The best moment for children to acquire a second language is during the “sensitive period” of development, that is, from the moment they are born until the age of six, approximately. In our daily tasks, children acquire spoken language by relating the words they hear to the work they are doing with the teacher. Within our teaching methodology, we follow a communicative approach in which children start to use their first words in the second language in a natural context. As they grow up, little by little, they start making phrases to communicate with each other and with the teacher as well.
To achieve this communicative goal we focus on the main four abilities: listening, reading, speaking and writing.
We work through educational activities such as the use of sandpaper letters in which students start to learn the sound or sounds that a letter may have. The next step is the movable alphabet in which children start to make words and learn the different combinations a letter or a group of letters might have. Nomenclature is introduced at a very young age too and it evolves through time as children grow up. At the beginning, they are introduced with the picture and the work is mainly oral. As time passes by, the task becomes more challenging and children start working with both pictures and words.
Listening, on the other hand, is acquired through stories and songs that take place at our English Laboratories once a week where the teacher works with different small groups according to the children’s age and level of English. Both songs and stories change according to the topics children are learning. Moreover, we know how important routines are in the teaching-learning process so we always keep them during our laboratory. At the beginning of each session we sing a “Hello song”, which is followed by a task related to the weather and finally, a moment in which children share how they are feeling that particular day. To finish it, on the other hand, we have a goodbye song.
Children enjoy our meetings so much since they have so much fun while they are learning.
However, learning a second language from a young age goes beyond the four main abilities. Through our practical life activities children develop independence and they achieve the satisfaction that comes from being able to do things themselves. They learn the language and at the same time they look after themselves since they help each other to get dressed/undressed, keep their place tidy and look after each other and the environment in which they are. They learn personal values at the same time they acquire a second language. They feel confident and at the same time know that they can come and ask for help from the teacher whenever they need to.
We encourage outdoor activities in which the experience the language in a real context. We work with vocabulary related to animals, and activities and then we go to the farm and experience it with our five senses.
To sum up, language has meaning because it is real and in a natural context.
They experience and live the language in their everyday activities and that is how bilingualism is acquired from a very young age at our school.