EDDIE CATZ BLOG

Did you know that the “optimal window” for learning a second language is 0 to 4 years old? That’s why I teach French to babies and young children!

Did you know that the “optimal window” for learning a second language is 0 to 4 years old? That’s why I teach French to babies and young children!

Bonjour!

I have always passionately believed that children should start learning a second language as early as possible in life and that all children have the potential to do so successfully. I have been teaching French to children for over 20 years in London, and I have been able to witness first-hand the excellent results that can be achieved when starting at a very young age. One of my very first pupils is now reading French at Cambridge University!

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It is now widely accepted that children should start learning a second language early in life, and nowadays we are more fully aware of the many benefits that this brings. All research in this area has proven, and indeed language experts agree, that learning a second language early in life enhances overall cognitive skills and improves brain development. Studies have shown repeatedly that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity, problem-solving skills and flexibility of mind in young children. In fact analysis of recent brain scans of toddlers at King’s College London show that second language learning actually re-shapes the plastic, flexible brain of very young children, physically changing it forever! Their research showed that the “optimal window” for learning a second language was before 4 years old, and they concluded that the earlier children start the better.

From September 2014 learning a second language will be compulsory in Primary schools in England and the huge majority of pupils will continue to choose French. This language learning is good news if British children are to be competitive in a future global marketplace and it is also a wonderful way for them to flourish, to challenge themselves and also to discover another culture, broadening their young horizons.

However children should be exposed to a second language before Primary school. So what can you do to give them a great headstart?

It is best for the children to attend fun lessons where they are completely immersed in the language, with no English spoken whatsoever. Learning a language should always be fun and never a boring chore, when for example each word is laboriously translated. The children should always be happy and fully engaged, learning while playing and singing, and they will naturally want to communicate with the teachers and also with the other children. In this way the children are whole-heartedly involved and are emotionally completely engaged in the lessons. They become increasingly confident, unaware that they are in fact effortlessly absorbing the vocabulary, linguistic patterns and grammatical structures of this new language. They become acutely atuned to the different sounds and, if they start young enough, they develop a truly authentic accent.

They learn French in the same way that they learned their own mother tongue, through a process of absorption and imitation! For them it’s mere child’s play!

 

Stella founded Club Petit Pierrot in 1993. As well as teaching, Stella trains teachers and coaches bilingual nannies and developed and produced a fun educational CD of new, original songs and rhymes to learn French. She is proud to be highly recommended by the BBC, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express and Time Out. Stella has also worked as Language Consultant for Cartoonito. She hopes to contribute through more development in making learning French available to all children!

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