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Dual Language at DUCKS

Throughout the morning in the toddler classroom, children


will be exposed to both English and Mandarin as they engage in
various activities and learning opportunities we have set up in
the classroom. The use of both languages will be
contextualized, appropriate for the childs language proficiency
and for meaningful communication.


Some key issues in language acquisition in young children and
bilingualism

Acquisition versus Learning

We all know that toddlers brains are like language sponges,
able to absorb language they hear around them and later use it
for communicating their needs, thoughts and feelings. In just a
few short years, young children are able to acquire language to
fluently communicate in their native language and in many
cases a second, third or possibly forth language. Anyone who
has attempted to become fluent in another language as an
adult will know that this process is not as effortless as it seems
to be for young children. This is known as acquisition versus
learning. Young children naturally acquire language because
their brains are receptive to language. At around the age of 8,
the pathways in this area of the brain are set and so the
process of learning a language becomes more of a conscious
effort. It tends to be easier for bilingual or multilingual
children to learn another language as an adult than for a
monolingual adult.

By exposing your children here in toddlers to both English and
Mandarin for meaningful communication on a daily basis, we
are taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity to heighten
this area of the brain. As the children are young and have this
natural ability to acquire language, formal language lessons are
not appropriate or necessary. Rather, using language in
context to communicate, singing songs and reading stories in
English and Mandarin is how the dual language programme
operates.

Comprehensible input

This refers to exposing children to language at a level that they
can understand but which builds upon their overall knowledge
of language. We will soon be meeting with you to talk about
your childs dual language plan. This will help to inform the
adults working with your child about their language exposure.
The Mandarin speaking Learning Assistants and the English
speaking teachers will then be able to adapt the language they
use in communicating with the children so that it is
appropriate for the child (ie. So the child can understand and
develop their knowledge of English or Mandarin)

The Silent Period

The first stage in the process of language acquisition whether it
be a child or adult is a silent period. This is the time during
which the language learner is passively learning the language.
All language learners go through this stage and it might be very
short or take a long time before they begin to use the language
to communicate. Many factors influence the length of time of
this silent period for children- the childs nature, their
exposure to the language, how they view the language and its
speakers, how the parents view the language etc.

Dont be concerned if your child takes many months before
they begin to speak English or Mandarin if this is their first
exposure to the language. They may favour one over the other
and take a little while to begin to communicate in the other
language. Often, in children who take a while to start to
communicate in another language, they progress quite quickly
once they do.

Importance of establishing a native language

Everyone needs to have a first, or native language. This is the
language for cognition, to organize thoughts or ideas, to make
links to what they already know etc. It is therefore important
that you continue to develop your childs native language by
talking to them and reading to them as much as possible in
their native language. If that is not English or Mandarin, we
will work to show your child that we value their home
language. We would love for you to come and read stories in
your home language, write down some common phrases (such
as hello, goodbye, thank you..) in your home language for us to
use, teach us some songs (especially happy birthday) in your
home language.

If your home language is NOT English, please do not start
speaking English at home because your child has started going
to an English school. It is really important to continue to
develop their native language and it places unnecessary stress
/confusion on the child and family

Code switching

Code switching refers to when a speaker mixes languages in
their speech because the level of fluency in the target language
is not strong enough to communicate meaning. So, the speaker
uses vocabulary from a dominant language mixed with the
target language. Adults tend to be aware when they do this
and try to correct the mistake. For children however, it can
take time to separate the different codes or languages and
understand they are different ways of communicating with
different people. A young child will not realize they have made
a mistake and may not understand why the listener does not
understand them. In time, as their fluency develops and they
reach a stage in their cognitive development that they
understand that languages are separate codes, they will code
switch less and less.

When you come to meet with your childs teachers, you can
discuss their dual language plan and any issues or concerns
you may have about their language development. If, at any
time during the year, you have any questions about this, please
ask.