Raising bilingual children

I have always been fluent in English as well as Afrikaans and think that being bilingual is such an advantage (especially to children). My friend has started a MULTILINGUAL school and I think this is a FANTASTIC idea. Here’s more info for those who are keen.

LinguaMites® is a revolutionary model in pre-school education and the first of it’s kind in South Africa!

LinguaMites provides children with a pre-school education in three languages simultaneously (Chinese, English and isiZulu). LinguaMites exploits the valuable, but very small window of opportunity to acquire multiple languages in the formative years (1-5yrs) while providing children with a quality pre-school education in a fun and loving environment. Our diligently researched and tested trilingual programme (ChinaMites , ZuluMites and AngloMites ) gives each child the best possible opportunities for the future.

LinguaMites Tri-lingual Programme

At LinguaMites® our children learn languages through consistent, deliberate exposure and quality input. When it comes to language, we believe that a little every day is better than a large portion of time once a week, and therefore split our school days equally between the three languages.  Each of the three languages are facilitated by native speakers in a dedicated space where only the target language is spoken; teachers convey meaning through actions and demonstration, in the same way that a native language is acquired. Children enjoy learning through culturally relevant songs, games and stories, and are exposed to the appropriate etiquette and table manners. In this way they gain a unique identity within the culture and a deep understanding of the people that actually speak the language in everyday life.

Why 3 Languages?

Innate Linguistic Ability: 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. LinguaMites exploits this valuable, but very small window of opportunity by creating an environment where children are given maximum exposure to three languages in a deliberate and consistent manner. ‘LinguaMites’ gain native fluency in the three target languages in a fun, non-threatening environment while receiving a quality pre-school education. At LinguaMites we believe that it is a waste of your child’s innate abilities to teach them in a monolingual or even bilingual environment.

Increased cognitive ability: The benefits of multilingualism on a child’s cognitive development are as bountiful as they are undisputed among linguists and child development experts. Multilingual children consistently outperform their monolingual and bilingual counterparts in areas such as divergent thinking, concept formation, general reasoning, verbal abilities and listening skills. Children that learn multiple languages during their formative years also develop an enhanced ability to acquire other languages in later life.

Cross-Cultural Sensitivity: There is a great deal more to language than grammar, phonology and syntax. Etiquette, body language, attitudes and other aspects of human behaviour are just as much a part of a language and it is often these unwritten rules that allow real communication to take place. LinguaMites teachers are passionate about teaching their native languages and our classrooms are an extension of a home environment where children learn holistically from the teacher as well as their peers. ‘LinguaMites’ develop a unique and individual identity within each language and learn to ‘behave’ as well as speak the language. This kind of exposure fosters a deep sensitivity to language and culture that is not often found in a monolingual environment.

Increase opportunities: In the world that our children will live and work, the inability to function in two or more languages will be viewed in much the same way as illiteracy has been viewed in the past. Multilingual abilities will open up opportunities that would otherwise not exist. It is already evident in the working world that multilingual people are favoured over monolinguals in many roles. LinguaMitesÒ aims to equip our future generation for a world that has very different requirements to the one that we know today.

ChinaMites®: Why Chinese?

Standard Chinese, generally referred to as ‘Mandarin’ by Westerners, is the official language of China and Taiwan; it is also one of the official languages of Singapore and the United Nations. It is estimated that about 1 billion people speak Chinese as a first language with a rapidly growing number of second and third language speakers*. The opening up, and subsequent growth, of China’s economy over the past few decades has lead to increased interaction with Chinese speakers for people across the globe. Africa has experienced significant attention from China on a political, economic and social level, a trend that creates both opportunities and challenges for Africans. At LinguaMites we are firmly convinced that the only way to ensure that the opportunities are leveraged and the challenges overcome is through engagement, mutual understanding and friendship. LinguaMites, through our ‘ChinaMites’ programme, equips our future generation with the skills, sensitivity and passion to turn Africa’s future into an opportunity for all.

*[Official figures for first language speakers vary from less than 900 million to over a billion; figures for second language speakers are very difficult to measure but have been estimated at approximately 300 million. This figure is growing very rapidly both within China and around the world] 

ZuluMites®: Why isiZulu?

In a country with eleven official languages it can be a challenge to select one for your child to learn as a second, or even first, language. However, when one considers that isiZulu is spoken as a first language by over 20% of South Africa’s population and is the most widely spoken second language in the country, it makes sense that our children learn isiZulu. From a linguistic perspective, isiZulu is a Bantu language, a family of related languages that stretch as far north as the equator. A good foundation in a Bantu language will be valuable to any child living in Sub-Saharan Africa. From a social perspective, the historical segregation of racial groups in South Africa has resulted in a lack of interaction between people groups, particularly between white and black. This is an enormous obstacle to the development of our nation in terms of the economy, education, sport, the arts, and most critically, our society. The ZuluMites programme breaks down such barriers by embracing the Zulu language and culture allowing the next generation to understand and respect each other in ways that have not been possible before.

AngloMites®: Why English?

Proficiency in English is critical for success in almost every field of life, both in South Africa and around the world. In fact, it is unclear at this stage which language is more widely used as a shared language, English or Chinese. At LinguaMites we believe that our children should be given a solid grounding in both of these growing international languages. In our AngloMites programme we ensure that all children, regardless of their cultural background, are ready for an English primary school education (from Grade R) if they so desire.

LinguaMites® welcomes children from all linguistic backgrounds and we make every effort to balance the number of Chinese, Zulu and English speakers in each class, thus facilitating peer-to-peer learning.

Our Programme

Based on the latest research in language acquisition as well as resources from around the world, LinguaMites® has developed a unique tri-lingual pre-school curriculum. Each of our programmes (ChinaMites , ZuluMites and AngloMites) follow specific weekly themes and activities, which are presented in a fun and interactive way. We put emphasis on raising culturally sensitive and socially responsible citizens, while learning all the fundamentals of a pre-school education through play.

Additional Resources for raising multilingual children

LinguaMites® is passionate about raising a generation of South Africans that speak more than one language, and particularly useful languages like the three we have chosen to work in at our school. In addition to offering a trilingual preschool education, we are also encouraging families to develop the perfect Zulu language tutor in your home by signing up your care-giver/nanny to our monthly Caregiver training. This training includes receiving exceptional educational resources for your child at their stage of development, translated into isiZulu for your care-giver, and delivered in an interactive way that will excite your nanny to work with your child in their native language and develop a bilingual child without even leaving your home! Every child in South Africa will be required to learn an African language throughout their school career and all research supports that a foundation in the first 6 yrs, will result in a more natural command of the language. LinguaMites® will train your child’s loving carer into a language tutor that understands children’s brain development and the importance of education in the formative years. Starting in February, this training runs every month in 2014 and will be one of the most valuable investments you ever make into your child and your care-giver. 

More Information

For more information regarding any of our offerings at LinguaMites® please contact Meryl Bailey on 072 561 3113, W: www.linguamites.co.za or E: info@linguamites.co.za