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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015
18 Why Develop a Multi-lingual Program? Underpinning our shared excitement about language is the team's hard work in helping each child develop a sense of belonging to their group. We are all familiar with the fact that people (big and small) will not feel comfortable to share themselves, until they feel a sense of belonging and value. This focus is part of our work on meeting the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) Outcome - EYLF 1:1 “Children have a strong sense of Identity ....feeling safe, secure and supported” . It also provides opportunities for us to express the National Quality Framework (NQF) standard 5.1.1 “Interactions with each child are warm, responsive and build trusting relationships” . When a child hears or speaks a language other than English, at home or in their extended family, our Early Childhood Educators find ways to share the child's experiences of language to enhance each child's sense of belonging. Educators miss a lot of a child's identity (getting to know the child and their experiences) if they don't make some language connections. Affirmation of each child's language and culture can be easy when this is a natural extension of the child's outgoing nature, but for others, a lot of support is needed for them to share their home experiences with their group. For some children, the affirmation of their language will 'make or break' their success in the educational context. How do we begin our exploration of languages? Our first step was to explore the languages represented in our staff. Although we already had some languages other than English amongst the staff, we have worked hard to make sure that we include bilingualism as a criteria for selecting staff. Currently, many of our staff are bilingual or multilingual, with the following languages represented: Hindi, Malayalam, Sinhalese, French, Bengali, Maori and Bahasa Indonesian. We have fostered the core skills of curiosity and interest in language amongst the educational team. We have had many chats comparing and contrasting our languages. We practice pronunciation and laugh a lot about similarities and differences. It can take a bit of time and work to create the kind of team culture which fosters this kind of sharing. It is essential that all staff members feel welcome and a strong sense of belonging and value to the team. When the team is interested and excited about languages, this becomes part of the service's culture and it allows bilingual team members to role model pride in language and culture. It is probably less well known that the children are very excited to share their languages with each other! At the moment, our kindergarten group is focusing on multi-lingual numeracy. At each kindergarten session, the children count and do some simple addition. This is also done by each child, in their home language. The striking thing about this part of the program is the children's excitement about their own language and the languages of others. Even very shy children are now counting and adding in the following languages: Russian, Italian, Bahasa Indonesian, Mandarin, and Malayalam. Initially, the shy children observed, later counting silently in their home language and later still, whispering the results to the teacher, who repeated this to the group. Sometimes, we are fortunate enough to have 2 children in the same group, who share their language. In the Amici (our 2 -3 year old) group, there are friends who share Vietnamese and friends who share Farsi. The group also sing and count in French, Mandarin and Bengali. It is no secret our team at Murdoch University Child Care Centre are tremendously proud of our diverse cultures and languages. "Now, I want to count in Russian" says Igor, at group time. "We have to do Italian first", replies Samuele. We have been working hard at increasing our multi-lingual pedagogy for over five years. But why have we spent so much of our time exploring each child's language? Our Little Linguists: The Benefits of Celebrating Linguistic Diversity with Young Children Jacqui Cannon Centre Manager and Lead Educator Murdoch University Child Care Centre, W.A.
Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015
Reflections Issue 61, 2015