When and How to Start

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When and How to Start

Introducing the family language from birth

We recommend starting as early as possible, i.e. when the child is born.
Introducing a second/third… language later in a child’s life is possible. Some families might wish to start with the second language when the first one is firmly established, i.e. when the child is about 3-4 years old. No research has shown that this strategy is better for the language and literacy ability of the child.

Introducing the family language later than English

(Monolingual children might be introduced to a new language as a special thing, gradually, starting with explaining words and songs, stories, books, using special occasions, making it a game with lots of fun and no stress.
You can introduce 1 or 2 words a day, depending on the age of the child, stimulating the visual (pictures), hearing (songs) and tactile (object itself) senses. To see if the child absorbed a word, let it choose or point at the object you name and as the last learning step the child will be able to repeat the word itself. For older children you can label objects in your home, such as door, table, shelf.

Introducing English later than the family language

Your child is settled in your family language and you want to prepare it for the English speaking environment in general or its start with school?

Stick to your chosen strategy for your family language and let others teach your child English. Expose your child to English as much as possible, for instance:

  • on playgrounds
  • in playgroups
  • meeting with English speaking friends
  • in Childcare

For children of pre-school age childcare centres organise one-on-one support for the child with a bilingual childcare worker through the Ethnic ChildCare Resource Unit ECCRU (initially 6 sessions with option for extension).

Special English learning support programs for non English speaking children at school-age are available at various locations around Perth. All programs are supported by ESL. More details available from Education Department of WA.

We encourage parents to match the vocabulary development of their children through Migrant English courses, TAFE courses and/or private language learning arrangements.