by Karen Nemeth
I have been asked several times for personal advice when a colleague knows a young child is moving to the US and they want to be helpful and supportive. These supports can be valuable to all dual language learners.
1. Comfort is key, stress is the enemy of young children coming to a new country and new school. Help the child feel safe. Keep him informed. Explain everything. Show him the school and everything in it. Help him find a buddy.
2. Keep the school informed. Don’t let them guess or endlessly assess your little friend. Let them know how well he can read, what he knows about math, what his favorite subjects are, what he likes to read, play and do. They will be so much better equipped to welcome him and provide the right kinds of learning experiences that will help him excel.
3. Remember in the early years that learning English is not the most important thing – LEARNING is the most important thing. Many people make the mistake of focusing on English and the child loses ground in concept learning, when in fact the research shows that the more concepts the child learns in their home language, the stronger their foundation to be easily transferred to English.
4. Show the child the connections between home language and English. Immersion experiences are good – but sometimes they need bilingual books or movies with subtitles to connect words they know with words in the new language (try www.languagelizard.com)
5. Keep the child from feeling isolated. Introduce him to sports teams, activities, other people who speak his language. Allow him to Skype with friends and relatives back home as he is also developing new friendships in his new community.
6. Learn things TOGETHER! Share and support each other as he shows you what he knows in his language and you show him the wonders of his new country and school.
You can be a great friend to a new dual language learner in your community!