« Kids are like sponges; they absorb everything »
Well, I’m guessing you are trying to visualize Sponge Bob trying to learn a foreign language…But it is a picture version to say that children can learn a language more easily than an adult.
According to Stanislas Dehaene, cognitive psychologist and neuroscientifist, a child’s brain is organized and contains innate knowledges, and sophisticated machine-learning techniques…In short, learning is easier for children. But I must add, easy, yes, if the child is regularly confronted with the subject. In our case, we are talking about foreign languages.
This is not over. Studies have demonstrated that the best moment for a child to learn two languages is before the age of 7. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of that?
Learning another language is not that easy. Especially if it is for personal purposes. First of all, it is a moment of sharing between two or several people. And it’s even better when you share this moment with your child.
People keep asking me how do you do that as a French family? or even why are you doing it?
I agree with the first question but the second one…I wonder, don’t you?
The world is constantly changing. It is getting more and more international and mixed with all those different cultures. Therefore, learning a foreign language remains essential. It is truly the gateway to the culture. Once you are inside, the integration becomes much more simpler.
What about home?
Having a passionate Mama who loves learning foreign languages and who is surrounded by people coming from different countries does help.
What do we really put in practice at home? We have been talking in French to Charlie since her birth in order to introduce English little by little when she was 2.
Let me stop right there and focus on the “we”, as in Daddy and Me. Because it is really important to understand that it is a Family Project. This project will work only if everybody is on board and play the game. And yes, learning a language should be a game.
Charlie had the chance to take English lessons in a weekly workshop for a year. She could discover this language very naturally while playing and reading with her friends. We have kept the English bedtime stories with Mama of course :-).
It was just an appetizer, right!
I won’t stop saying: playing is crucial if you want your child to learn something. It shouldn’t be hard work. By the advice of Isabelle Barth-O’Neill, Founder of Multilingual Café and multilingualism spécialist, we have started to speak in English during breakfast. And the one who forgets will have to do something in return! Who has already done 10 press-ups?…Daddy!
It is not a magic solution. Charlie is not going to make a whole sentence in English. Oral comprehension is for now the priority for us. Then, we will be able to communicate, be patient…
Her first steps in an international school
Charlie is 3 now and made her first steps in an international school named Advena Domi, created by Mrs Kinjal DAMANI, Doctor in Science of Education at Rouen University. The school gets inspiration from Montessori, Freinet and Steiner pedagogy which adjust to the subject and the child’s personality.
Voilà, let’s go for a total immersion with bilingual teachers and classmates from around the world. English for everybody at school! A little bit of Spanish as well, but we will talk about it later ;-).
The learning of each subject is done in a playful manner both in English and French.
In only 3 months, we have witnessed a comprehension speed from Charlie. She is now able to prononce easily some words in English such as the names of colors or animals.
This is an experience sharing on bilingualism in our home. You could find other examples in other families too, so feel free to contact them in order to find out more about their practice and share the information with us, bien sûr!