EAL: The power of silence

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By Halina BoniszewskaEAL teacher

Discover how allowing new English speakers to remain silent can reap rewards later on

Worried girl

Problem:‘Help! I have a new English as an additional language (EAL) child in my class and she won’t speak. What should I do?’

Answer: The first thing that you should do is to relax. The more you make an issue out of the child’s silence, the more pressure she will feel, and will freeze and clam up. It is perfectly normal for a new arrival to say precious little during her first six months in a foreign country. She may need that time to acclimatise herself to the sounds of the new language. She will be busy listening: the more she listens, the more she will learn.

Trust me – I was once an EAL child. I spent a number of months attending ear, nose and throat outpatient departments because my teachers had told my mother that my refusal to speak probably meant that I had hearing problems. The truth was that my ear was just getting attuned to a new language; also, I was quiet by nature and a perfectionist. I was not going to make a fool of myself by opening my mouth and saying something that might not be quite right.

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