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Teaching EFL in a kindergarten The demand for a second or third
The demand for a second or third language at an early age has increased over the last years. Many parents decide to raise their children bi- or multilingual and therefore more and more kindergarten and preschools offer English as a second language.
There are many advantages in teaching English as a foreign language at such an early stage in a child's life. Learning a language for a child is a lot easier than for adults. They listen and learn without analyzing sentence structure, grammar, stress or intonations such as adult learners. The child will simply grow up having two first languages.
English is generally taught as the first foreign language in school. A child having been exposed to English in kindergarten will have head start in school and even later when he or she wants to learn another foreign language due to similar vocabulary, grammar or sentence structure. Multilingualism has proven to help the child develop superior reading and writing skills. They also tend to have over all better analytical, social and academic skills. Knowing an additional language especially English helps your child feel at ease in different environments. It creates a natural flexibility and adaptability and therefore will increase his/her confidence and self esteem. A child that is raised bi- or multilingual will also appreciate other cultures and innate acceptance of cultural differences.
English is one of the most commonly spoken languages worldwide and one of the easiest to learn (next to Spanish). The demand for English is raising and a must in the business world today. Most of the school English doesn't seem to match the standard due to lack of conversation classes or listening classes. Exposure to the language at an early age will increase the ability to speak the language long before the child starts school.
There are however some aspects why teaching two first languages at an early stage may raise doubt in a parents decision. Being exposed to two languages at the same time may cause confusion in the child and the child will begin speaking later than other monolingual children. This however is not the rule and the delay of speaking will normally be no more that 3-6 month. This is a small price to pay if your child ends up being bi- or multilingual. A bilingual child may also mix up his/her native tongue with English words and create a mixed sentence. This is a temporary phenomenon that disappears as soon as the vocabulary of both languages increases. Parents may be eager and are the first reason why their child needs to go to an English speaking kindergarten. However by sending their child to learn English the parents take over the responsibility of making sure they continue doing so and don't expect the child to be fluent within a month time. Extra language exposure and encouragement by the parents is needed to make sure that learning English will not be a 'waste' of time.
Hearing and listening to the environment is the first step in an infant's life to language. (Doctors tell pregnant women to talk to their babies before they are born so that the baby develops a connection to the mother.) By simply being exposed to a language a child will form or copy sound and then words and by the age of 2 start forming sentences. This is how we slowly learn to communicate in our native tongue. Therefore the best way to learn another language such as English is by being exposed to it at an early stage in one's life. The child will develop a listening, understanding and in the end responding reaction to what he/she is exposed to. A kindergarten that offers English as an additional language will help the child to learn a new language by talking and interacting, playing games and singing songs with the child. Therefore a kindergarten can have a great influence in teaching a child English as a foreign language.
References: 1-An Introduction to Language (5th edition) by Victoria Fromkin and Robert Rodman, 1993 Chapter 7:Language in Society, page 288, 291-292; Chapter 8: Language Change: The Syllables of Time, page 351-354 table 8.1; Chapter 10: Language Acquisition, page 423- 424;
2-Internet: www.ericdigests.org/2000-2/two.htm Two or More Languages in Early Childhood: Some general points and practical recommendations.