An excellent article by Misty Adoniou, Senior Lecturer in Language, Literacy and TESL at University of Canberra
Languages education in Australia has mostly focused on the later years of schooling. A more promising way to develop languages education is to nurture the language skills of bilingual children. Approximately one third of school students speak a language other than English in the home, and enter kindergarten with sound early knowledge of their mother tongue, and with the cognitive stimulation that derives from knowledge of a second language. However, this potential rarely realised; their knowledge of their home language is usually neglected, and becomes stunted over time. Instead, it should be cultivated, as part of these students' academic learning. Ideally this would involve bilingual education programs, but when there are many language groups in the classroom such programs are logistically difficult. Other steps are more manageable. One is to employ a specialist language teacher in each primary school, to advise classroom teachers, and help them draw upon the English as an Additional Language or Dialect Teacher resources made available by ACARA. Another step would be to employ teaching assistants who speak students’ home languages, to talk to these students during the school day. Specialist teachers, assistants and mainstream teachers can all work with parents to support home language learning, and link families to community language schools. At the same time, teacher educators should be building home language awareness into courses, across all subject areas. Taken together, these measures are likely to encourage bilingual students to pursue formal languages studies in later years, to build students’ self-esteem, to sustain children's bonds with their parents, and to develop a valuable economic resource.
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