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August 23, 2021

The Virginia Department of Education says it best: “Multilingual is a strengths-based label that recognizes those students who have the ability to become bilingual or multilingual through school-based instruction and highlights that the ability to speak more than one language is a highly valuable life skill.” While labels are being sorted out, your program can certainly adopt a strengths-based approach in your support of these students, having a strong and positive impact as they transition to a new home and their new skill.

Very few students who immigrate to this country with their families are credited with their potential mindset of, “I have so much to offer my new home.” Instead, they are often made to feel they are a drain on resources. Yet global polling tells us that immigrants are more likely to contribute time and money to their adopted country than native-born citizens. You can help your English-learning students begin a shift in mindset by drawing their attention to all of the positive aspects of being multilingual, ranging from brain development to job prospects. This infographic produced by the U.S. Department of Education Office of English Acquisition is a great place to start. It highlights benefits that are

  • Cognitive, including executive functioning, intellectual flexibility and possibly delaying age-related cognitive decline.
  • Educational, including numerous improved outcomes in creativity, abstract thinking and higher graduation rates.
  • Economic, including raising occupational status and earning potential, and expanding business opportunities.
  • Sociocultural, including a better understanding of world cultures, and overall increased empathy.

Continuing that positive, asset-based thinking around learning English, you can make the most of Y4Y’s course on Supporting English Learners and its accompanying tools.

The internet is rich with stories of successful Americans who came to this country at a young age. A great way to empower your multilingual learners is to search for someone who came to this country at the same age they did, and what that person says about how it has benefitted them to know two or more languages. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, came to the U.S. at age 6. Madeline Albright immigrated at age 11 as a refugee from Czechoslovakia and went on to become Secretary of State! Your 21st CCLC program can be your students’ window on the promised land of opportunity that brought them here. Help them to understand that their fluency in multiple languages can be their golden ticket.