My first day working as the new Head of Early Childhood in a bilingual and highly creative environment was one full of excitement and astonishment! I was greeted by returning and new students fluently switching between three and four languages. I was extremely impressed by their ability to communicate in multiple languages and equally excited to see the learning for myself in the classroom. As I took in the beautiful surroundings of the school I was astonished by the creative art work displayed around the school, all completed by the children themselves. There was evidence immediately that the high level of creativity was a result of a programme that not only allowed the children to freely express themselves using a variety of languages but also developed independence and creativity.
The benefits of Bilingualism in Early Years?
Bilingual Curricula in Early Years Education is becoming increasingly popular in an ever changing world where mobility, cultural empathy and communication are a necessity to succeed in life. As an educator fortunate enough to have spent 8 years in International Early Years settings researching and implementing bilingual programmes I can confirm with confidence, the immense benefit of a billingual program for a two to six year old child. Learning in more than one language allows a child to not only flourish but develop their brain to a higher level of open ended processing and the ability to problem solve at an astounding level.
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How does this happen? What is the Science?
If you had the ability to switch regularly between languages and understand concepts in more depth, would this not be a great advantage as a learner at school? Being exposed to a wider audience of learners and different methods of communication allows the mind to think creatively, question more and think critically.
According to Birgit A. Ertl, Founder of the ICLCA:
Studies show that multilingual people are better at reasoning, multitasking, grasping and reconciling conflicting ideas. Research also shows that a bilingual brain is not necessarily a smarter brain but it is proving to be a more flexible, more efficient one due to the constant switching that comes from having to choose between the two words for every object. Speaking more than one language is no longer a choice it is a necessity of the 21st century.
How do Bilingual Learners learn best?
Children learn best if they are regularly immersed in more than one language and enjoy expressing their knowledge using languages. Children are actively encouraged to express themselves freely in role playing, arts, music and movement to demonstrate, on an individual level, their understanding of the world around them and all it has to offer. In a bilingual environment children’s thinking is faster, confidence soars and critical thinking skills come naturally.
This article was written by Rachael Rees, Head of Early Childhood at The Children’s Garden in Jumeira a Taaleem Pre-School for 2 to 6 year olds offering the ICLCA bilingual curriculum programme.