We all want to provide the best bilingual start for our children, and EtonHouse has been helping to build fluency in two languages since 1995 for children aged 18 months to 18 years old. Our Facebook Live interview with Natalie Loh, Principal of EtonHouse Bilingual Preschool and Dr. Beth O’Brien, Head of Early & Middle Child at the Centre For Research In Child Development at the Singapore National Institute of Education, will help you negotiate bilingualism!
These are the main points of the Facebook Live interview.
Language Development In A Child
- Language development starts even before birth, with the brain and sensory mechanisms already tuning into language at 30 weeks gestation.
- Rapid language learning takes place in the early years of life. By age one, they are seeking their first words and by age two, there is a vocabulary spurt and they are able to learn up to 400 words. By age six or seven, children develop the use of correct grammar.
- It’s never too early to start teaching children a second language as they are able to pick out whatever languages there are in the environment from early on.
- Bilingual and monolingual children generally progress along the same developmental paths even if they do so at slightly different rates for the different types of languages.
- The total number of words that a monolingual child knows is similar to what a bilingual child knows across both languages.
- Even if they are mixing the two languages in the same sentence, they will preserve the grammar of each language.
Best Ways To Learn Languages In School
- What’s best for one child may not be best for another.
- Research and best practices show that children learn a language best in a natural and spontaneous process, using language in everyday life and situations as opposed to a more academic setting.
- Immersion is the most efficient way to learn a new language where children are immersed in an environment where the language is constantly and consistently used.
- Both the single language and dual-language immersion models at EtonHouse allow children to pick up language skills in a meaningful and natural way.
- Both models are responsive to the individual learners where teachers will differentiate the learnings so that each child is building on their competencies in the language from simple to complex.
- EtonHouse offers Mandarin from pre-school to primary and beyond, where children can take Mandarin for their IGCSE and IB Diploma. This is important as children then have a pathway towards gaining language proficiency as they get older and become more competent and confident in the language.
- It is possible for non-native speakers to speak Mandarin fluently, even though there’s no home support, by learning from their teachers and peers in a nurturing and positive learning environment where they feel secure and accepted so that they could use the language confidently even if they were to make mistakes.
Tips And Strategies For Parents
- Parents are encouraged to offer praise and encouragement when the child uses the language.
- While listening to music and watching television programmes in the native language is helpful, having human interaction is still the best way to help children learn a language. So think about interest-based activities that you can do together with your children while using the language when engaging in the activity.
- Reading books together in each language will increase exposure to new vocabulary and longer, more complex types of sentences.
- Simple and fun activities like singing songs or creating your own lyrics, and imaginative play such as role-playing and games give children the opportunity to immerse themselves in language(s) and learn new words.
- If you are not fluent in a language, allowing your child to spend time with relatives who are native speakers of the language can be helpful too.
Help your child become bilingual with EtonHouse! Book a school tour to find out more. Selected EtonHouse Pre-Schools are currently offering discounts off registration fees that run until September 10. EtonHouse International Schools will also be running promotions from September 13 until the end of October.
Here are more activities that you can do to help your child learn Mandarin at home. You can find more related articles on EtonHouse’s parenting blog and sign up for their newsletter to receive the latest updates in your mailbox.