Section 4: Ways to build on home language knowledge

Key Focus Question: How can you build on knowledge of the home language to develop competence in the additional language?

Keywords: vocabulary; concepts; additive bilingualism

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will have:

  • used the home language to maximise creativity, understanding and development of ideas;
  • understood the importance of interplay between the home language and the additional language.


As a teacher, you want to maximise learning and skills in the additional language and so you need to make decisions about when and how to use the home language. Your choice of language should be based on what is best for your pupils’ learning, rather than on what is easiest for you.

In many schools, the home languages of the pupils are used at home, and then only in the first few years of school. This often leads to a view that the home language is not worth much. Teachers and parents forget that it is important to build on the pupils’ existing language knowledge and skills and use both languages.

This section shows how using the home language can maximise creativity, understanding and development of ideas, as well as development of the additional language.

Resource 5: Making meaning

1. Using home language to stimulate creativity