The Benefits of Teaching Toddlers a Second Language
6th June 2019
Have you ever been in a situation where you have not understood the spoken language and thought, I would love to know what they are saying? Or even wondered ‘are they talking about me’?
At Hopscotch Children’s Nurseries, we believe that anything is possible and recognise the importance of introducing babies and toddlers to a range of languages.
Babies Are Ready for Language Teaching
A baby’s brain can understand language twice as fast as they are able to actually verbalise. That is, they understand what we are saying despite being unable to speak in the first few years of life.
As such, we teach Makaton signing at all of our nurseries. Makaton signing is a method that uses signs and symbols to communicate and facilitates the progress of spoken language. Makaton enables a child to ask for things they need, and they learn this language extremely quickly, particularly ‘please’ and ‘more’ during snack time! Using the Makaton approach provides the foundations through which children at Hopscotch can acquire new language skills in multiple languages as they progress through the nursery.
Brighton and Hove has a diverse cultural population with nationalities from across the globe, and our team at our Hove Station nursery reflects this with staff who speak Spanish, Italian, Dutch, French, Polish, Slovakian, Czech (and of course English!).
This diversity means we are able to deliver informal, multi-lingual, play-led activities into our children’s learning every day. We also offer more structured Spanish classes at our nursery in Hove Station which the children absolutely love. We use props to make their learning fun and sing Spanish songs. The repetitive nature of songs allows children to acquire additional languages more easily and support memory retention. Peripatetic teachers also provide free language lessons for children at some of our other Hopscotch nurseries.
Why Learn Foreign Languages at Nursery?
Nursery is the perfect time to acquire basic language skills for a number of reasons:
- The brain is ready: At preschool age, a child’s brain is developing quickly, constantly creating new neural pathways. Research shows that it is much easier for children to pick up languages at a young age because their brains are so active at this stage. In fact, by three years old a child’s brain is twice as active as an adult brain. They will understand an additional language and retain that information for life and later speaking the language will come more naturally.
- A nursery environment provides the ideal setting for language learning: At nursery age children are not taught in the formal manner of learning they will receive at primary school, which means they can acquire new language skills in a more informal, fun, and therefore effective way, preparing them for further language study in future.
- Children are less self-conscious than older learners: As a result, there is more willingness to try speaking new words without fear of embarrassment. Children at this age are also better at mimicking new sounds and adopting pronunciation than older learners.
- Starting early better prepares children for their adult lives: Research suggests that learning a second language develops listening, observation, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. These are all life skills that will stand our children in good stead for achieving in later life.
- Languages increase opportunities: In an increasingly globalised world, speaking another language is a tremendous advantage as children grow up, expanding educational, professional and social opportunities.
- Cultural awareness: Learning another language encourages children’s natural curiosity and empathy for other cultures and languages in the wider world from an early age. We have found that children at Hopscotch who have English as an additional language (EAL), feel valued and have a sense of achievement when teaching their native language to their peer group. This supports their confidence and improves self-esteem.
Clearly the benefits of learning foreign languages at nursery are plentiful with considerable research pointing to preschool being the ideal time to start learning.
As parents we make efforts to nurture our children and encourage their development through activities such as play, dance, sports, and sensory stimulation. Acquiring new languages should definitely be a part of this development, preparing our children for success in every aspect of their adult lives.
This Blog was written by Lorraine Brown, our Nursery Manager at Hove Station
Lorraine is a Qualified childcare practitioner with 20 years knowledge and experience in childcare, as well as a Diploma in Leadership and Management. She joined Hopscotch having been the Head of Operations for a group of 6 nurseries in West Sussex for 5 years. Prior to this an NHS Family and Childcare Coordinator in West Sussex for 10 years.
In her spare time she rides horses and was in the England Endurance Team in 2012 and won! Her proudest achievement is her two children, with one son a Physics Teacher and one studying a Masters in Mechatronic and Robotic Engineering.
‘The highlight of my career at Hopscotch Hove Station was achieving Ofsted Outstanding alongside my team’.