More than a 100 Ways to Communicate: How can families, educators and the community support a nurturing and supportive environment for multiple language learning?

How many languages do you and your family speak? We’re not talking about Lori
Malaguzzi’s Reggio Emilia 100 Languages (and counting) either which can be found

We’re writing about languages that we speak and write linguistically in words from
Spanish to Amharic. We move in language. We are language. In fact, in America,
families are increasingly speaking more than one language. In DC alone more than
100,000 families speak more than one language. In Maryland, to be even more specific
where our preschool is situated, there are 117 languages spoken!

What’s even more is how fascinating children ages 0 through 8 learn to talk and
converse with those around them. Language is exploding for them as they learn new
vocabulary and grammar structures internally and externally. Children are surrounded
by print from signs to advertising. When learning a language, children are also learning
culture, turn taking (when to talk, when to listen, whether or not to make eye contact
which differs culturally), how to tell a story sequentially to so much more!

Moreover, children who are multilingual learners with languages other than a
predominantly spoken one of a country the process becomes more complex as they are
code switching between languages and literally decoding as they go. When children mix
languages and culture, teachers and families in schools and communities need to be
careful not to label it as a developmental delay. Some lessons for all of us when it
comes to learning more than one language.

Here at Fiolina we put action behind our words and theories. To create supportive
classroom experiences, we uphold several thoughts and put them into practice each
and everyday for dual and multilingual learners.

Code switching and mixing language and culture is highly encouraged, promoted and
recognized as a strength busting the myth that it is a developmental delay. We
remember that as children learn more than one language they may only know /
remember certain words in a single language (not all of them and that is a-okay!). As
they age and grow throughout their process some or even many may have strengths in
one language over the others. For instance, being able to read and write only in
Spanish and speak and listen to Mandarin fluently. Remember: the four parts of
language development are Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. Children are
simultaneously learning these parts in developmentally appropriate ways.

We see the benefits of learning more than one language. In fact, multilingualism has
been shown in research to help children to socially and emotionally have another
perspective and outlook on life and with others, increased executive functioning and
linked to having more empathy.

We also encourage speaking the home language, not the predominant language of a
country. Rather than boost a predominant language we encourage speaking in a child’s
original dialect and language. This prevents families from having superficial
conversations which ultimately aids in language development. The most important
factor in family conversations is the quality and depth: the substance of the
conversations no matter the language. Here are several more tips to support children
and families:
● Support and encourage children to speak their home language in your
classroom, community and home.
● Set up a classroom and school that says everyone is welcome. It helps when a
person can see themself in print and books.
● Learn a child’s home language. Start with keywords, favorite songs, books and
● Provide language free play experiences and things to do. From block building,
playdough, moon sand, puzzles to sculpting mud!
● Listen to children even if you don’t understand every word.
● Invite families in
● Create a multilingual school like ours: Fiolina!

Below are the top ten languages spoken by people ages 5 and up:
The top 10 languages spoken by people ages 5 and up are: Spanish, Chinese,
Korean, Vietnamese, French, Tagalog, Russian, Amharic, Ibo and Yoruba! How are we
serving and supporting multilingualism in the early years? Let’s also add sign language
as there are also many ways to sign across languages as well from Spanish to
Egyptian! Interested? Check it out here: Gallaudet also offers free
sign language classes.

When it comes to learning languages children (0-8) are able to learn multiple languages
more easily and more fluently. So, how many languages do you speak? Polyglots are
the new cool. Comment below to let us know.

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