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Learning English as an additional language

Two faces one is speaking whilst the other listens

Speak to children in their home language

When at home, always speak to your child in the language that you are most comfortable with speaking, often your home language. This will allow your child to develop a good language foundation. They can then learn English at school, building on a good foundation in their home language.

Speech bubble with Irish, English and Romanian flag

Switching between languages

It is common for children who are learning 2 languages to switch between the 2. They will sometimes use 2 different languages in 1 sentence. Sometimes your child may respond in a different language to the one you used with them, but don’t worry, this means they still understood your message. This is typical for children learning 2 languages.

Person writing on a board and a mouth with a speech bubble above

Teach new words in your home language

If your child gets sent home with any words to practice or learn, try to do this in your home language. This way, your child will be able to gain a better understanding of the word, and use it when talking to you at home.

Two people facing opposite one is pointing to a sheet of paper with different colours the other is clapping his hands


There are a few strategies you can use to support your child’s language development at home:

  • use visual cues such as facial expression, gesture, sign and symbols
  • keep language simple and relevant to the context
  • talk about things that they can see and hear
  • use repetition and a slow rate of speech
  • shorten instructions
  • use consistent and familiar vocabulary
  • extend your child’s sentences by introducing new words according to the child’s level
  • get your child’s attention before giving them instructions, for example, by using their name and making eye contact
Two people sat opposite with a x2 blue arrows exchanging between them


If you have any concerns about your child’s language development in their home language, please do not hesitate to discuss these concerns with your school’s special educational needs coordinator (SENCo) or contact the speech and language therapy service.

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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