Monday, July 23, 2018

Teaching English Language Learners: Thinking About Language

"Put your jumper in the car boot." 

What does that mean? 

Those in Great Britain will understand that someone is being told to put their sweatshirt in the trunk of the car. 

The sentence shows us that even in those countries that share language, terminology can be different. Even the name for the mark at the end of a sentence, a period, can be confusing as in the Commonwealth countries, the term, full stop, is often used. These examples show us that we often need to do a bit of research about the terminology used in those languages spoken by children in our classrooms. Terms can be different or words can mean one thing in one language and something else in another language.

Here are a few examples. A trombone in French is a paperclip. In Norway, the word gift means poison.And Ohio means Good Morning in Japan. Mist is a word for manure in German. You can see how a child from Germany might be confused if you are talking about the weather being misty.

The above words show us that we need to understand the language of all children in our classrooms. This can be true for children from different parts of the country, too. Take a look at this sign: 


This illustrates that children from areas like the upper Midwest can call a soft drink, pop. Those in other areas may say soda while others in the Boston may say tonic. This can be confusing for small children who move to a new area. It will help if those who greet newcomers take a few minutes to learn what terms might be used but confused. 

When we understand our differences, it helps make everyone more comfortable.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 03.
Head Start - VIII.A. & B.

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