What are some unique issues related to working with families of these children?
Page 3: Importance of Home Language Maintenance
Whether a family has been in the United States for only a few years or for generations, they speak and pass on their languages and cultural heritages to their children through conversations, stories, music, prayers, and more. When a child’s first language is not nurtured, they often lose opportunities to communicate with parents, family members, and others in their community. There are many reasons early childhood and special education professionals and families should work together to help maintain the children and families’ home languages.
- Second language development: A strong foundation in the home language facilitates the learning of a second language.
- Social-emotional development: Children who see that their home language is valued build a positive and healthy self-identity and stronger sense of pride in their cultural and linguistic heritage.
- Facilitates and deepens relationships: Professionals who ask families to only speak to their children in English should understand that family members who are not fluent in English cannot effectively engage and communicate with their children. More specifically:
- Children and parents who share the same language are able to interact with each other in more meaningful ways.
- Family and community members who only speak the home language (e.g., grandparents, friends, relatives in the home country) are able to contribute to the child’s cultural growth, increase their vocabulary and communication skills, and share valuable learning experiences.
- Home-school collaboration: When schools communicate with families in the home language:
- Families can better support their children using the strategies and techniques that early childhood and special education professionals share with them.
- Families can share important information that can in turn be used to enhance their children’s learning.
- Cognition: Bilingual students are generally flexible thinkers and problem solvers and have an easier time understanding math concepts and solving word problems.
- Future employability: There is a growing need for individuals who are proficient in two or more languages in today’s world economy and socio-political climate.
Listen as Robert Stechuk and Patsy Pierce discuss some of the reasons it is important to maintain a child and family’s home language.
Robert Stechuk, PhD
Patsy Pierce, PhD
Consultant, National Center on Cultural
and Linguistic Responsiveness
Keep in Mind
Many parents have experienced prejudice because of their lack of English proficiency. They are concerned that their children will not be as successful in school and in society if they continue to speak their home languages. Teachers can help parents understand the benefits of being proficient in multiple languages.
Early childhood and special education professionals can support the maintenance of home languages by collaborating with families. Some strategies to help families understand the value and benefits of maintaining the home language include:
- Sharing resources with families about the importance and value in maintaining the home language.
- Connecting families with experts, business owners, and others in the community to learn about the benefits of maintaining the home language. For example, a local business owner might explain her company’s need to hire workers who are multilingual speakers in order to stay competitive in today’s global economy.