More and more children growing up in the United States are learning to be multilingual. In 2019, 10 percent of public school students were multilingual learners (MLL), and in the 2020-2021 school year, 67 percent of all public school teachers had at least one MLL in their classroom. The National Education Association also projects that by 2025, 25 percent of students will be multilingual learners. Alongside this growing number of MLLs, the number of English-speaking children who are actively acquiring another language is also growing. How are these children being supported in their preschool and early care years?

To better understand the factors that contribute to a parent or caregiver’s decision-making process regarding their children’s language learning, as part of a qualitative study, we interviewed parents of children ages 3 to 12 years. We found parents were motivated to encourage language learning by a few key factors: 1) language as a tool for understanding other people and cultures, 2) language as a tool for practical gains, and 3) parents’ background and own language experiences.

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