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ELL / Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) / Frequently Asked Questions

ELL / Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) / Frequently Asked Questions

According to the International Dyslexia Association and the Learning Disabilites Association of America, about 15% of the population (close to one in seven) has a learning disability. Of the students with learning disabilities receiving special education services, 70-80% have deficits in reading.

Luckily, there is plenty of information on how to address the needs of these children. More information on strategies to help children with learning disabilities is available on LD OnLine andReading Rockets.

Is it OK to speak to my child in my native language?

Talking to your child regularly lays the foundation for her language and literacy development. If you are most comfortable with your native language, you will be able to communicate your feelings and ideas in that language. You can use words to label objects and describe what is happening as a way of teaching new words. You can recite rhymes and poems to develop your awareness of sounds. You can take turns talking about the day, things she notices, and books that you read together.

By talking together, you teach your child about the purpose of language, while helping her express her feelings and ideas. Excerpt from "Talking with Children."

Excerpt from "Talking with Children." Reprinted with permission from PBS Parents

Will you speak to my child in my native language? p>

Children and teachers alike can serve the models, helping your child communicate what he knows and can do. You may be surprised by how quickly you pick up the language as you play and learns alongside other English-speaking children. If your child has no formal exposure to English, he will use what he knows about his native language to learn English - which will be a major task. Talk with your child's teacher about your goals for your child, as well as any concerns you have.

Excerpt from "Talking with Children." Reprinted with permission from PBS Parents

If we only speak to our child in English, will he lose his ability to speak in native language?

Yes. You will need to decide if you want your child to maintain his or her skills in your native language. Consider your long-term goals. If you and your family will not return to your home country, maintaining the native language may not be a priority. Also consider your family situation. If extended family members do not speak English, it will be important for your child to maintain his native language so he can communicate with people closest to him. Also consider how your child might feel about losing his native language and a sense of his cultural identity when he gets older.

Excerpt from "Talking with Children." Reprinted with permission from PBS Parents

My husband speaks to our daughter in English. I want to speak to her in my native language. Will not you get confused?

Learning even just one language is a complex process. But young children have the potential to learn more than one language. Again, what is most important is that you talk with your child in the language with which you are most comfortable, so you have the types of conversations that promote your child's thinking and language development.

Excerpt from "Talking with Children." Reprinted with permission from PBS Parents

My child insists on talking to me in English. How can I help her maintain her native language?

It requires time, persistence, and creativity. Some parents speak their child only in their native language, even if their child responds in English. Other parents send their children to afterschool programs to learn more about their native language. You can also create routines to help your child maintain their native language - from outings with family members to watching movies and reading books in your native language.

Excerpt from "Talking with Children." Reprinted with permission from PBS Parents.

Expert Answers

I am raising my children to be bilingual. What can I do to make them good readers?

As a parent you play a crucial role in helping your children become good readers! You can take the most important first steps by letting them know the books and reading them along with them. By keeping books handy (such as in a basket on the floor), they can explore them when they are interested. If it is not that you have already set it, you might consider establishing a quiet time to spend with books as part of your children's daily routine. For example, you can read some stories together just before the nap or bedtime, or after taking a shower. If reading a story becomes a constant part of your daily routine, it is quite likely that children will learn to yearn, enjoy, and calm themselves with this relaxing activity and the intimate time they share with you.

The following articles give you some ideas on how to promote literacy and share the joy of reading together:

Is it okay to speak to my child in my first language?

Talking to your child regularly is the basis for language and reading development. If it is easier for you to express yourself in your first language, you can communicate your feelings and ideas much better. You can teach new words to your child by identifying objects, describing actions and situations. He can recite rhymes and poems to develop the recognition of sounds. You can talk about what happened that day, things he has noticed, and books that you read together.

When you talk, you are teaching your child the purpose of the language and in turn will help you express your feelings and ideas. Talking to your child in your first language also teaches you about your culture and your own identity.

Excerpt from "Talking to Children." Reprinted by permission of PBS Parents.

Does speaking to my child in my first language complicate your learning of English when you go to school?

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Before children start school, they may have already been exposed to English through television, on the playground, and on printed words they see on cereal boxes, as well as on the street signs. Children will learn a lot of English in the environment around them. If your child has had a formal experience with English, such as kindergarten or preschool, then the school will give you additional opportunities to learn it.

Excerpt from "Talking with Children." Reprinted by permission of PBS Parents.

My child insists on speaking to me in English. How can I help you maintain your first language?

It takes time, persistence and creativity. Some parents speak to their child only in their first language, even if the child responds in English. Others send their children to extracurricular programs where they learn another language. You can also create routines to help you maintain your first language, such as going out with family, or watching movies, or reading books in that language.

Excerpt from "Talking to Children." Reprinted by permission of PBS Parents.


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