chapter  18
15 Pages

“My Mommy Doesn’t Speak English”: Supporting Children as Emergent Bilinguals

Language is a remarkable human invention. Almost all human beings, without formal instruction, are able to speak or otherwise convey meaning through the language used in their communities. As adults we seem to take this ability to learn and use language for granted; it is ever present and thus like the air we breathe. When we stop to refl ect, we may realize how remarkable language is, how complicated yet practical it is; and if we go a step further, we may wonder whether knowing two languages is twice as remarkable. Of course knowing two languages-bilingualism-is not that simple. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss what it might mean to learn and know two or more languages, within the framework of early childhood teaching and teacher education. The kindergartner’s statement in the chapter title, “My mommy doesn’t speak English,” was overheard in her classroom and was her comment on why she is in a bilingual program. We take her declaration to be an invitation to address the following organizing questions:

• What are theoretical and historical contexts for childhood bilingualism? • How do young children become bilingual? • What kinds of programs and what kinds of teachers support the process of becoming bilingual? • How effective is bilingual education for young children? • Which researchers identify practices in early childhood teacher education programs that sup-

port young emergent bilinguals?