Foreign Language Education in Nurseries

(10 Posts)
KatieGlasgow Sat 02-Feb-13 11:54:36

Hi there!
We are a group of entrepreneurs looking to launch an exciting new educational experience for nursery age children, offering them the possibility of learning a foreign language. It has been proven that it is easier for children to learn a new language when learning their first. The sessions would be activity based and very engaging, interactive and fun for the children, sometimes teaching through music, games and even sport. As parents, what are your thoughts on this? Would you send your child to a nursery that provides this service?
Thank you in advance!

SavoirFaire Sat 02-Feb-13 12:56:05

Our nursery does this - is a surestart so nothing fancy. There are a lot of French families around here and about a third of the children speak French at home as well as some of the staff, so they do French circle time every day and French is spoken a fair bit. I havent noticed it have any impact on my child yet - I think the inconsistency isn't
Particularly helpful tbh and because it isn't backed up at home (oops). Having said that, he can sing Frere Jaques beautifully!

Not something I would pay extra for, however I am sure others would as areas where there is a mixed population would probably especially go for it.

alanyoung Sat 02-Feb-13 19:25:53

As a grandfather (hence the woolly cardigan!) I would very much support foreign languages for my grandchildren. All the research shows that the earlier children start to learn another language, the better they will be at it. My wife is from foreign parts (second marriage), so her nephews and nieces have learnt English and the parents' native language simultaneously from birth and they all speak both languages fluently. They did mix up a little to begin with, but that passes and they soon learn to speak only one language at any one time.

The problem with British education is that most children start to learn a second language at the very time when our ability to do that is waning (usually around 10-12 years old).

Also recent research indicates that children who speak two languages also develop other skills that uni-language speakers are slower to acquire, such as reasoning skills (but I'm not an expert on this).

You can easily practice at home by getting them to say what they want to say in English, but as soon as they come to a word they know the French for, they can substitute it in the sentence. These mixed language sentences will gradually contain more and more French words until a certain degree of fluency is achieved.

gabsid Tue 05-Feb-13 14:26:24

Yes, in principle its a great idea, however, the problem with language learning in this country is the lack of continuety, specialist teachers and time for for it.

Its would be great introducing pre-school children to some regular MFL sessions with fun games and songs etc, but the question is: will this be built on in YR and during the primary years, also with regualr weekly sessions? And are they continuing to study that language through secondary? Very unlikely!

The sad truth is that children may be learning to count and sing a couple of French songs in nursery, in YR they may learn something similar in Spanish, the Y1 teacher may have learned some German at school so she will teach them German ... in Y3 they may do a bit of French counting and asking the name ... you get the idea...

Then in secondary school they start from scratch anyway, not learning one language properly, but they will learn 2! By year 9 students are able to drop MFL which most do because its considered difficult and not important.

So in the bigger scheme of things I think I would want to follow it up, maybe you could also offer your service all the way through primary - there is so much wasted opportunity I feel.

We are a bilingual household (English, German), my DC are bilingual and I thaught DS, 7 a little bit of Spanish. In school they are meant to learn some Spanish, however, the teachers don't seem to speak it and admit to that in front of parents and children. So far (since Sept) there has been no language teaching except a homework (go on website and learn days of the week in Spanish confused) - that's it.

blueberryupsidedown Tue 05-Feb-13 14:38:19

I think that if you are honnest, you would say that you will teach them a few key words, a few songs, counting up to ten, their colours, etc but speaking another language..... not so sure. It takes a lot more than a few hours in a nursery setting to learn a new language, even for a young child.

It makes me think of the strapline for Tumble Tots: The springboard to confidence for your child..... Why do people trying to sell services and goods for children often make exagerations about what it can achieve?

I am a childminder and speak French and Spanish to the children I look after, but it won't make them trilingual... they will know some basic words, songs and basic instructions (they all understand 'don't jump on the sofa' in both French and Spanish) but that's it. They won't be able to hold a conversation in French.... they will be able to say Merci and ask for milk.....

gabsid Tue 05-Feb-13 15:02:53

blueberry - I agree, it takes a long time to learn a language well enough to be able to communicate in it properly. That process can only be started in nursery (unless its total immersion), it needs to be continued in a consistant manner, but at the moment the system is in a mess and its unlikely to be fixed because MFL is not something considered worthwhile.

bumbleandbumble Fri 22-Feb-13 23:21:34

I am desperate to teach my toddler a second language. I am trying my best as I do speak another language but english is my native tongue, so it is difficult for me to do it consistently.

I am trying to find a nursery with dual language and a school for that matter but they are far away and cost a small fortune. I am very upset by this. It really is a huge shame.

DieWilde13 Fri 22-Feb-13 23:34:22

I would send my children to a bilingual nursery in a flash. In fact, I did when ds was of that age and it was fab.

I am sceptical about a one hour a week approach, though. My children are bilingual, but that is because we put a lot of effort into it at home. Their foreign language learning at primary school (French once a week) is more than useless.

If your offer is for a foreign language immersion every day at nursery - fantastic. If it isn't - not for me, but a lot of pushy middle class parents will pay through the nose for it.

gabsid Thu 28-Feb-13 10:52:26

Die Wilde13 - I agree, language provision in our primary school is very bad too, however, it doesn't have to be immersion but I think learning a language is a time consuming long term process, so time must be available most days over several years.

Its a waste of time to do a bit of whatever language once a week for their nursery year and then they move on to school where they start again, do another language or none at all.

notamomtokids Thu 28-Feb-13 18:12:01

OP I think this is a great idea and wish you luck with it. I am doing this myself with a group of toddlers with the aim of them becoming bilingual and possibly multilingual; Spanish, English and French.

I see some of the toddlers 5 days a week and it is these children that will become bi/multilingual. Exposure is the key.

alanyoung makes a lot of very valid points.

gabsid I personally believe and have seen from experience that the education system in UK nor Spain (my two countries of experience) can be relied on to provide the majority of children with a good level of a second language. This is something parents have to take control of. Schools and nurseries can be the starting point, but other resources are needed and these are not as hard to get hold of as one may think. I was able to communicate and understand 3 languages by the age of 3/4yrs. One of these languages was learnt simply by watching films in that language from a very early age. As many have already said on this thread, it has to be consistent and effort from parents at home as diewilde13 says; effort in that house resulting in bilingual children.

I think immersion is also very important in order to perfect the language possibly at a later stage.

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