Over the course of the past several weeks, I have engaged in open dialogue with two colleagues that work with dual language learners and their families. My colleagues have shared the same frustrations as myself. We all want to create partnerships with the parents to support the students’ development, but it is very challenging to do so when there is often an even greater language barrier with the parents than with the children. It is also difficult to respect cultural beliefs expressed by the families that may be contrary to early childhood best practices within Western culture.
I have reviewed a number of current research studies that have shared some common threads. Dual language learners thrive in a bilingual environment that values both the majority language as well as the minority language. Parental beliefs can greatly influence the degree to which a child maintains his or her heritage language. The acquisition of language is a social enterprise that exist in the context of a community of practice. Bilingual children gain a sense of identity through this community.
If bilingual learning environments are so beneficial to dual language learners, how do you find and/or train bilingual teachers in strategies to create those environments?