Dual-Language Development

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About this Competency

Dual-language development refers to the process by which a child acquires his or her home language and English. Dual-language learners may speak their home language and learn English as they enter preschool or elementary school ("sequential bilinguals"), or they may develop both English and their home language at the same time and at comparable levels at home and in early education settings ("simultaneous" bilinguals) [Garcia and Jensen 2009; CDE 2008b]. This competency area addresses the knowledge and skills that early childhood educators need in order to support the optimal development and learning of young dual-language learners and the relatively small number of young children who learn more than two languages. It is based on current research and knowledge about dual-language acquisition as well as an understanding that dual-language learners represent a variety of social, cultural, and linguistic perspectives, diverse characteristics, and experiences. Key concepts include ackno wledgment of young children's ability to develop proficiency in both English and the home language, and recognition of the home language as the vehicle by which children are socialized into their families and communities (CDE 2009a).

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California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies Wheel

Framing Questions

Framing questions identify some of the major themes in this competency. They provide you with a starting point. As you explore this competency, add your own framing questions for issues you want to further examine.

  • What is the relationship between a child's language development and her/his cultural identity?
  • How do you build respectful relationships with families whose language is different from yours?
  • How can a multi-lingual program develop linguistic and cultural democracy?
  • How do we meet one set of standards in a multilingual, multi-cultural, multiethnic program?


Keep these dispositions in mind as you explore the Framing Questions. If you mindfully adopt these dispositions, you will realize the Desired Outcomes for Practitioners and for Children.

  • Views self as a language teacher of young dual-language learners.
  • Views self as a language learner.
  • Values and respects the home language(s) and culture(s) of all children.
  • Values and initiates open communication with families.
  • Promotes a climate of belonging to facilitate the development of dual-language learners.
  • Views multiple language use as a positive attribute.
  • Views families as children's primary teachers.

Desired Outcomes for practitioners

If I have these dispositions, then I will…

  • be aware of the power dynamics in relationships.
  • develop genuine relationships that are culturally responsive and go beyond the superficial.
  • have the ability to bounce back despite "negotiation fatigue" (Developing and maintaining resilience and flexibility).
  • engage with families with high regard (The wise meeting the wise).
  • see my work in early childhood as strengthening democracy.

Desired Outcomes for Children

If teachers and caregivers have these dispositions, then children will…

  • like who they are and the language(s) they speak.
  • feel proud of their families' cultures and languages.
  • stay connected to their families as they speak their language(s) together.
  • know how to be friends with people with different cultures and languages.

Keys to Reflection and Inquiry

The CompSAT Keys to Reflection and Inquiry offer you a protocol to use in whatever setting you work as an early childhood educator. Learn how you can integrate the six Keys into your work. Select one of the Keys below to practice reflecting with questions related to the competency area of Dual-Language Development.


Choose from one of the Keys below to view additional information related to this Competency!

Build Your Portfolio

Newsletters provide a great platform for documentation.

Portfolio screenshot

Newsletters can provide a great tool for documenting your work. They can be very polished, as in the one provided here, or they can be simple and unadorned. You can find templates online to fit any mood or experience, or you can just browse for ideas. They make a great permanent record of program activities — and when used for your portfolio — they can give parents and colleagues insight into your thinking, learning, and growth. Remember, portfolios always include your reflections!

View the Portfolio Sample

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