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    Young children's language learning pathways
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    Key principles

Key principles for teachers and educators

Children are exposed to and come into contact with a range of different languages, language varieties, and cultures. Children come to school with different ways of speaking, using language(s), and cultural practices, which reflect the relationships they have in their communities. Children learn languages in different ways, depending on their context and their opportunities to hear and use languages in their environment.  

Teacher and educators are the learning companions of the children within the education system, and through providing a safe and nurturing learning environment where all languages and cultures are welcome, they can support the children on their own, individual, language learning journey as they learn about the world around them and their own identity. 

This means that we, as the teachers and educators, need to consider our own attitudes and position towards the variety of different languages and cultures that the children bring to our classrooms or educational settings.

Teachers and educators do not need to be able to speak or use all the languages and language varieties that the children bring to the educational setting.

But teachers can, through their actions, show that they value and respect the cultural and linguistic diversity that the children bring to the classroom and the wider educational setting. They can encourage children to share their experiences and knowledge, both with the teachers and with the other children.

PALINGUI has identified five core principles for teachers and educators. Teachers and educators can support children in their classroom or setting by:

valuing the languages that children bring to the classroom or educational setting Children will bring different languages and language varieties to the classroom, these might be languages that you, as the teacher or educator, can speak or use, or these might be languages that you are not familiar with. Language and culture are closely linked and valuing the different cultural practices that are associated with different languages will support the children in developing their own identity and feel respected as individuals.
reflecting on pedagogical approaches Language learning is a social process. Language learning is linked to a child’s physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development. Reflecting on the different individual language learning pathways and how these can be made visible in the education system through observation, assessment, and documentation will support the children in understanding their own language learning and empower them to become agents of their own learning.
understanding that language learning is a continuous and ongoing process Language learning takes place within and outside of the education system. Language learning will include the language(s) of schooling and any additional languages taught as part of the curriculum in the educational system but will also include the language(s) of the home, the family, and the community. Language learning in different settings can be mutually supportive.
supporting children as agents of their own (language) learning Children learn and use languages in a variety of different ways, in different settings, and with different people. Supporting children to reflect on their own language learning pathways will allow them to take ownership of their own language learning journey and (co-)construct their own knowledge, understanding, and skills.
recognising that language learning is a cognitive as well as a socio-emotional process Language learning involves different stakeholders: the child, the teacher(s), the parents, the family, the community, the school, and the education system. These different stakeholders all influence the perceptions of the child towards each of the different languages and language learning pathways. Children need to feel valued and supported in all their language learning to enable them to develop their skills and knowledge.