School Life

English as an Additional Language

Teachers collaborate to ensure equal access to the curriculum for students who are speakers of other languages and are learning English as an Additional Language (EAL). We recognize and celebrate the importance of our students’ first languages and cultures. We believe that diverse instructional approaches facilitate both social and academic language proficiency. 

Inclusion model

While social language is relatively easy for students to master, it can take an additional 5-7 years for students to be competent in academic English.  BFIS follows an inclusion and immersion model to support English Language Learners.   Research shows that this model helps students acquire academic language more efficiently. We therefore teach academic English through content areas such as literature, science, social studies and mathematics in the regular classroom. For students entering higher grades, where the language gap between English first language speakers and English language learners can be quite wide, specialists may work with small groups in an EAL classroom.

Elementary School

Questions about English as an Additional Language

Should I begin to use English, rather than our first language, at home?

Children should still use their first language at home. Reading and speaking to your child in your language is extremely important. A well- developed first language will significantly help the acquisition of an additional language. Continuing first-language development also connects children to their culture and family. Children who use their first language at home are more likely to be acquire anther language successfully. Multi-lingual households should continue to use the languages of the home with confidence that they will not detract from your child's English Immersion Learning at school .  

How long will it take for my child to become fluent in English?

Five to seven years of instruction is required to achieve academic competence in English and other additional languages. Students go through several stages of language development. At first, they may be in a silent stage which lasts anywhere from one day to six months. During this stage they may understand the new language, but not say any words in that language. In later stages, student may have periods in which they make mistakes in words or language concepts they have already learned. For example, at first a child might memorize past tense verbs such as went and knew. However later, in their efforts to work grammar rules and say things like goed and knowed.

How can I help my child with English?

To fully enjoy a language, remember it must also be fun. Playtime in English is important. Encourage opportunities for your child to develop hobbies in the additional language, attend a summer camp or join a creative arts club after school. Friendships with native English speakers can also allow children to develop everyday English through normal social situations. To increase your child’s exposure to English, you can offer him or her English books, computer games and movies at his or her level of understanding.

Should I correct my child’s mistakes in English?

Give your child time to acquire the additional language. Research shows that continuously correcting language and/or asking children to repeat sentences has a negative effect on language development. The child will be reluctant to use the language, and anxious, which will slow down the acquisition process. It’s OK to make mistakes. Through experiences in English, your child will learn how to correct most mistakes naturally.

What language should I speak to my child?

Speak to your child in your native language. If one parent speaks one language, and the other parent another, each parent should speak that language to the child if they wish for their child to acquire it. This way a child learns that languages have boundaries, and they won’t mix them as often.

Is it normal that my child mixes the two languages?

Yes! For children, mixing languages enables them to get their point across. It is temporary, and very typical in the early stages of language development. Parents can help children understand that the two languages are separate by maintaining language boundaries, i.e. one-parent, one-language, or English at school, native language at home.

Is exposure to another language to blame for my child’s apparent learning difficulties?

Research says that bilingualism is not to blame for what may appear to be a learning difficulty. However, there is an occasion when it could be related, and that is when a child comes to school with neither the native language nor the new language sufficiently developed to meet the demands of the classroom curriculum. This happens when there isn’t sufficient language practice in the home, nursery school setting, or outside world. Many times, professionals who are trying to help families make a diagnosis that leads people to believe it’s the additional language that is causing the problem, but research does not support this conclusion.

Should my child learn to read in one language before the other?

Some children learn to read in two languages at the same time, through the Simultaneous Approach, and this approach fosters biliteracy. However, most children learn to read in two languages through the Sequential Approach. This works best when one language is more developed than the other. First, the child learns to read in the stronger language, then in the new language. This works because knowledge is transferred from the more developed language to the new one. Learning to read in one language helps your child to read in an additional language.