Most parents know that children under 6 years old are able to learn new languages easier thanadults or children over 6. However, what most parents don’t know is how to take advantage of this small window of opportunity to expose their children to more than one language in a stimulating fun learning environment.
There are benefits, over and above mere language ability, from exposing children to different languages from an early age.
Multilingual children consistently outperform their monolingual and bilingual counterparts in areas such as divergent thinking, concept formation, general reasoning, verbal abilities and listening skills. Children that learn multiple languages during their formative years also develop an enhanced ability to acquire other languages in later life.
There is a great deal more to language than just grammar, phonology and syntax; children who are exposed to more than one language also exhibit greater cross cultural sensitivity.
Etiquette, body language, attitudes and other aspects of human behaviour are just as much a part of a language and it is often these unwritten rules that allow real communication to take place.
This knowledge becomes increasingly important in the South African context where children from different backgrounds, cultures and languages need to learn to cooperate and work together.
In the world that our children will live and work, the inability to function in two or more languages will be viewed in much the same way as illiteracy has been viewed in the past.
Multilingual abilities will open up opportunities that would otherwise not exist. This is already evident in the working world where multilingual people are favoured over monolinguals in many roles.
There are no down-sides to exposing children to more than one language simultaneously as research has shown that children have the ability to understand and use multiple languages without inhibition or confusion, and with a perfect accent. In addition, children who are exposed to more than one language in the formative years are able to obtain a level of fluency that becomes increasingly difficult as the child gets older; this enhanced ability to learn a new language declines dramatically after the age of 6.
Taking into consideration all the benefits of early exposure to more than one language, LinguaMites has developed a tri-lingual pre-school curriculum which aims to exploit the valuable, but very small window of opportunity before the child reaches 6 years of age.
Developed by language enthusiast Kyle Bailey, in partnership with his wife and educator, Meryl Bailey, the programme creates an environment where children are given maximum exposure to three languages in a deliberate and consistent manner. The programme provides children with a pre-school education in three languages simultaneously (Chinese (Mandarin), English and isiZulu) through three diligently researched and tested programmes: ChinaMites (Mandarin),
Proficiency in English is critical for success in almost every field of life, both in South Africa and around the world. The opening up, and subsequent growth, of China’s economy over the past few decades has led to increased interaction with Chinese speakers for people across the globe, making the ability to communicate in Chinese a skill in high demand. Zulu is chosen for the South African context where it is widely spoken as both a first and second language, providing a good foundation in a Bantu language which is valuable to any child growing up in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Established in July 2013, LinguaMites currently runs one pre-school in Johannesburg North with teachers passionate about teaching their native languages to children from both native speaker and non-native speaker backgrounds.
Each of the three languages are facilitated by native speakers in a dedicated space where only the target language is spoken; teachers convey meaning through actions and demonstration, in the same way that a native language is acquired.
Children enjoy learning through culturally relevant songs, games and stories, and are
exposed to the appropriate etiquette and table manners. In this way they gain a unique identity within the culture and a deep understanding of the people that actually speak the language in everyday life.
“At LinguaMites we believe that, given the innate abilities of our young children, it is a travesty to waste their early learning years by teaching them in a monolingual, or even bilingual
environment,” says LinguaMites founder Kyle Bailey. “LinguaMites gain native fluency in the three target languages in a fun, non-threatening environment, while receiving a quality pre-school education. In this way we aim to equip our future generation for a world that will have very different requirements to the one that we know today,” concludes Bailey.
Although this tri-lingual pre-school model is fast growing world-wide – with monolingual nations like Australia and the United States taking up the challenge to raise the next generation with languages of the future – the LinguaMites programme is the first of its kind in South Africa.
“We are passionate about raising a generation of confident and culturally sensitive citizens of the future; and have seen remarkable results in our students so far. We aim to export our pre-school model across South Africa and the continent, revolutionising the way we think and run pre-school education programmes.”
For more information or to set up an interview with the founders of LinguaMites, please contact
Meryl Bailey on 072 561 3113 or at [email protected]
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