English / French
Why should children in nursery school study other languages? Research into the acquisition of foreign languages has shown for many years that the following principle applies: the younger a child is the easier they can learn another language. Children are able to effortlessly imitate foreign sounds and to reproduce them phonetically. Due to their lack of inhibition they are able to focus all their senses on the learning process so that everything they learn is absorbed thoroughly. By engaging in another language children loose their fear of things that are alien to them. English at nursery school is not intended to pre-empt school lessons or be a performance-related subject to be associated with success or failure. All children should enjoy learning English and experience a sense of achievement that encourages them to engage in this language. English / French is entirely focused on the child, on life and on learning with all the senses. However, languages do require certain skills and understanding:
– learning another language requires patience and persistence,
– anything alien can also evoke amazement, confusion and uncertainty. One of the objectives is that children learn more about themselves, allowing them to fully develop their personality and to master the skills that are appropriate for this stage of development.
How do the children learn a foreign language at nursery school? The children learn through play. While playing they learn about and experience the world. A glove puppet turns everything the children should memorize into a game. Listening and talking take up the majority of the “lessons”, before the children start cutting out and colouring in to consolidate what they have learned. We also want the children to recognise that they can understand British and American fairy tales, songs and rhymes, so that they can use them in their own way while playing (creative arts, singing, recitals).
All the materials available are used to stimulate the children’s senses in the most sophisticated and varied way possible. This type of learning involving all the senses is part of almost every “session”. It starts with recognising colours, scents, sounds as well as shapes, movements and surfaces. All sensations should appeal to the ears, eyes, mouth, heart, hands and feet and be transmitted to the brain, which then forms these sensations into structures. The permanently increasing sensory disorders, motor skill deficits and lack of concentration among children demand a learning approach that involves the whole body! Although listening and talking remain paramount, we attach great importance to physical learning, which is learning through movement.
An important aspect of the lessons is their “rhythmic“ structure and the simultaneous creation of choices and opportunities for movement. For the children learning English should be an experience that communicates joy, a sense of achievement and self-confidence. Learning a foreign language should be a journey of adventure and an enriching experience for each and every child.
How a child’s intelligence develops
Why learn foreign languages at nursery school? Today intelligence entails more then just abstract thinking and intellectual capacity. It includes everyday skills such as poised movements, sensitivity and insightful self-criticism. For decades researchers have argued about what is more formative, our ”genetic make-up“ or the environment. In times of reaction and recession the pendulum swung more towards “genetic make-up“, in terms of ”if it’s genetic it cannot be changed“.
In times or great euphoria (like in 1968) the pendulum swung towards the other direction: everything depends on the environment. Today we know that both theories contain a grain of truth. Using models, neuroscientists can now explain how learning processes are connected to the function of genes in the cell nucleus.
According to the teachings of Howard Gardner, a professor of cognition from Boston, the term ”intelligence“ combines seven different elements: language, movement, mathematics, music, space, empathy and emotion.
”Talented“ people are no ”geniuses“ but rather people whose central nervous system is so well connected to the individual nerve cells that impulses can be transmitted without any loss of time or control. That way the so-called “systemic” thinking develops, in which different subject areas and experiences are combined. Howard Gardner gives the following reason, why parents should presume from the beginning that their child might for example be the next Leonardo da Vinci: ”The innate curiosity of every child, their joy of learning, needs an appropriate environment in order to yield productive results. Right from the start social contacts and the extent of communication determine the level of interconnection in the brain and the development of mental skills. Without a stimulating atmosphere of motivation and the facility to concentrate even a highly talented person will not be able to learn how to master complex tasks. Gardner explains, “Both highly talented and average people need the chance to unlock the world according to their individual skills - through communication, painting, making music, writing, reading, movement or a combination of these.“ Conclusion: The foundations for understanding a language are there from birth; words, phrases and sentences are usually learned without any effort. In the same way this understanding of a language can be transferred to a foreign language. Research has shown that in children who grow up multilingually up to the age of 6 years or are introduced to a language other than their mother tongue by then, the speech centres in the brain are interconnected more closely; based on these findings children should definitely be introduced to foreign languages.