A Better Start Southend
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Here are some frequently asked questions that you might find useful if you speak another language with your little one.

See this leaflet come to life in Bangla.

Use the language you feel most confident and comfortable in speaking. Children who are learning two or more languages will have better language skills if parents give them clear models in their home language.

Please don’t worry about your child having to start English before school. For children whose English is not their home language, they will begin to hear and recognise English when spoken around them especially when they are out and about. Do look out for groups and activities which encourage social interaction for young children in your area, Southend’s Family Centres offer lots for you and your little one to do and YourFamily can link you with interpreters. Joining a nursery or pre-school is a great way to give your little one a good start to learning English, whilst they play and make friends.

Every child is different so this will vary from child to child. Children who are learning a new language may take around 2-3 years to be fluent talkers in that language.

Silent phase (see below)
Formulaic language
Joining in with familiar songs and rhymes that repeat
Code switching (mixing the two languages together) see below
Development of independent phrases
Longer sentences

No. Many children who are from a bilingual background and who are learning English as an additional language will go through what’s called a ‘silent phase’ when they are first attending a nursery, pre-school, childminder or school. This is a natural stage of learning another language and during this time, your little one will still be actively listening and learning. If this ‘silent phase’ lasts for more than a few months though, speak to the nursery for advice.

No. When learning to talk, all children mix up words and sentences. Sometimes children (and adults) from a bilingual background will mix two languages within the same sentence (code switching). This can be a natural way of communicating for them and is a skill, not a problem. They will soon work out the different vocabulary and rules of the two languages.

No. Your child will have advantages later in life if they can speak in two or more languages and research shows that children who are bilingual can cope well in language tasks at school if they are given the right support for developing both their home language and English.

When more than one language is used within a home, people switch from one to the other quite naturally. You might feel comfortable using one language at certain times and a different language in another social situation. This will not be confusing for your little one, when our youngest children are exposed to two languages in varied circumstances with different people from the moment they are born and if they need both languages to communicate with the people around them, they will learn both.

For some families ‘One person, one language’ (OPOL) can be a helpful strategy. If you, your partner and your little one’s grandparents and/or other family members speak different languages, ask each to decide, with you, which language they will use with your child – and then stick to it! For example one parent may be a Portuguese speaker and so speaks only Portuguese with their child whilst the other parent might speak Italian and therefore only speak Italian to their little one.

There are a number of easy ways you can help your child with their talking and listening. Spending time talking with your child while they are playing, looking at a book, and/or while you are doing everyday activities together, are all good ways of helping them learn to talk.

Definitely ‘Yes’! You can be confident that most children have the ability to be good at both their home language and English. The important thing is to help your child to enjoy communicating in any language.

Websites and Leaflet Resources

There are lots of websites and leaflets that have key tips and advice for parents, carers and early years practitioners that have been produced in other languages;

The National Literacy Trust has produced a series of “bilingual quick tips” produced in 19 different languages to help support parents and carers with their little one’s talking and listening skills. 

The 19 different languages are: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Estonian, French, Gujarati, Latvian, Norwegian, Panjabi, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Somali, Swedish, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu and Welsh.

Topics such as ‘Talking to your baby from day one’, ‘Dummies’, ‘Talking in your own language’, ‘Making the most of television’, ‘Sharing songs, rhymes and books’ and ‘Playing with your baby’ are all covered.


The National Literacy Trust has also made the “Time Together” booklet – a colourful and easy-to-read guide that is full of suggestions for how parents can support their little one’s learning at home.

This has been translated into 18 different languages: Albanian, Bengali, Chinese, French, Gujurati, Italian, Kurdish, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Urdu, Yoruba and English.

Booktrust also have some useful information about reading to your baby/child. They have booklets in 23 different languages giving tips and advice on sharing books with babies: These are available in Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Dari, English, French, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Somali, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu and Welsh

They also have tips and advice for sharing books with children who are 3-4 years: These booklets are available in Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Dari, English, French, Hindi/Punjabi, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Somali, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu and Welsh.

Watch ‘The Bear Who Stared’ in: French, Albanian, Portuguese, Russian, Ukrainian, and Welsh.

The BBC’s Tiny Happy People campaign also have some great tips, ideas and around 15 short videos on a range of topics to do with bilingualism. 

Videos and tips such as ‘10 Fun and easy bilingual games for toddlers’, ‘Siblings learning languages together’ and ‘How grandparents can help children learn languages’ are there.  However, please note that these are all currently only available in English.

If you live in an A Better Start Southend ward, you can access Southend Storysacks where you can borrow free storytelling and activity packs.

Dual Language sacks are now available in ten different languages – Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, French, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Urdu! Click here to view the poster.

Here is a link to a fun free interactive online Dual Language book site –

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