War is what happens when language fails.’ 

The quote above is by Margaret Atwood.

You may well ask ‘How is this quote relevant to language and culture in an early childhood or primary school context?’  

Well, those feelings of frustration, anger, disappointment, loss, are the same feelings teachers and learners experience when they do not understand each other. When your language is not acknowledged, let alone understood, it could impact negatively on learning. 

As a teacher you may well be monolingual or if not, you may not know or understand all the languages and cultures represented by the children in your school. 

One of the Stories of Practice on Te Whariki Online, – Monolingual Teachers in Multilingual Centers – (on the website, expand ‘stories of practice’ and scroll down to the 6th story) describes how a kindergarten in the Mangare Bridge community deals successfully with the expectations of parents, ability of teachers, and general understanding of children’s expectations and expertise. 

The downloadable PDF below is an interesting research paper which includes the story of practice above. 

Source: Children who learn in more than one language: Early childhood teachers afloat in plurilingual seas.