Dual Language Learners

Supporting children’s dual language development

For too long, some schools have treated children speaking a language other than English at home as a liability. This perspective undermines the opportunities that young Latino and other dual language learners (DLLs) have for success in school.

Research shows that a child’s home language is an asset when it comes to learning English and school success. Children do not benefit by minimizing or eliminating their involvement with their home language. Instead, evidence demonstrates that becoming proficient in a home language is positively related to English acquisition and doing well in school, including reading in English.

In June 2016, both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U. S. Department of Education released a policy statement regarding young DLLs. The statement emphasizes the large research base on the importance of a child’s home language. The statement recommends that ECE programs serving young DLLs provide their families with information on the benefits of learning two languages, the importance of developing fluency in the home language, and the role families play in their children’s development.

What are the benefits of growing up bilingual?

  • Longer memory and attention span.
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills.
  • Stronger ability to apply what children already know to new situations.
  • Stronger self-regulation.
  • Earlier understanding of how written language works.
  • More employment opportunities and higher salaries later in life.

Supporting children’s home languages helps them form their identity, acquire knowledge, and better understand their cultural heritage and relationships with family.