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Bilingual 4yo starting reception - any teachers?

(2 Posts)
IamAporcupine Wed 20-Jul-16 10:28:06

my DS4 starts reception in September. He is bilingual Spanish/English. He is extremely interested in words and has started reading/writing words by himself, mainly in Spanish,
I am wondering what to do and how to help him once he starts to formally learn how to read and write in English? I do not want him to loose his Spanish but I do not want to confuse him either
Any advice?

chamenager Wed 20-Jul-16 12:03:02

There is a bilingualism board (under parenting, I believe) that might help.

I am not a teacher but have bilingual children, and am bilingual myself.

My DS was early to show interest in letters and without much thinking about it, I told him the letter-sound correspondences (i.e. which letter makes which sound) in our other language. However when he was three, for various reasons, we switched to English. Until he had reached a level in reading/writing English where I was absolutely no longer concerned about 'confusions', we focused on spoken language for our other language. DS went to 'Saturday School' to be in a situation where everybody around him spoke the other language, and we made a point of choosing bed-time stories and audiobooks and TV in the other language. Also our home language is our other language, as it's both parents' first language. But we didn't do any reading or writing.

When I felt he was solid enough in his English reading/phonics, we had a couple of sessions where we went through the alphabet together and discovered which letters/letter combinations make different sounds in our other language. And we practiced reading some beginner books. He was able to 'transfer' skills such as blending and using punctuation for expression, and made quick progress. He was however not very interested in his books of the other language, as his English reading came easier to him and was more fun. We left it and didn't force him, and yet, when he caught the reading bug proper and started reading (in English) voraciously and for pleasure (about 9 months later), we suddenly found him picking up other-language books and enjoying them, and he was able to read 'harder' books without ever having practised on the easier ones.

So in short, our approach was to focus on spoken language only until he was solid in English reading, and he was then easily able to pick up reading in his other language. That approach worked for us, it seems; though we will have to make sure we keep providing him with interesting books in the other language; and at some point we will have to tackle spelling and grammar, but for now we are leaving that.

I can imagine that if you have been pursuing a very consistent OPOL approach, or consistently speak Spanish at home and English elsewhere, you could transfer that to learning to read/write. Leave English to school (or school and English-speaking parent) and the Spanish speaking parent at the same time continues with encouraging/teaching Spanish reading/writing. I can imagine that working too, but you risk his English reading to develop more slowly than if he had full support with it at home (rather than his home reading support focusing on Spanish). Which, may I say, is not automatically a problem! Seeing as learning to read is quite definitely NOT a race.

As for school, some schools apparently have extra support for EAL and this may extend to supporting children who do not struggle, as such, with English. Because some acknowledge that even age-appropriately able English-speakers have specific issues to confront if they are learning/developing another language simultaneously. However the vast majority of schools will have an approach where they are aware of which children are EAL and should they (start to) struggle, they will be supported; but as long as they are doing ok, they won't get any support regarding their bilingualism. So you can always ask, but I wouldn't place much hope on support from school.

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