English Language Learning, Remote Language Learning, Tips and Tricks

How Can Educators Support Emergent Bilinguals’ Parents During Remote Learning?

Parent Helping Student

Across the country, everyone is adjusting to remote learning. While each district’s learning model may look different, from fully in-person to fully remote, every school is most likely incorporating some form of remote learning for those students who need it.

As a result, educators and administrators are having to reevaluate the ways in which they’re engaging emergent bilingual students, or English language learners, and assess what’s needed to ensure their success.

A Growing Population

Emergent bilinguals are one of the fastest-growing segments among school-age children in the US, projected to account for 25 percent of the total K–12 enrollment by 2025, according to the National Education Association. Despite these growing numbers, however, as a group, emergent bilinguals statistically underperform their non-emergent bilingual counterparts.

The pandemic may exacerbate this achievement gap, as experts at the Migration Policy Institute estimate that students will lose 30 percent of their annual reading gains and up to 50 percent of their math gains due to what they’re referring to as the “COVID slide.”

Engagement is Key

Engaging emergent bilinguals in remote learning is paramount. A key component of emergent bilingual success is parent/caregiver involvement, as research from the National Education Association connects increased parent engagement to better student attitudes, improved academic performance, and a reduction in dropout rates.

But parents are now faced with more challenges than ever before, as they work to maintain jobs and other responsibilities while also managing their children’s remote learning. Fortunately, there are things educators and administrators can do to support parents and caregivers for better student outcomes.

Opening the lines of communication

Two-way communication is even more important during remote learning, and each emergent bilingual’s family may have their own preferred way to communicate. Colorín Colorado, an organization that provides resources for educators and families of English language learners, suggests finding out what works best for each family with a quick informal survey. Translation apps, like Talking Points, will also be helpful, as will additional resources, like translation services and/or a translation hotline offered by schools or districts.

Teaching remotely makes it more challenging for educators to get to know their students—and to do so as quickly—so parents should be encouraged to share details about their student’s personality, interests, and strengths. 

Encouraging the use of heritage language

Educators should encourage parents to harness and use their heritage language with students while at home. Research has shown that educational programs that incorporate the use of emergent bilinguals’ heritage language result in levels of academic success—in literacy and other academic subjects—that are as high as or better than those of emergent bilinguals in English-only programs (Genesee, 2010). 

Research has also found that emergent bilingual students are able to transfer many skills from their first language to facilitate their acquisition of reading skills in the second language (Genesee, 2010). During remote learning, parents should be encouraged to:

  • Speak in their heritage language using complete sentences and correct grammar (e.g., usted vs. tu in Spanish)
  • Read with their learners
  • Watch educational programs in their heritage language
  • Use this as an opportunity to learn English themselves, to set an example for their children

Setting up students and parents with the right tools

Used both in the classroom and at home, educational technology has been shown to be beneficial for language learning, especially the use of speech recognition to provide practice and pronunciation feedback in a safe, nonjudgmental space (Golonka, et al., 2014). One such program is Rosetta Stone® English, a new solution that uses speech recognition technology and immediate, corrective feedback to help students build linguistic confidence in academic English.

While choosing an intuitive, easy-to-use program is preferable, during remote learning, online tech training sessions led by educators can help parents familiarize themselves with the technology in order to better support their students.

For more ways to support parents and caregivers of emergent bilingual students, download the Rosetta Stone Education white paper Supporting Parents for Successful Emergent Bilingual Remote Learning.

To learn more about Rosetta Stone English, a solution that can help, reach out today, and a sales representative will be in touch.


Genesee, F. (2010). The home language: an English language learner’s most valuable resource. Colorín Colorado. Retrieved 8/17/20 from https://www.colorincolorado.org/article/home-language-english-language-learners-most-valuable-resource.

Golonka, E.M., Bowlesa, A.R., Franka, V.M., Richardson, D.L., & Freynika, S. (2014). Technologies for foreign language learning: a review of technology types and their effectiveness. Computer Assisted Language Learning. 27(1):70-105.