Learning during a few years in a French and English-speaking environment leads to extraordinary language aptitudes. Acacia will tell you why the early years are the building blocks for a child’s future and how bilingualism became our school project.
Learning a Language
When we learn a language, a particular area of the brain is stimulated: Broca’s area. It deals with the specific characteristics of each language such as grammar, phonology, and morphosyntax.
For an adult learner, the acquisition of any new language implies to build a new Broca’s area. To understand or to speak this language, the learner systematically makes detours via its mother tongue, even unconsciously.
But for early bilingual, the formal aspects of its different languages are managed in the same and unique Broca’s area. They have greater ease, greater spontaneity when they have to switch from one language to another. However, children have this potential to learn easily a new language using the same Broca’s area only if they are stimulated between 0 and 7 years old, considered as the ‘language age’ by scientists. At this neuronal level, the potential starts to regress from 4 or 5 years old, and becomes ineffective around 7 years old.
The Language Age
Shortly after birth, children are able to distinguish all sounds and phonemes specific to each language. By the age of 6 months, they have a perfect ear. They will lose this capacity as they grow up. Children can also reproduce a sound as soon as they hear it. They quickly perceive most of the accents and tones of voice, and therefore they can easily differentiate syllables.
Since birth to 7 years old, children build their language according to their linguistic environment. If they are exposed to several languages, their ‘linguistic database’ proves to be greater and more flexible. Thus, numerous linguists claim that the early acquisition of a second or a third language benefits to the native language.
The advantage of being bilingual…
Scientists also noticed significant cognitive advantages among bilingual children: a superior mental flexibility, greater skills for abstract reasoning, conceptualisation and creativity. These observations led them to the following conclusion: bilingualism enhances intelligence.
Knowing the benefits of learning several languages from an early age, we created Acacia in 2008, making bilingualism our school project. First, we opened ‘Early Years Section’ and ‘Horizon Section’ for children from 1 to 3 years old. They quickly produced very satisfying results. As many parents requested and wanted their children to pursue bilingual school we opened new sections over the years: ‘Flying Start Section’, ‘Little Travelers Section’ and ‘Globetrotters Section’.
The Education Offered by Acacia
Our teaching is based on a core principle: ‘An adult a language’. Children have two teachers, one is English speaking and the other is French speaking. During the week, they are alternately immersed in both languages. Because they are equally exposed to French and English, children use these languages to communicate, in the same way as they do with their mother tongue. Therefore, they are naturally open to different cultural worlds. For each section, a theme is taught each week in both French and in English. Thus, children progressively discover different aspects of the world around and enrich their vocabularies in both languages.
Our bilingual programme takes into account French education system prerogatives and English education system prerogatives in a balanced way. For instance, the program that we have created for the ‘Little Travelers Section’ follows the French Ministry of Education Curriculum for the second year in Kindergarten ‘Moyenne Section’ and the British Curriculum for the K2 program. After having followed our programs, during one to several years, children are well prepared to integrate without difficulty thereafter in primary school, the French education system or an international school.