Program Policies that Support Dual Language Learners

Contrary to many of the myths related to Dual Language Learners (DLLs), it has been proven in study after study that learning two (or more) languages in early childhood is actually beneficial to young children. 

In a review of research conducted by Linda Espinosa (Challenging Common Myths About Young English Language Learners), some of the following conclusions were made:

1. All young children are capable of learning two languages. Becoming bilingual has long-term cognitive, academic, social, cultural, and economic benefits. Bilingualism is an asset.

2. Young ELL students require systematic support for the continued development of their home language.

3. Loss of the home language has potential negative long-term consequences for the ELL child’s academic, social, and emotional development, as well as for the family dynamics.

4. Teachers and programs can adopt effective strategies to support home language development even when the teachers are monolingual English speakers.

One recommended strategy for programs includes creating a written policy for support DLLs and their families.  As you work with staff, families, and other stakeholders to create your program’s policy on supporting DLLs, consider the following suggestions:

  • The program will provide forms, information, and other methods of communication in multiple languages. 
  • The program will make every effort to screen and assess children in their home language.
  • The program will intentionally incorporate professional development opportunities related to supporting DLLs and cultural responsiveness.
  • The program will plan bilingual activities, regardless of the presence of DLLs in the learning environment.
  • The program will employ a diverse staff, some of whom are bilingual and speak the home language of the majority of DLLs in the program.
  • The program will create family engagement activities that actively invite all parents to participate.
  • The program will implement the use of a home language survey or other data collection tool upon enrollment.  Information gathered will be used to create a plan of action to support the needs of the child(ren) and family members. 
  • The program will support and encourage families to maintain the use of the child’s home language while the child is also learning English.
  • The program will make efforts to place DLLs in learning environments with other DLLs who speak the same home language (not as an isolation practice, but to reduce the sense of isolation).
  • The program will set aside funds specifically for the purpose of supporting DLLs in the classroom.
  • The program will design outreach programs to attract and enroll diverse families, including children who are DLLs.

Many state requirements  and quality improvement  initiatives have started to include language specific to meeting the needs of DLLs. Be sure to research the resources available in your state to guide your policy making efforts.  More information can be found here.