10 Tips To Encourage Home Language - Why Home Languages Should be Encouraged

The home language is an ELL’s most valuable resource and it does not hinder their ability to learn English. Using the first language at school and home can improve the student’s English language proficiency, personal and social development as well as academic performance. 

It is important to use and continue to maintain/develop ELLs’ native language because: 

  • the knowledge of the language skills in the native language can be applied to learning English (The best evidence of this comes from studies showing that students with strong reading skills in the home language also have strong reading skills in their second language. (August & Shanahan, 2006; Riches & Genesee, 2006)
  • it can help them understand academic/subject content that is in English (In many cases, using the first language will not impede their English language development. Rather, it will help them feel more in control of their learning. In time, they will rely less on their home language to learn content.)
  • it builds a strong identity as an individual, family/community member 

          (This helps to develop a positive self-concept and pride in background and culture.)

  • it expands their understanding of the world and allows others to learn their culture (Being bilingual helps them to participate more in a global society and expand their career and employment opportunities as well as have a greater appreciation for other people, different cultures, and global issues.)
  • when we welcome home languages we acknowledge that multilingualism is a global norm 
  • seeing and hearing home languages can make school a safer place (Schools that create a culture where linguistic diversity and multilingualism are the standard can often lessen prejudice against the learner.)  
  • it can help strengthen the connections between school and home (Students can write or audio record messages in their home languages and take them home so that their parents understand better what is happening at school. This also confirms the important role the student has for communication between home and school.)
  • teachers/students can learn about the ELLs’ language and culture


10 Tips To Encourage Home Language 


  1. Inform parents of the educational value of keeping L1 for thinking and communication. Encourage parents to talk with their children about what they’re learning in school and to use academic vocabulary from their native language.
  2. Strengthen connections with community organizations to further encourage home language development. Make sure your students are aware of community resources that can support L1 development such as libraries, language classes on weekends and religious organizations.
  3. Encourage oral literacy in the classroom. Have students record and share oral texts in their L1. Students could use the storytelling platform of PechaKucha (Japanese for “chit chat”) which is used by millions around the globe to share their stories.
  4. Provide opportunities for students to access multilingual materials at school. Include books, music, drawings, and games.
  5. Find ways to connect school assignments and projects to extra-curricular activities that involve the use of L1 
  6. Support students accessing relevant, educational media in their L1
  7. Students should be encouraged to use their L1 as a resource to understand new words and concepts in English. Students often require coaching to effectively transfer ideas between their L1 and English.
  8. Celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity in the classroom. Bring the home language into the classroom. Do a bilingual read aloud with the parents. The activity not only highlights a home language, but it gives monolingual students an idea of what it is like for newcomers in an English speaking class. 
  9. Start a heritage language book club. Often bilingual students are not completely literate in their L1. They can speak their home language but can not read or write it. Gathering students together to read a book in their native language can give them confidence as native speakers and enhance their academic skills in their L1.
  10. Recognize and acknowledge the student’s home languages in your classroom. Simples signals such as multicultural welcome signs are a common way to acknowledge student’s L1. Host a multicultural luncheon. Culture, as well as language, speaks to students

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