We are so fortunate to have such a diverse learning community at Goodrich School. We work with children and families from all over the world and they are proud to share their cultures with us. Many children go to school on Saturday or Sunday to continue to learn about their culture and their language. Many parents of English Language Learners though, are sometimes hesitant about keeping their children exposed to the primary language for fear it will confuse their children and interfere with reading and written language acquisition. I am asked frequently by parents, if they should only expose their children to English as not to confuse them. I assure these parents that being able to speak a second or even a third language is a gift and should be encouraged and celebrated.
The importance of the preservation of a child’s primary language is well documented throughout educational and linguistic research. Recently, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) re-published a study conducted by Thomas Schofield, assistant professor at the University of Iowa. The study linked behavior problems in adolescence (6th and 7th graders) to a of lack language proficiency consistent with their mothers’. The reduced communication between parent and child caused adolescents to seek direction from peers rather than parental support. Adolescence is a time for some difficult conversations. When it is too hard to communicate about complex issues with parents who speak another language, teens turn to their friends. A marked increase in aggression and decrease in self-control was noted in mother-child pairs who lacked proficiency in a common language compared with those parents and children who were proficient in the same language. (The ASHA Leader, September 2016, Vol 21.) The middle school years lend themselves to serious discussions involving conversations and negotiations requiring competency above that of everyday communication. This cannot be done when a parent and child cannot speak the same language at proficient levels.
Diversity is cause for celebration at Goodrich School. We will continue to assist our English Language Learners as they make their transition to English but never want them to forget or lose proficiency in their primary language. It is a gift to be cherished!