Learning another Language in the Pre-school Years

Opti-Baby Morningside is thrilled to be offering Zulu to all our students from 2 years up. This will be held in the morning as part of their curriculum and there is no additional charge to parents for this.

It is being facilitated by outside experts and will give the students a chance to be immersed in the language. There is so many advantages to learning a different language at a young age and the development of the neural pathways that this creates will give them a competitive advantage, even when they are so young.

Please read the information below which will enlighten to you as to why we have introduced it at our school starting on 15 July 2019.

A second language

Many people lament the fact that they never learnt a second or third language when they were younger; the benefits of being able to speak isiZulu, French or Chinese are often apparent only once we are older and wiser; however, learning a language as an adult is no easy task.

The best time to acquire multiple languages is during the developmental years of early childhood, when acquiring language and communication skills are the child’s main priority. Research supports this and is overwhelmingly in favour of exposing children to multiple languages, as the benefits extend far beyond merely speaking and understanding more than one language.

Dr Robyn Moloney, a multilingual expert at Macquarie University, states that children have the ability to understand and use multiple languages without inhibition or confusion, and with a perfect accent. Dr Robert DeKeyser, professor of second language acquisition at Maryland University, agrees that 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.

Benefits to learning additional languages:

• When done right, speaking additional languages can make you smarter. Multilingual children are considered stronger in areas such as divergent thinking, concept formation, general reasoning, memory, creativity, verbal abilities and listening skills.

• Knowing more languages early on in your life will also make learning additional languages easier; this because your brain becomes more efficient at language learning and creates shortcuts and patterns based on your broader understanding of various languages.

• Multilingual individuals also display a heightened sensitivity to different cultures, as well as a range of sought-after soft skills like adaptability, confidence, communication, collaboration, flexibility, resilience and resourcefulness which are considered extremely valuable in the ever-changing future world of work.

• And finally, yet most obviously, by learning a new language you are then able to converse with someone else in a language different from your own. It was Nelson Mandela who said, “Speak to a man in a language he understands and you speak to his head, speak to a man in his own language and you speak to his heart.”

The best method for children to learn another language:

By far the most effective approach to language learning is immersion, ideally through One-Person-One-Language (OPOL) where only the target language is spoken to the child. This necessity and environment are both motivating and engaging for a child to learn and remember vocabulary.

Language classes should also be fun, repetitive through music and song, and taught through activities where sensory, gross motor and practical themes all work together to help a child remember and gain confidence in the language. Children also need 1:1 interaction that only comes from a small class environment where they must communicate and engage with speakers in this language. When all these factors are in place, effective language learning can take place in the child.

Based on years of research, and with this approach to language learning – ZuluMites stands in the gap to create isiZulu resources, programmes and training that make Zulu language learning accessible and enjoyable for teachers, parents, children and caregivers. Their unique methodology and curriculum support pre and primary schools to incorporate a comprehensive, dynamic programme into their schools, with facilitators that are well trained and experienced, thereby getting maximum results.

Why isiZulu?

It’s important to remember that is no language is more important than another, and there are many factors to consider when choosing an additional language for your child to learn like: heritage, usefulness and economic factors. All languages are important in their own right, and the cognitive benefits will apply regardless of which language is learnt.

That being said, when considering accessibility, isiZulu is spoken as a first language by the most people in South Africa (over 20%) and communicating in isiZulu will help you converse with almost 60% of the country that use it as a second language.

The ability to speak an African language will be an asset for tomorrow’s leaders and the best time to start is now.

About the Author: Meryl Bailey is an educator, trainer and thought leader on language acquisition in early childhood education. This mother of 4, pioneered the first trilingual preschool in South Africa – before launching ZuluMites.