How silent is the ‘Silent Period’ for young bilinguals in early years settings in England?

Drury, Rose (2013). How silent is the ‘Silent Period’ for young bilinguals in early years settings in England? European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 21(3) pp. 380–391.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1350293X.2013.814362

Abstract

During the first decade of the twenty-first century there have been increasing numbers of bilingual children entering early years settings, many of whom are new to English. Twelve percent of school children in the UK are identified as having a mother tongue other than English and this number rises to 50% in urban areas such as inner London. In some London primary schools 80% of the children are classified as bilingual and more than 200 languages are spoken in the homes of children attending schools. It is often assumed that young bilingual children who are new to English will ‘pick up’ English naturally and very easily, but this article examines the complexities of the process of learning English as an additional language (EAL) in the early years. It also challenges some of the ‘myths’ about the ‘Silent Period’, as currently understood by practitioners and explained by linguists, and argues for a socio-cultural perspective on young children's learning during the early years.

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