Part of my role includes documenting children's deepening engagement with English as a foreign language. I usually create a learning environment / opportunity / experience and document these including direct quotes (in German and English), images, work samples and a narrative from a self reflexive perspective. These ""documents" are always accessible to parents and children, stored on site in the library. In this way, dialogue and transparency can also become part of the process, and I have come to appreciate that more and more.
But I noticed one exchange that does not fit into any of the usual categories that I tend to use. I am also considering how to report on it, knowing that the parents of a child speak only a little German, and no English at all. I still think in the interests of transparency it is worth recognising and celebrating. Here is what I would like to describe...
In the morning circle a child (with another language background) was retelling a highlight from an excursion, as part of a reflection round. It was significant that he felt confident to speak, after a history of saying very little in such a public context. But speak he did, and when he finished, another child said "Why did he make mistakes in his sentences? He's not a baby." The other teacher (who was conducting this part of the morning) replied to the girl directly "Can you speak two languages? It takes time to speak two languages, and F. was very clear in what he said."
The girl nodded and the discussion continued. At this point, F. turned to me (since he was next to me) and whispered in German "I can speak three languages. Where I went on my Summer holiday I had to speak a new language."
I found two parts of this exchange interesting. One was that the other teacher had formally recognised and encouraged the group to realise that having two langauges is a wonderful thing, even if there are sometimes some difficulties. I would like to feel that my time in this role has helped in the sensitizing of staff to the challenges migrant children face linguistically.
Secondly, this little boy was referring to time spent in the country of his parents - the original homeland. He realised there that his home language was not always a minority language, not always a language for the private domain. He had seen, heard, smelt and tasted it in an authentic and pervasive way. He brought this experience of validation back with him, and realises that his language has real worth. I would like to feel that I am a little bit of a role model in my bilingualism, which explains our good connection.
For the purposes of documentation, I feel this exchange is worth holding on to and reporting. I dream though of the day when such reporting could be translated into the home language of the parents.