Bilingualism within our Toddler Program: Introduction to the French Language

Our Toddler teachers use both English and the French language on a daily basis. Everyday greetings, instruction and conversation present ample opportunity to present both languages. Our students become familiar with objects like table, chair, spoon, fork, plate, cup, milk, chicken, cheese, apple, and more during snack and lunch time. Throughout the day they hear, “lavez les mains dans la salle de bain, fermez la porte, ouvrez la porte, mettez vos chaussures, sortez, quel âge as-tu? , j’ai un an, j’ai deux ans …, ils apprennent comment dire leurs couleurs en français, ils apprennent les membres de la famille, les animaux, etc., etc.

Nos enseignants prennent toutes les occasions de parler en Français sans perdre l’attention de l’enfant et en meme temps assurant que l’enfant comprenne tous dans les deux langues. (Our teachers take every opportunity available to speak in French without losing the child’s attention and ensuring that the child is comprehending everything in both languages.)

Bilingualism within our Casa Program: A more enhanced French Program where Madame McNeil does all of the above and then some. Our Casa curriculum is taught by our English-speaking Head Directress and is supported by Madame who includes a French Circle with songs, stories, conversation and more.

  • How learning a second language affects the young brain

It has long been known that there is a strong link between language, music and other developmental skills, such as math and logical thinking. Children who are exposed to language training show measurable improvements in other cognitive skills. Researchers believe that early language exposure actually increases the size and power of a child’s brain!

  • Current Brain Research

In some regards an infant’s brain is like a blank slate. Exposing your child to a second language at an early age can actually change the way your child’s brain is structured by forming connections that otherwise would not be formed. These connections seem to be not only necessary for learning language, but are beneficial in many other academic areas: study after study shows that students who have studied a second language do better in other seemingly unrelated areas such as mathematics and logic.

  • The Earlier the Better

Research proves that the best time to learn a foreign language is in infancy – the sooner the better. According to neurobiologists, a newborn’s brain is like a new computer waiting to be programmed. Some of the brain’s basic functions, such as breathing and heart beat are fixed in place while baby is still in the womb. But trillions of other connections in the brain are just waiting to be made, or programmed in, during the first years of life. Some of these early connections govern such skills as the ability to see and distinguish faces and objects, to master basic motor skills. Others are specifically waiting there to learn languages. But these connections will only develop to the extent to which they are used, and if not developed when the child is young, the “window of opportunity” to develop these connections will quickly fade.

A few samples of what researcher say:

“The power to learn language is so great in the young child that it doesn’t seem to matter how many languages you throw their way. They can learn as many as you allow them to hear systematically and regularly at the same time.”
Susan Curtis, linguistics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“The researchers say that although language is thought to be mediated by functional changes in the brain, they show that being bilingual structurally changes the brain. Their study shows the effect was strongest in people who had learned a second language before age 5.
Those who had learned a second language at a young age had greater proficiency in reading, writing, talking, and understanding English speech.”

(Mechelli, A. Nature, October 2004)

“An obvious advantage of knowing more than one language is having expanded access to people and resources. Individuals who speak and read more than one language have the ability to communicate with more people, read more literature, and benefit more fully from travel to other countries. Introducing students to alternative ways of expressing themselves and to different cultures gives greater depth to their understanding of human experience by fostering an appreciation for the customs and achievements of people beyond their own communities. Ultimately, knowing a second language can also give people a competitive advantage in the work force by opening up additional job opportunities”
(Villano, 1996)

“Students who speak more than one language perform higher than their monolingual counterparts on tests of academic achievement, cognitive flexibility, and creativity”
(Moran & Hakuta, 1995; Bialystok & Hakuta, 1991; Rafferty, 1986; Hakuta & Diaz, 1985; Saxe, 1983)

“Research suggests that students who receive second language instruction are more creative and better at solving complex problems than those who do not.”
(Bamford and Mizokawa, 1991)

“People who are bilingual have an advantage over the rest of us, and not just in terms of communication skills. The bilingual brain develops more densely, giving it an advantage in various abilities and skills, according to new research…brain imaging showed that bilingual speakers had denser gray matter compared with monolingual participants.”
(Miranda Hitti -WebMD Medical News Oct. 13, 2004)