If neither parents speaks the language at home, this will not affect how your child learns a language since all children are in a sensitive period for a second language up until about 10-12 years old. However, when there is no representative of that language in the home environment, it simply takes longer to acquire the language. IMS provides enough language acquisition support at school that it should not be a problem if the parents do not speak French or Spanish. There are ways you can help even if you do not speak the second language. You can support your child by asking questions and being interested and involved in what (s)he learns. It is important not to be too demanding or have unrealistic expectations because every child develops at his/her own pace.
Parents who commit to a language immersion education are encouraged to help their child further develop his native language. It is extremely important for you to continuously speak the native language to your child and to help him make the connection between his native language and the second language. For instance, you should provide him with native language vocabulary for the subject(s) that are taught in the second language and take him to cultural events. You also should have the child use his native language on a regular basis, especially if your family lives in a country where the native language is not spoken outside of the school.
Parental support throughout the educational process is the most important way to help your child learn the second language. You should place an equal amount of importance on both languages concerning grades and homework. Continually demonstrate to your child how curious you are about what he is learning. Simple things can be done that will go a long way in reinforcing the second language. Relate the language learning to fun experiences. Immerse your child in the second language through an activity that (s)he particularly enjoys is a great way to reinforce his second language. This can be accomplished by establishing close friends and playmates for your child who speak the second language natively. You can invite a native-speaking friend for a play date. Your child would also benefit tremendously from visiting the friend’s house where the language is spoken natively. If your child develops close bonds with these native-speaking children, it reinforces the language in a fun environment with a positive learning experience. Our summer camps can also be very helpful for reinforcing the language, especially over long breaks. Camps to consider include theater camps or those taking place in a country where your child’s second language is the native language. Traveling in a foreign country is also a good experience for the child, especially when your child can serve the important role of translator for the family. Watching videotapes in the second language will also help reinforce the language and assist with the learning process. Most DVDs allow you to choose the language you watch the movie in.
The Second Language Acquisition Process
At the International Montessori School, preschool and kindergarten serve as a complement to your child’s upbringing at home and is a place where essential experiences and learning occur. School is where your child will learn to “grow up” and be encouraged to express herself through different means of communication. Our Montessori certified, native speaking teachers provide a solid foundation for your child’s language acquisition, with equal emphasis on helping her develop social and emotional skills. Your child will be encouraged to use a variety of skills to process, explore, and express thoughts and concepts. Within our caring and nurturing classrooms, your child will develop self-esteem as well as respect for others.
What is the typical process of learning a second language?
Will my child understand the second language before (s)he speaks it?
Research has shown that there is a consistent developmental sequence for children acquiring a second language. First, there is often a period of time during which a child continues to use his native language in second language situations. Then, most children enter a nonverbal, or “silent,” period. Following this period, children
begin to use “telegraphic” and “formulaic” phrases (or catch phrases) in the second language. Finally, children begin to develop productive use of their second language.
During the “silent” period, children are actively working on making sense of the target, or second, language. They observe and listen closely to their teachers and peers who are using the second language. ISTP teachers establish routines and plan activities that both repeat and build upon each other, so that children can progressively become familiar with the second language. During this “silent” period, the children may utilize nonverbal means to communicate while in their second language classroom. Gradually, they begin to “rehearse” the second language by repeating the sounds that they hear around them.
Children use telegraphic speech when they first begin to use their second language quite similar to how they first began speaking in their native language. Such utterances tend to contain a series of words that the children have learned. Common examples of telegraphic speech include identifying classroom objects, counting and naming the letters of the alphabet. Formulaic speech emerges after children have memorized entire phrases that they have heard their peers and/or teachers use. These “formulas” are especially helpful in enabling children to enter play situations with the second language speakers around them. Phrases such as “I want to play with you” and “May I have a…” are examples of how children have comprehended and acquired means to communicate in the second language.
Productive language use in the second language follows formulaic speech, when children begin to develop an understanding of its syntactic and grammatical system. Through comparison and breakdown of formulaic terms together with the development and application of syntactic rules, young second language learners arrive at productive control over their new language. They initiate their own use of the second language while continuing to acquire and utilize new vocabulary words and grammatical structures.
How will my child progress compared to other children his/her age who are not in a language immersion program?
During the process of a language immersion education, there may be times that your child is ahead of, at par with or behind his peers who are not in a language immersion program. Some research suggests that at times there may be a temporary lag in development between the ages of six and ten, but the lag is only temporary. Research also shows that language immersion students quickly catch up, and many surpass their monolingual peers by 5th grade. The advantages in thinking and self-esteem that come from learning a second language far outweigh the temporary lag that your child may experience from time to time during the learning process.
The best way is to communicate with your child’s teachers. The school uses assessment tools to monitor students’ academic progress, and will provide tri-semester reports cards on your child’s performance. Twice a year, teachers will hold parent-teacher conferences, at which time you can discuss your child’s language development and program.
IMS provides a meaningful environment where students realize the value of mastering the second language. Nevertheless, there is a lot of value in starting your child in a second language as early as possible to increase the level of language proficiency. As in all learning processes, individual differences occur in how children proceed through the developmental sequence of second language acquisition. When a child realizes that he should not speak his native language in the second language classroom, it is at this point that (s)he must decide whether or not to make the effort to acquire the new language. Motivation plays an important role in second language acquisition. Being exposed to a second language is obviously not enough. Wanting to communicate with people who speak that language is crucial if acquisition is to occur. Moreover, there are enormous individual differences among young children, as among adults, in how soon and well productive control of a second language is achieved. These differences are based on how each second learner approaches the task of learning a new language, the strategies that are employed and the personal characteristics of the individuals.
Generally speaking, children who are genuinely interested in learning to communicate in a second language, who seek out opportunities to listen to and use the new language, and who are comfortable interacting in social situations, tend to progress more easily and quickly in learning a second language.Conversely, children who reject the second language and isolate themselves from native language speakers of the second language will logically not make similar progress in their acquisition. Therefore, giving value to the second language by providing more opportunities to use it in the child’s environment outside of the school is very important. At IMS, most children who are beginning to learn a second language typically begin telegraphic and formulaic speech after a few months. More productive language usage then emerges during the latter part of the year and the following school year. However, as indicated above, the rate of acquisition varies among children.
Learning in a foreign language promotes your child’s mastery of fundamental concepts of learning and problem solving. Once the student possesses the necessary vocabulary and terminology, (s)he should have no problems transferring the learned concept from one language to another.
Your child may become equally fluent in both languages provided there are opportunities for your child to learn, practice and interact in both languages. While IMS will provide your child with formal opportunities to learn the second language, parental support is equally important. You should encourage and validate your child’s efforts and achievements in both languages, and provide stimulating materials for your child to read and listen to in both languages. You should also participate in cultural events to support the understanding of the second language.
There is no research to support the idea that gender has any effect on language learning and development. Individuals have differences in the speed and proficiency for which they can acquire language. Maturity and a child’s developmental ability may explain why some children develop more quickly. Academic ability also does not correlate to language learning ability. However, a child’s interest and motivation for learning the language are key factors for success. Boys and girls need both encouragement and validation as they progress individually in their acquisition of language.