Language Matters | Language Development in Early Years

Wellington College Bilingual Shanghai is extremely proud of the educational philosophy behind its early years’ practice. We wish to provide plentiful learning opportunities for all pupils, enabling holistic development to occur as a natural process. We believe that language development occurs through immersion and that promoting language effectively in an exciting and fun way in young learners starts each pupil’s journey on the road to bilingualism.

Language Development

As a bilingual setting we value Chinese and English equally and aim to promote language development at every stage of learning.

Language Development provision includes:

  • Immersion teaching Chinese and English on alternate days
  • Promoting language
  • Key vocabulary
  • Phonics programme, that follows Letters and Sounds
  • Music

Immersion days

We teach using themes and these themes were chosen for the pupils in areas that would stimulate their interest and language development at their own pace. In a bilingual setting, teaching Chinese and English using immersion days allows children to be surrounded by one language and gives them the opportunity to develop their language ability.  It helps children to listen, absorb and speak the language of that day and helps pupils to learn English naturally, like learning their native language. By having Chinese immersion days, the pupils are able to focus and extend in their understanding, building on their cognitive ability in preparation for learning English. Research has shown that the level of development of children’s Chinese is a strong predictor of their English development. Learning a second language at a young age is cognitively as easy as learning a first language.

Promoting Language

  • Ensure that every opportunity is taken to promote bilingual language acquisition
  • Listen to what children say, to encourage and promote respect and language learning
  • Children need to feel valued in what they say, given the opportunity to share their ideas and this helps with language acquisition. Show and tell and talking about what the children did at the weekend/in the holidays can promote language, when they are ready and confident
  • Take every opportunity to model language and introduce new language
  • As a bilingual setting we value both languages equally and promote the use of both languages
  • If children decide to speak in English on a Chinese day and Chinese on an English day teachers should respect that choice, returning to the language of the day after listening and offering any support needed.

Key vocabulary in both Chinese and English

Teachers will plan together and decide on key vocabulary that can be introduced during each theme. The aim is to broaden the children’s receptive vocabulary and through repetition and reinforcement to become part of their daily language use.


In EY1, after they have settled into their class routines, we will introduce listening walks.  Pupils will develop their listening skills in readiness for phonics with environmental and instrumental sounds.  They will also develop their language awareness through the story themes and music.

In EY2, pupils will complete Phase 1 phonics, including listening walks.  Throughout the year there will be a focus on developing vocabulary and initial sound awareness.  After settling into the class routines daily phonics activities will take place on English days.

In EY3, pupils will complete Phase 2 phonics and teachers will complete regular assessments to track progress.  When pupils are ready they will also commence reading and reading books will be sent home by their teachers.  As pupils progress with Phase 2 they will also begin to learn high frequency and tricky words.  Tricky words are those words that cannot be decoded by using the phonics skills of blending and segmenting.

In EY4, pupils will complete Phase 3 phonics and teachers will continue to track individual progress.  Reading books will be sent home at a level that matches the pupil’s ability and understanding.  Phase 3 high frequency and tricky words will be introduced when the pupils are ready.

Please remember that phonics and reading progress is an individual journey and pupils will be at different stages of this journey.  The teachers will support and guide each pupil to ensure that progress is made during the year.


Everyone knows the value of singing and that we find it relaxing, fun and it makes us feel happy.  Research has shown that it is a great way to learn language as it helps to increase vocabulary, simple phrases and pronunciation.  Joining in and learning the words using actions and with repetition allows the pupils to learn language unconsciously and they all demonstrate that they love to sing along. Singing is simply one of the best ways for developing the sound awareness skills that are critical to learning to read successfully. (

Learning songs and music can help to develop listening skills as well as build vocabulary.


This year we have two music teachers, Sarah Peel and PeiHua Wang who will lead and support music lessons teaching bilingually.