Should Preschool Teachers Be Required to be Bilingual?

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, M.S. SpEd

Over half of the students in California’s two largest public school systems speak a language other than English at home. These two systems, which serve around a quarter of the state’s children, do not require teachers in their programs to know more than one language. The Huffington Post article that originally published this information questioned whether or not the school systems should have set requirements or offered an incentive for teachers to learn languages they can use in the classroom.

This issue, though specific to California in this instance, will likely become more and more common nationwide. As of 2014, data from the Center for Immigration Studies reported that one in five people in the United States do not speak English at home.

This number, up about 50% since 1990 when the US expanded green card numbers given to foreign citizens, marks a shift in the ethnic makeup of American society. Not only that, but in 2013 the number of residents who speak a language other than English at home reached a record high: 61.8 million people.

This means that public school systems and private preschools alike are going to see a rise in students with needs that are starkly different from students who have grown up speaking English. Preschool teachers especially, those that work with students in their most formative years, will see a dramatic shift in the needs of their students.

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Part of the reason preschool teachers should consider learning another language is that the age when a child is attending preschool is critical to their linguistic development, and having a teacher who speaks the language the child speaks at home would help them master English quicker and more easily.

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