Not all children attending early childhood education classrooms speak the same first language. What to do when children express themselves in their mother tongue, and not in the language of instruction? If we invest in the first language (i.e., the mother tongue), can we delay learning the language of instruction or, conversely, can we foster the successful development of the two languages? How to respond to immigrant or ethnic minority parents when they ask what they should do at home to promote language development in general or to promote the learning of the language of instruction?
Conversation is crucial for language acquisition, but talking in the home context is quite different from talking in an ECEC setting. I would like to share 5 tips to enrich those conversations. 1 The type of activity matters. “Language-all-day-long” is a beautiful goal to pursue. However, in practice what really matters is what you do (a.o. Cabell et al., 2014). Excellent contexts to produce rich, language stimulating conversations have been shown to be science activities and storytelling moments. Thus, focussing on these is a first great strategy for language development.