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Early years

The EAL Service will visit children in EYFS with English as an additional language where there are concerns. Children learning English as an additional language may

• Be silent
• Mix words from different languages (“code switch”)
• Make many grammatical errors

These aspects of language are all quite normal when children are acquiring a new language and do not indicate a delay or a speech and language difficulty. The table below outlines possible strategies used to support children with EAL at different stages of language development.

The stages of learning may take several years. For children entering a setting where a different language is spoken it can typically take three months before they begin to understand. It may take them 2 years to become conversationally fluent and can take up to 7 years to develop a full cognitive understanding of the new language.

Stages of learning for the EAL childWhat we can do to help
Chatters in home language
Child wants to communicate but does not fully realise that others do not understand his/her language
Keep talking and involving the child in activities with other children and adults. Use actions and visuals to convey meaning. Talk one to one in context and use familiar phrases e.g. “Wash your hands.”
Silent Period
Child uses gestures, nods and
smiles but is not confident yet to try and communicate in the new language
Keep talking and involving the child in activities with other children and adults. Teach words and phrases and reinforce phrases from routines. Use auditory song cues e.g. “Hi ho, hi ho it’s time to…” Songs and rhymes are easier to remember and help the EAL learner to relate a tune with an activity. Accept any attempts to speak
Single word/routine phrases
Child practises the vocabulary
learned through play as well as the familiar routine phrases e.g. “Tidy up”
Use what the child says to extend and model language e.g. “Car”, “Yes, you’ve got a car!”

Remember to use lots of visual and verbal praise
Making own phrases/sentences
Child uses learnt words to construct his/her own phrases e.g. “Ali want to do cars”
Accept all that the child says and re-model without criticism e.g. “Yes, Ali, you may play with the cars.”

Remember to use lots of visual and verbal praise

During this time it is therefore crucial that they maintain their first language. Parents should be advised to continue to talk to their children in the home language if this is their first and strongest language.