Common Myths about Dual Language Learners: What the Current Research Tells Us

The Foundation for Child Development recently released a report, PreK-3rd: Challenging Common Myths About Dual Language Learners (Espinosa, 2013). In this report, Dr. Linda Espinosa summarizes the recent research that can inform families, teachers, and policy makers involved with the care and education of young dual language learners (DLLs).

The United States is experiencing tremendous growth in the numbers of young DLLs enrolled in early care and education programs. More than 11,000 children were served in Illinois public PreK bilingual programs during the 2011–2012 school year (Illinois State Board of Education Annual Report, 2012, p. 25).

As families and teachers begin a new school year, it is important to highlight several findings included in Dr. Espinosa’s summary report. These findings can guide the design of educational programs for young DLLs:

  1. Young children are capable of learning academic content in two languages. This means that continued use of the child’s home language during academic instruction has been shown to be highly effective.
  2. Many early literacy skills learned in a child’s home language will transfer to English.
  3. ALL young children appear to benefit from learning more than one language. Learning a new language at a young age has many positive outcomes.
  4. Accurate and valid assessment in both the child’s home language and in English is critical to understanding the child’s knowledge and skills in both languages. This information can then be used to plan appropriate instruction for each child.

Families and teachers can work together so that young DLLs have a strong start to the school year. Linking current research to teaching practices will start young DLLs on the road to successful school experiences that they can build upon for the rest of their lives.

Bernie Laumann
blaumann@illinois.edu

Dr. Bernadette M. Laumann is the coordinator of the Illinois Early Learning Project. She has been a child care teacher, an early childhood special education teacher, director of an inclusive early childhood program, researcher, and university teacher educator. Her research interests include mentoring and induction activities for beginning teachers and the use of technology in connecting evidence-based practice.