, and we know that that’s a real asset for them in terms of learning English, to have a really strong foundation in your family language. Some schools will be able to keep in touch with your children, using a variety of different media and there many useful resources that can be freely accessed online to keep your children’s English going. And if anything else, this period of forced isolation might be a good chance to have more extended and meaningful contact with parents and immediate family members who speak languages other than English and, as I said before, strengthen the use of family languages, which in the long term is definitely an asset. We know from research that bilingualism and a strong use of home language is an asset.
If you are looking for resources specifically for home learning, there is a great list of resources produced by NALDIC. NALDIC are a national group aimed at helping parents and teachers of children who are bilingual. NALDIC means National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum and their EAL (English as an Additional Language) journal has a blog, which has a list of resources for EAL learners to use during school closures. If you can’t find this or any other online resources, do feel free to email us at email@example.com and we will have a go at finding things for you.
A second question we are getting in from parents is around children who have only just started to read in English and they worry about that. They want to know if their children are beginning to read in English, how can they support them from home and should they stop reading to them in their home language. Well, we feel again that children who are just starting to read in English will be supported by the school from the work that schools will send you for them to do at home. Just continue helping them in the way that you would do usually during term time if your children were in school, by supervising them with their homework, listen to them read if you can. And if you are already reading to your children in their home language, then there is really no reason to stop now. Reading or being read is an excellent literacy workout regardless of the language, because it teaches children how that language works and how book language works and all sorts of other assets that aren’t just about hearing words, but are about understanding how the written word works on the page as well. So, more reading in your home language will be an opportunity to boots their home language skills. I hope you found this helpful, keep your questions coming to us and we’ll see if we can respond to them.