ANY LANGUAGE

Language Nutrition is Effective in Any Language

More and more children in Georgia come from homes where a language other than English is spoken. The term “dual language learner” (DLL) is used to refer to children who are developing in their home language and in English, and highlights their linguistic capacity in more than one language.

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Dual language learners:

  • Are the most rapidly growing population in Georgia schools – growing at a rate that is twice as fast as the general school population.

  • Comprise close to 20 percent of Georgia’s 0-8 year-olds.

  • Represent a significant diversity in cultures and languages, with more than 80 percent of Georgia DLLs speaking Spanish at home.

Benefits of Dual Language Learners

Just as Georgia’s demographics are changing, the research landscape is changing, as well. These changes compel educators, policy-makers and clinicians to rethink many existing beliefs about how children develop when exposed to more than one language and how best to support their learning and language development. Recent findings include:

  • Infants have the innate capacity to acquire two languages and can easily separate the sounds of each language.
  • There is no scientific evidence indicating that learning two languages during the early childhood years overwhelms, confuses or significantly delays a child’s acquisition of English.
  • Young bilingual children achieve critical milestones, like babbling and onset of first words, within the same timeframe as typically developing monolingual children.
  • Home language provides a foundation for learning English – many skills developed in the first language transfers to the second.
  • An extensive body of research highlights the many benefits that speaking more than one language has in many areas of development, including cognitive.

Why it's important for parents to use their home language

Language Nutrition is about rich exchanges between caregivers and babies. These exchanges are richest when they happen in the language the child first hears and the language the parent or caregiver is most comfortable speaking – for many Georgia families, this is not English.

  • If limited English is used, parents or caregivers might use simple phrases and commands (e.g., “sit down” or “stop”) or grammatically incorrect phrases (“we no go store”). In these cases, the amount of language the child hears is significantly reduced, and the vocabulary severely restricted.

  • By reinforcing the primacy of the home language, children will be exposed to more complex ideas, abstract thoughts and expanded vocabulary – crucial for children to develop important cognitive and language skills.

  • Many families of DLLs mistakenly believe that speaking only English to their children will facilitate and/or accelerate the acquisition of English. TWMB coaches should make every effort to dispel concerns parents might have, promote the parents’ use of their home language (s) and highlight the benefits of bilingualism.

 

Therefore, TWMB encourages families to help their children maintain the home language while they learn English at the same time. Having daily conversations, singing, telling stories, rhyming and reading to children in the home language are all language nutrition practices and lay the foundation for later learning English. 

Talk With Me Baby is made possible by a grant from the United Way of Atlanta and is a collaborative effort among organizations.