TCC’s bilingual approach is based on the one-person-one language principle. Our teachers only speak their assigned language with the children. During our daily routine children are “immersed” in Dutch and English. Our observation proves the evidence that bilingual acquisition is as natural as monolingual acquisition and that it is not an additional burden for children (Genesee, 2009). Here are our strategies to support young children’s bilingualism.
Connecting with the home environment and the mother tongue
Our goal is to let children feel safe, fully settled in and confident. In our classrooms, we have “family walls” with pictures of our family members. It helps us to make a connection to the children’s home environments. You can regularly see and hear children gathered around the family wall. Often they discuss it with each other and show with pride: “Look, this is my baby sister, she is with mummy at home”, “This is my older brother, he lives in Norway”.
Furthermore, we use words of a child’s mother tongue to connect and “bridge” with the new language. We also advise parents to make a connection to our activities at home.
Encouraging parents to practice a native language with children
We encourage parents and guardians to speak their mother tongue with their children.
Research shows that children who have a strong foundation in their mother tongue more easily learn a second language (Cummins, 2001).
Using sign language
Our children seem to love sign language, they find it fascinating to imitate or sign back to the teacher. We teach children the basics of sign language to foster their language acquisition. When shared with parents, it is also a great tool to make “a bridge” between children’s home language and a new language. You can find our set of sign language by clicking here.
Boosting bilingualism through our daily routine
Every day we have an interactive circle time. It is a short gathering where we get to focus on days of the week, weather, numbers, animals, and other exciting topics. Depending on the day, it is facilitated either in English or in Dutch. Through interactive, fun and repetitive activities, children get involved and engaged in circle time with pleasure and curiosity. We have several songs associated with daily activities (tidying up, washing hands, lunchtime, etc.), which make it easier for children to understand the routine. To help children who speak neither Dutch nor English, we use flashcards to explain our daily rhythm to them. With the visual help children easier understand what comes next and what to expect. That makes them feel more confident. We also work with pictures, real objects and flashcards to introduce new words and concepts related to our activities. Our carefully prepared play environment stimulates children to engage play and encourages their interactions with peers. It is amazing to see how a group of children choose either Dutch or English during their free play. For instance, they prepare lunch speaking Dutch in the role-play area, or they communicate in English while trying to fix the door in the construction corner.
The role of the Primary Years Programme (PYP)
Through PYP activities children learn to listen to each other, express their ideas and feelings and increase their vocabulary. Within our themes, we support oral (listening and speaking) and visual (viewing and presenting) aspects of language. Activities and books around the theme help little learners to make connections, apply their learning, and transfer it to new situations. Imagine, that within the theme “How the world works”, in the morning we read the story about the firefighters, watch pictures of the fire department and discuss the role of emergency services. On the same day in the afternoon, you can see engaged toddlers in the 3+ corner organizing themselves into fire brigade. They apply and explore their knowledge and new vocabulary while being completely absorbed in their play.
Ute‘s International Lounge, http://www.utesinternationallounge.com/
Genesee, F. (2009). Early Childhood Bilingualism: Perils and Possibilities. Journal of Applied Research in Learning, 2 (Special Issue), 2, 1-21
Cummins, J. (2001). Bilingual Children’s Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education? Retrieved from: https://inside.isb.ac.th/nativelanguage/files/2015/11/Bilingual-Childrens-Mother-Tongue.pdf