Early Childcare Assistant

3 Tips for Communicating with Non-English Speaking Children after ECA Courses

April 12, 2019

Early childcare assistants in Ontario frequently work with children who are non-English speakers, including at daycares and childcare centres for English schools that their parents may be attending. For young children, stepping into a new setting and not being able to speak the language can be daunting.

As an early childcare assistant, you can help these children on their journey to learning a new language in a number of ways. Here are a few tips for how you can help, which in turn will make it easier for you and the child to communicate with one another.

1. ECAs Should not Be too Concerned if a Non-English Speaking Child Is Quiet

Children who are introduced into an English-language setting when they don’t speak English will often react with extended periods of silence. For adults, this silence can sometimes seem worrisome. They may think that the child is lonely, confused, or isolated. However, silence is a normal stage of learning a new language for young children.

Rather than necessarily being lonely or confused, children in the silent stage are actively listening to the new language and learning to link new sounds with objects and activities. As an ECA, you should not be overly concerned if a child who does not speak English seems very quiet. Instead, non-English speaking children should be encouraged to interact as much as possible with other young children through hand and other physical gestures without being pressured into speaking a language they do not yet understand.

2. Use Fun Activities to Help Children Understand New Words in English

Play is one of the most effective methods for helping young children learn new skills. For children who speak little to no English, play is a great way to help them learn new words. As you’ll see in your early childcare assistant training, ECAs collaborate with teachers to develop and implement daily activities that support children’s development. Play is often incorporated into these activities, including helping non-English speaking children develop new language skills.

For example, picture books are a fun way to help young children connect the sounds of words with a visual image. Likewise, nursery rhymes are fun for children to sing along to even before they fully understand what all of the words in the nursery rhyme mean. Such nursery rhymes encourage children to mimic the sounds of English words. Mimicking these sounds helps children gain confidence in their ability to speak English with you or others later on. By making language fun and engaging, children are more likely to pick up new words and phrases faster than if they were being taught English through overly structured lessons.

Picture books are an effective tool for helping children learn new words

3. Pros with Early Childcare Assistant Training Should Repeat Important Words Often

When children learn a new language, the first words they learn also tend to be the most important. As an ECA, you can help facilitate this language-learning process by repeating words that are especially useful for the child.

As you’ll learn in your ECA courses, assisting children with dressing, using the washroom, and with lunchtime activities are all tasks that the ECA is responsible for. They are also excellent opportunities to help children learn important English words, like washroom, water, food, shoes, coat, and so on. You can repeat these words clearly while assisting children during these activities. Doing so will help the child learn new words, which in turn will make it easier for you and the child to communicate with one another.

By repeating related words during essential activities, ECAs can facilitate children’s language learning

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