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Fostering new languages

Adult and Childs foster hands

Fostering new languages

More than 300 different languages are spoken by children in schools in London, making it the most diverse city in the world. English is the most common language spoken but for more than a third of children it is not the language they will use or listen to at home. The most common are Hindi/Urdu and Punjabi.

A foster carer may be given a placement where a child or young person speaks a different language. Or maybe a child has been placed with a foster family because they share a religion and not a nationality. It can be quite challenging to look after a child who speaks a different language, and it can affect how they settle in.

One such example is not understanding what the foster child is asking for, which can be frustrating and can lead to tantrums in a younger child. It is important not to criticise when you don’t understand what they are trying to say but to support them and encourage them to be proud of their ethnic background.

As well as helping them to learn English, give them the opportunity to speak their first language. This will also give the foster carer the opportunity to learn some of their language too. Maybe start with simple words such as numbers one to 10 and hello and goodbye.

Learning a new language is much easier when you’re a child, the younger the better in fact. The older you are when you start to learn, the harder it will be.

For children who speak more than one language there are many benefits such as good reading skills, improved performance at school, better problem solving skills and greater cultural awareness. There are plenty of teaching tools available such as DVD’s, CD’s and a range of websites.

Playing games together is also a good way to help a child learn and you don’t need to speak the same language to do so.

Establishing good routines and teaching as you carry out your normal day to day activities such as shopping and cooking will all help too.


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