Why should we VALUE the home language?

Are your pupils proud to speak in their home language?

Valuing a child’s home language can pay dividends not only in increased self-esteem but also in accelerated progress as they harness their linguistic repertoire to deepen learning in English.

The following ideas will help create ‘balanced bilinguals’- proud and confident of their linguistic diversity.

5 Key ways to VALUE the home language

Vocabulary visible in different languages

Vocabulary in different languages on the classroom displays shows that all languages are equally important and valid for ‘real learning’. Aim to move beyond the ‘where we are from’ display and include multilingual captions on your science, maths and other curricula.

Children can contribute to wall dislays celebrating the diversity of languages spoken in the class and parents may also be able to contribute labels or captions. The 'Language of the Month' booklet created by Newbury Park Primary is an excellent source of ideas for encouraging children to learn about and share knowledge of languages.

For exploring words that were borrowed from other languagesand are now absorbed into English check out the website Krysstal.com. The Online Etymology Dictionary is a great resource for discovering word origins.

Audio supports comprehension

Providing access to audio CDs or online audio stories that pupils can listen to in English accelerates their progress as they increase the quantity of texts read and they can access material beyond their independent level. 

In addition to listening to quality texts in English listening to audio texts in the first language enables them to continue developing their reading skills and allows them to read for pleasure at a comfortable level. Any gains in comprehension can be transferred to English. Reading key texts in the home language prior to use in classroom learning can give pupils background understanding of the text leading to greater accessibility of the learning taking place in class learning. Mantralingua is a great resource provider for audio CDs and interactive CDRoms where children can hear the text or watch animated versions in the home language and also in English.

Learning about languages is fun

Learning about the pupils’ languages extends your own knowledge and excites the children about languages.

Some ideas to involve the whole class in learning about languages are;

  • language of the month - the whole class learns about a new language each month
  • learning greetings from children's languages. Children love teaching others key phrases
  • investigating the roots of words absorbed into the English language and acknowledging the contributions made from different language groups. Etymonline is a great resource for finding out word origins quickly.
  • creating a quiz using words from different languages shared by the children

Using the first language for learning

Providing opportunities for pupils to use their first languages confirms that you value the use of home languages as a valid tool for learning.This can be especially useful when children are understanding new concepts for example in science or maths or generating new ideas such as in storytelling sessions.

Some ideas for using the first language for learning are;

  • children sharing games from other cultures with key words in those languages
  • paired talk in the first language and then report back to the teacher in English
  • writing in the first language and then in English or vice versa - using dual language dictionaries as support
  • brainstorming ideas or discussing new concepts in first language groups then reporting back in English
  • pupils reading dual language texts to understand the storyline before reading it in English
  • pupils listening to audio texts in first language (or dual language texts) to enhance meaning of key texts read later in English.

Entertainment ignites enthusiasm

Incorporating phrases or segments in different languages into drama and role play activities can be a great way of enthusing pupils about using their language skills. This allows pupils to learn from each other and contribute to whole class activities. Children greatly enjoy sharing words in their language and this is a great way to motivate reluctant or hesitant learners.

The importance of preserving the worlds languages: TED Talk