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Metalinguistic Awareness: Potential Problems and Solutions           

Language acquisition in a bilingual setting in children and metalinguistic awareness in children 

If Luca was a monolingual child and were placed in a bilingual situation in which she did not speak either language offered, this could be quite challenging for her, as well as for other people who are involved. If Luca was previously only aware of her own mother tongue or first language, being surrounded by unknown languages can be very unfamiliar and potentially overwhelming situation. It is up to the educators and care-givers to support Luca in this situation, give a feeling of security and guidance and ease potential stress, so Luca is enabled to confidently explore new languages. 

You can support your language with appropriate non-verbal communication at the child’s eye level. Body language will be the number one means of orientation and comprehension, in case the child does not understand the spoken language.

You can use visual aides to support and to help the child understand what is being said. Visual aides can be a great way to link vocabulary to actual situations and therefore strengthen the child’s language skills. You could offer pictures of everyday items or routines (like lunch time or nap time) and repeat the new vocabulary in interaction with the child as often as possible. 

Suggestions for pictures of the daily routines can be: 

Breakfast, play time, toilet, park time or many more. They can be displayed on a wall or the educators can wear laminated cards with photos on a keychain to always have it ready when needed. The cards can even have the word that describes the action or object in the child’s first language on it in order to strengthen literacy and add another dimension familiar to the child. This can be a great tool when starting in a daycare or a new environment.

Try to use simplistic and consistent vocabulary when interacting with the child. 

Daily routines and consistency can help a child decode and memorise new words. By following a daily routine and structure, the combined repetition of words and actions creates a link in the child’s mind between the action and the words used to describe it.