- Best Practice
Early Language Education
Maanderfeld, a small village close to the Belgian-German border with 420 inhabitants, hit the headlines in the year 2000 when the decision was made public that a former hostel was to serve as a Red Cross reception centre for asylum seekers.
The project was built upon the geographical situation of Austria in central Europe at the meeting point of three language groups (Germanic, Romance, Slavonic) and incorporates the mediation of these languages perfectly into its pedagogical concept.
EuropaKIDS preschools use language immersion as the method of teaching their new languages. The immersion methods are based on the idea that children learn best when they are in a natural and warm environment and are spoken to 100% of the time in these new target languages. Using practical and fascinating monthly themes the curriculum integrates music, motor skills, math, social development and languages into all the daily activities. Their schools have two different types of programmes: either a full school day in Spanish, German and Mandarin or a half day of school (morning or afternoon depending on the school) in those three languages.
Language in Action offers licensed Spanish immersion preschools in California. Its programme “HolaKids” allows children to spend more time in a Spanish immersion classroom as more hours hearing and speaking a foreign language creates a significant improvement in a child’s foreign language skills. The extra time correlates to increased fluency, and to greater confidence and ease with the language.
EMULI is an innovative multilingual school which follows the French national curriculum and provides schooling for children between 3 and 18, from pre-school to middle school to high school. The first school is established in Nantes and others will be set up in other French regions. EMULI is designed for children can speak, read and write at least three languages and are open to other cultures. By joining the school, they can optimise their intellectual, artistic and sporting capacities.
The present report arises from the Lot 1 tender of the European Commission in respect of the teaching and learning of modern languages in the case of very young children across Europe.
Four main outputs are:
- a review of research
- a practical description of good practice
- a description of the main pedagogical principles underlying the teaching and learning of languages
- an assessment of the consequences of these pedagogical principles.
The Decree Law no.59 of 2004 concerning the introduction of foreign languages in the Italian primary school has led to several nation-wide teacher training programmes with the aim to provide in-service training for teachers employed in all types and levels of school according to the EU directives contained in Document no.36 of April 2003. One such scheme is the Training Programme to develop linguistic and communicative competences in English and teaching methodology for primary school teachers whichenvisages a concerted effort on the part of the country’s educational institutions. The aim of this article is to review the present training scheme and to suggest possible outcomes and future prospects.
One of the aims of this volume is to give insights into research issues, and a cross section of the major achievements and advantages, as wellas the problem areas in the countries under discussion. The chapters of the publication reflect a wide range of contexts. They include countries with languages rarely spoken by other people as a foreign language, for example Bulgaria, Croatia,Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Romania, and Sweden. They also include countries in which the status of modern language studies whose official languages are often taught as foreign languages varies greatly, such as for example Austria, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.
According to the Welsh respondent who participated in this research good practice consists of: structured groups, quality activities who are well prepared and well resourced, a colourful linguistic environment, structured areas who are well equipped and well resourced (both inside and outside of building), good language input, a good relationship between teachers and parents, room for parental input, and good communication between practitioners. Mudiad Meithrin is a voluntary organisation aiming to give every young child in Wales the opportunity to benefit from early years services and experiences through the medium of Welsh. Cylchoedd Meithrin (playgroup) is one of the Mudiad's most important provisions. In Wales there are also parent and toddler groups, called Cylchoedd Ti a Fi (literally ‘You and I Circle). Parallel to the Frisian Tomke-project in the Netherlands, Mudiad Meithrin developed a method for learning Welsh to young children called “Dewin” (Welsh for wizard).
Best practices mentioned by Polish respondents are student exchange, learning through games, Hans Hase, Ich und du, Helen Doron Early English, and publications and projects of the DJI Munich. The German minority in Opole Silesia offers so-called Saturday classes, where young children meet every Saturday. During these classes several activities are offered to children so that they can deepen their knowledge of the German language.
In Hungary, German is offered in some kindergartens and in elementary schools. From the first class of elementary school onwards, children can learn English (optional) twice per week as their 2nd foreign language. Playful learning with songs, music, dance, gestures and facial expressions are considered best practices. The 1 person – 1 language strategy is also mentioned a few times by Hungarian respondents. Teaching methods used are ABC-Haus, Planetino Hueber Verlag, Hans Hase, Kikus, DeutschMobil, and Kunterbunte Kinderwelt.
In Spain the British Council offers English language courses for young learners in several cities (Barcelona Young Learners, Madrid Young Learners, Valencia Young Learners, Bilbao Young Learners) using a communicative approach, which develops all the skills of the language (speaking, reading, reading and writing) with a special emphasis on improving fluency. They provide a modern learning environment with the most up-to-date learning technologies to make lessons stimulating and motivating for all learners. They help students to understand how language functions by doing all activities in English and practicing the language by working in groups and pairs. They encourage learner independence and help students to develop their own learning strategies.
In the Netherlands some schools work with a programme for early childhood education where language learning is the most important element. In the near future all schools will compare their educational offers to the aims of early childhood education to see if this is satisfactory for target students. Every school observes and tests the degree of goals achieved. Best practices mentioned by Dutch respondents are: The Multilingual Early Language Transmission (MELT), the Tomke-project, Studio F, and The Network of Schools. The Tomke project and Studio F both focus on teaching the Frisian (a minority language in the Netherlands).
In Germany the WITAJ project (meaning ‘welcome’ in Sorbian) stands for a bilingual approach for children in nursery schools with immersion in German and Sorbian. Childcare workers in these nurseries use one language in sequence after the other (the “one person – one language” principle) with the aim of the complete bilinguality of the children. Intensive language courses are organised to qualify the childcare workers for their jobs in the nursery. Sometimes nurseries employ other (mainly elderly) mother-tongue speakers such as grandparents of pupils.
In France all children learn English at the primary school. There are official bulletins with skills to be acquired by children, official national educational programmes, and official newsletters for language learning. Best practices mentioned by French respondents are bilingual classes; courses in the target language; language learning in a playful way; student and/or letter exchange; native guest speakers who talk with the children during classes; and language exercises during daily rituals. Some educational institutions use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. There is a language advertising campaign to teach German to children called DeutschMobil. Planetino Hueber Verlag is used in some schools to teach German. To preserve the Breton language and culture in France a few parents created the first Diwan school. Teaching materials for the Occitan language are available as well. The British Council runs English language courses for young learners from the age of 5 and for teenagers up to the age of 17.
1 2 Next