Much research underscores the importance of providing non-English speaking children a learning environment that incorporates and values their language backgrounds and culture (Garcia, 1992; McLaughlin, 1992; Collier, 1989 and Cummins, 1981). Providing natural language experiences in a child's native language supports the development of a strong link between home and school. This facilitates successful school experiences for young non-English speaking children. Instructional strategies that acknowledge, respect, and build upon the language and culture of the home serve these children well.
Language is one of the critical features of a culture. Building on children's understanding of concepts in their native language assists with mastery of these concepts in English. Providing a child with support in her native language not only promotes the acquisition of important concepts, but enhances the connectedness between the culture of the family and the culture of the school. This connectedness is essential to providing school experiences that are meaningful and relevant to young children. Such experiences (mediated through a child's native language) permit a child to engage in learning as an interactive process where knowledge is constructed as a result of dynamic interactions between the individual child and the physical and social environments.
Speech and the natural language processes that are a part of whole language are very important for young children. In particular, young children from non-English speaking backgrounds have much to gain or lose depending upon their early language experiences in the classroom. A major contributor to early school failure is submersion of non-English speaking children into classrooms where the children's own culture and language background are neither incorporated nor valued (NAEYC, 1991).
Experiences with materials that incorporate a child's native language validate and affirm non-English speaking cultures. Providing such experiences represent a first step in reversing early school failure that results when non-English speaking children are submerged in physical and social environments in school that neither validate or affirm their native language or family culture.
In particular, for children from non-English speaking backgrounds using their native language supports them in personally constructing their understandings of relationships among the elements of whole language - speaking, writing, reading and listening.
Young children require instruction in their native language to affirm their cultural background and to support their acquisition of early concepts. Native language instruction helps children affirm their self-concept and their culture. Yet, in many cases, educators are not able to provide the native language supports these children need.
In addition second language instruction offers exposure of another language to English-speaking children. Recently, the National Association of State Boards of Education issued a position statement that confirmed the importance of all children learning a language other than English.
Software that includes native language instruction helps children acquire early concepts. ON-line English language support helps children transfer these concepts to English, promoting a successful learning experience. Computers can help teachers provide the native language support that these young children need.