We are proud of our international community here at Dulwich College Suzhou, where we have students from a wide variety of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. As English is the shared language of our community, as well as the language of instruction, students whose home language is not English face additional challenges as they are learning through English, learning about English, and learning English simultaneously. For this reason, we have various English B pathways in Senior School and dedicated ELL teaching staff in DUCKS and Junior School supporting the development of English language skills, so that they can thrive at our school and fulfill their academic potential.
Alongside our curriculum, it is important that students invest time in developing their language skills outside of school. Parents often ask us how they can help their child in doing this, so we would like to share some suggestions:
- Support your child in learning about your home culture(s) and language(s). Parents often wonder whether or not to start using English at home once their child enters an English speaking international school. At DCSZ, we stress the importance of continued home language development. Helping your child develop their listening and speaking skills, e.g. vocabulary, grammar, tone, register, in their home language will support learning at school as they will be able to transfer those skills and use them to learn English.
- Ensure your child develops their literacy skills in their home language. We know that students who develop good literacy skills in their home language(s) will be more able to make progress in learning additional languages, including English. For this reason, encourage your child to read and write widely, including literary texts and non-fiction texts, in your own language(s), and discuss this reading together.
- Make reading part of your daily routine. This quality time spent together will help develop your child’s interest in reading and motivate them to become independent readers. You can read to your child, listen to your child read, predict what will happen next, discuss characters and settings, take some notes, draw pictures, etc. If your child is reading an interesting English book, you could also read the translation in your own language and discuss it.
- Encourage your child to develop the habit of reading appropriate English texts (not too easy, not too difficult) every day. This could be novels, non-fiction texts, news articles, or texts on the website www.readtheory.org. It’s important that students read about topics they are interested in so that they are motivated to develop this habit. Our librarian can help students select appropriate books or access online resources like First News.
- Support your child in developing a habit of learning English vocabulary. Students will probably encounter many new words during each school day, so it’s important for them to spend time memorising words and trying to use them in sentences. Students can use websites and APPs like www.quizlet.com to create vocabulary flashcards, which they can review every day.
- Ask your child questions about their learning to find out what they are doing in school and how they are progressing. Useful questions might include: “What are you finding difficult at school?” “Do you know how to improve?” “Have you asked your teacher any questions recently?” “Did anything interesting happen in your English lessons today?”
- Where possible, give your child opportunities to use English in different ways and learn about English-speaking cultures (for example, going to see English movies at the cinema or spending time socialising with English-speaking friends). If your child enjoys team sports, get them into an English speaking sports team.
We hope these suggestions can be of use in supporting your child’s journey as a language learner. It is important that we understand and remember that this journey can sometimes take a long time. Learning a language requires a variety of skills and can continue throughout a learner’s lifetime. In order for this journey to be successful and continuous it is paramount that young learners enjoy the process of learning and using a new language. If we can maintain the element of fun throughout language learning, we will automatically provide the motivation for that learning journey to become a life-long one.