Introducing a foreign language in Early Years

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By Carol Sayah

Many nursery settings introduce a foreign language in Early Years. But why start teaching a foreign language at such a young age?

To pass as a native speaker a child must be introduced to the foreign language before the age of six. Exposure to the language at such an early age leaves the child able to hear and pronounce the sounds and words of the foreign language with greater ease than if met at a later stage in their development. Young children have a natural curiosity for learning which is apparent when they participate in foreign language learning. They are receptive to a second language and are happy to give it a go.

Research suggests that children who learn a foreign language in their Early Years develop certain skills earlier than those who don’t. They display better problem-solving skills, improved memory and increased creativity. A positive experience of a second language will make children more open to learning other languages later.

In this series of articles, we aim to help you develop your expertise and equip you with the knowledge you need to effectively deliver a foreign language in Early Years. We will look at the features of a good lesson and share some teaching techniques. The series will also include simple lesson plans for you to use. We will talk you through language learning games and activities that have proved effective and popular with children in Early Years. These ideas are only meant as a starting point for your own lessons so feel free to play around with them and personalise them to suit your teaching style.

As you introduce a new language to the children, add foreign words to your day to day vocabulary, using them as naturally as possible at every opportunity. Your group will soon learn to follow your example and will be able to switch to the target language whenever appropriate.

Note: Although our lesson plans focus on the French language, they can be adapted for use with any modern foreign language.


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