Facts In Action
The Benefits of Bilingualism in Preschoolers
over five million preschoolers in the U.S. speaking a language other
than English in their homes, the early childhood education community
is asking about the best ways to prepare children for elementary
schools with English-only instruction while respecting their cultural
and linguistic identities. Unfortunately, the combination of a nationwide
anti-bilingual movement and a shortage of personnel specializing
in bilingual and bicultural education has resulted in the limited
quality of bilingual programs in the U.S. This trend stands in opposition
to the findings of researchers who have shown that continued development
of the first language results in cognitive and social advantages
factors have been shown to influence the benefits of learning
a second language. First, beginning to learn the second language
at a younger age allows for the development of native-like pronunciation,
thus improving communication. Younger children also may be less
inhibited and less afraid to make mistakes. Second, studies have
found that the more proficient a child is in the first language
at the time the second is introduced, the more likely he or she
will be able to achieve a high level of competence in the second
childhood educators suggest several ways to encourage development
of the new language while respecting the child's native tongue:
can be paired with other speakers of the home language for periods
of time in the classroom to allow for continued development
of the native language.
and volunteers who share the language and cultural background
of the child can not only contribute to curriculum goals but also
facilitate communication between the home and school.
asking the parents of children learning a second language to
share important words in the native language, teachers can prevent
suppression of the child's cultural identity.
puzzle corner or dramatic play area can help these children have
some time away from the demands of an English-speaking classroom,
although teachers are cautioned against leaving a child alone
for long periods.
these ideas creates settings for children in which the native language
is used and valued. This serves to improve communication and allows
children to build on the foundation for learning while retaining
ties to their cultural and family heritage.
"Preschool Second Language Acquisition: What We Know and
How We Can Effectively Communicate With Young Second Language
Learners," Janet Quiñones-Eatman, Technical Report
#5, Early Childhood Research Institute on Culturally and Linguistically
Appropriate Services, 2001.
go on-line at clas.uiuc.edu/techreport/tech5.html.
Facts in Action, August 2001
|Goodbye from the printed version of Facts in Action.