Language Development

At the International School of The Hague languages are respected, fostered and developed. Dutch, as well as English as an Additional Language (EAL) and other Home Languages

Translanguaging strengthens the language development of all our children, by allowing them to connect concepts, skills and linguistic knowledge they have already learned in their home and additional languages, to new languages they are learning at the ISH.

Bilingualism/Multilingualism at ISH

The link below provides a summary of the academic research that supports the multilingual, translanguaging approach used regularly in our school.

Learn more about Translanguaging


Children in all age groups learn Dutch with a native speaking teacher. The focus of these lessons is on speaking and listening and learning about the history, culture and geography of The Netherlands. From Year 2 onwards the learning is differentiated and grouped according to ability and although the more able students may well develop their reading and writing skills our purpose is to focus on verbal communication to function in the Netherlands. Due to the limited hours available, this will not prepare them for transfer to Dutch speaking secondary school.

English as an Additional Language (EAL)

The ISH curriculum is delivered in English to children of many nations, languages and cultures. We are very proud that our children come to us as multilingual learners with important experiences in other languages. The role of our EAL teachers is to aid children in learning English, while supporting the development of their mother tongue and our host language, Dutch. This approach not only value where our children come from, they also accelerate their access to the school curriculum.

The ISH provides a full EAL programme to support English learners. In addition, all classroom teachers and assistants are trained in ways to help children participate in the school curriculum. We offer an environment in which children feel nurtured and comfortable whilst learning the language and skills they need to access the curriculum and build friendships.

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Mother Tongue

As a truly international school the ISH is committed to the development of every child’s Mother Tongue. This is normally the language their parents have used to communicate with them since they were born, to tell them their first stories, to comfort them when they were afraid or hurt and is often the same language spoken by their grandparents. Research has proven that a strong Mother Tongue contributes to the successful acquisition of new languages. It also provides children with access to their own culture and family background, giving status and value to their multi-lingual and cultural identity.

Within the curriculum the teachers ensure that on a weekly basis there are opportunities for children to use their Mother Tongue either individually or in groups. Children participate in a variety of meaningful learning opportunities, which include researching, preparing presentations and sharing their thoughts through speaking and listening activities. This learning takes place predominantly through the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) but increasingly teachers are identifying opportunities in other curriculum areas. Wherever possible the children are supported by their peers who share the same Mother Tongue. Secondary students also support the programme and we actively encourage parents and members of the wider ISH community to become involved.

We recognise that although our programme within the curriculum provides the children with an opportunity to use their Mother Tongue, there is limited scope for them to further develop their language skills. For this reason we also have an after school Mother Tongue programme. During this programme the children concentrate on the expansion of their ‘Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency’ (CALP) and the development of their reading and writing skills. These skills are transferable between languages and are necessary for children to move beyond the social to the academic. We offer this programme in as many languages as possible although this is dependent on the availability of qualified tutors. To find out more about this programme you can Sabrina Arnold for the After School Mother Tongue Program and Mindy McCracken for the Mother Tongue Program 


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