This presentation focuses on the language development of children in the Australian Early Childhood setting The languages we speak contribute to our being, becoming and belonging in early childhood and broaden opportunities throughout our lives. Children learn the languages used by their families and in their communities, and as the number of children with language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE) continues to grow, two priorities are apparent. First, it is important for early childhood educators to encourage children to bring their home languages into the preschool setting. Second, for children with English language backgrounds only, exposure to other languages may encourage later language learning. This aligns with the Australian Government’s 2013 commitment to revive the teaching of languages in schools and for 40% of students in Year 12 in 2023 to be studying a second language.
English language skills are important as English is the medium of instruction in most Australian schools. Australian research has shown that monolingual English-speaking children may have stronger English language verbal abilities when they start school than their bi- and multilingual peers. It is important for early childhood professionals to work with families, encouraging them to value and support their child’s first language whilst at the same time facilitating bi- and multilingualism. This is important for children in the here-and-now. It is also forms the bedrock on which Australia’s future is being built.
Dr Caroline Cohrssen’s work focuses on proximal influences on child learning and development in the years prior to formal school education. Interested in the influence of context and culture on early childhood education, she is currently an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at The University of Hong Kong.