Will my child become bilingual?
We expect that a child who joins our bilingual environment programme at a young age, say 1 to 2 years old, will be able to understand French to a high level before starting primary school. We do not necessarily expect your child will speak much French, but learning to understand is a big step in the right direction. Any future language study will be much easier. It is also important to remember that speaking a second language is only one of the benefits of our bilingual environment.
What are the benefits of a bilingual environment?
We believe they are profound and wide-ranging. Many studies* show knock-on benefits. “Babies and toddlers are cognitively advantaged by growing up in two or more language environments.” (Siraj-Blatchforn & Clarke, 2000)
What language system do you use?
We use the one-person one-language (OPOL) system. So you won’t find our French speakers using English or mixing words in sentences. We aim for the natural usage of language – although obviously we have more English speakers than French speakers.
How will this work in the classroom?
We have French teachers working all day Monday to Friday that give consistent care and support exclusively in French. This allows us to offer the bilingual environment to all the children attending our setting. Best of all, the French teachers are in addition to our English Key Workers.
What is the best age to start learning a new language?
In many ways, the younger the better. Children as young as 1 years old can individually identify all the languages spoken in the home environment. The early years are often described as a “window of opportunity” for language learning. Older children become embarrassed more easily when making mistakes in a new language, whereas younger children are eager to learn by listening.
Acquiring familiarity with the concept of foreign languages makes children more likely to succeed in learning new languages later in life, even if the original languages are forgotten. We are introducing French because children will nearly always have the option to continuing it in their future schooling.
Is this a tried-and-tested theory?
Bilingual education is the norm in many part of Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Singapore (amongst others) – all with great success. These countries understand the advantages of teaching additional languages. By ensuring that your children have an English Key Worker, we can guarantee plenty of exposure to English speaking staff. By closely monitoring every child’s progress, we are confident that every child on the programme will reach his or her potential in English, as well as phonics, all whilst benefiting from our bilingual environment.
Is this different from what other schools offer?
Yes! Many schools offer 1 or 2 short sessions a week. Although these are better than nothing, there is a limit on how much a large group can learn in a short session once a week! Our French teachers will be here 50 hours a week, providing consistent care in French alongside the Key Workers – you can’t really compare the benefits of that with a 20 minute “lesson”.