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“With languages, you are at home anywhere.” ― Edward De Waal

Published : 4 January 2017

“With languages, you are at home anywhere.” ― Edward De Waal

At St Ives School, Haslemere, Modern Languages are a key part of our wide and varied curriculum. We start language learning in our nursery at age two, which we believe is the best way to for pupils to become confident and enthusiastic language learners. But what are the advantages of starting to learn a language at such a young age?

There is a common misconception that learning a foreign language should wait until after children have mastered their mother tongue.  However, research by the CFBT Educational Trust[1] shows that children who start learning a language at a young age have a distinct advantage over their monolingual peers. Learning a language not only broadens children’s cultural understanding, it also improves their memory, decision making skills and crucially their literacy. As Sue Cave, a primary MFL teaching expert explains, learning a foreign language enables pupils to make links and comparisons with their own language[2], improving their vocabulary and reading skills as a result.

Starting to learn a language at an early age is also hugely beneficial due to the way in which young children learn. Early language learners ‘tend to be more intuitive, less anxious and better at acquiring the sounds and rhythms of the new language.’[3] This is why at St Ives pupils are given the opportunity to start their foreign language learning from the get go. Such early exposure ensures that pupils quickly become accustomed to a new language and are able to develop their language skills in a fun and creative manner, through the use of songs, poems, role plays and games.

Of course, it is not only the age at which you start learning a language that is important but also the amount of time spent learning it and the quality of the teaching. At St Ives, languages are vital part of our curriculum and we offer pupils between half an hour and two hours language teaching a week, depending on their age. This ensures that as pupils’ language proficiency develops, they are able to explore the language in more depth and become confident in listening, speaking, reading and writing. St Ives also has specialist French and Spanish teachers, which means that the languages curriculum is delivered at a high level and that our teachers are truly passionate about their subject.

We hope that by the time pupils leave St Ives, they too will have a passion for languages, having begun their language learning journey as confident and enthusiastic young linguists.

 

[1] https://www.educationdevelopmenttrust.com/~/media/CfBTCorporate/Files/Research/2015/r-language-trends-summary-2015.pdf

[2] http://www.tteducation.co.uk/foreign-language-teaching-primary-schools-important-overcome-challenges/

[3] Lessons from abroad: International review of primary languages. Teresa Tinsley and Terese Comfort, (CfBT, 2012)


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