Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is early foreign-language acquisition so important? Is it really a case of “the earlier, the better”?
  2. Aren’t there fears and misgivings about placing excessive demands on the children?
  3. May early language learning harm the development of the mother tongue?
  4. May early language learning harm the formation of identity?
  5. Does learning a foreign language at an early age also improve cognitive abilities?
  6. Do children who learn a foreign language at a very young age have an easier time learning additional languages?
  7. What will happen if the children do not continue learning later on in school or if they learn a different foreign language in school? Will the efforts to start learning languages in preschool age have been useless?
  8. Why is it useful to involve parents in the process of very early language learning of their children?
  9. Which are the problems, parents are faced with when trying to support their children in the process of very early language learning?
  10. How will the project help parents, to support their children in the process of very early language learning?

Q1:

Why is early foreign-language acquisition so important? Is it really a case of “the earlier, the better”?

A:

It is important to take advantage of small children’s full potential. Acquiring foreign languages can have a very positive effect. The new sound patterns train their conscious listening, which also helps children learn to pay more attention to their own language. This prepares them very well for the listening that they’ll have to do in school later.

The social aspects of early foreign-language learning are also interesting. Children recognize the significance of sounds, grammar, words, and sentences, but they also develop the ability to adapt themselves to things that are culturally unfamiliar.


Q2:

Aren’t there fears and misgivings about placing excessive demands on the children?

A:

The idea that excessive demand is being placed on the children really doesn’t hold much water, especially if we’re only talking about 45 minutes or so per week. Even in bilingual kindergartens where, for example, the French teacher uses the “other” language - French in this case - in everyday life and occasionally reads the kids a story, the question of “excessive demands” can hardly enter the debate. Pressure only comes into the picture when specific results in a short timeframe are stipulated as official learning targets, when a child experiences fear due to stern treatment, or when the parents set overly ambitious goals for their children.


Q3:

May early language learning harm the development of the mother tongue?

A:

Some interference may occur, but it is quite temporary. After the age of 36 months, early language learning is not reported to have caused any real problems to mother tongue learning and use. On the contrary, the awareness of the sound and rhythm of languages is strengthened, and if the child learns to write the foreign language, there tends to be a natural comparison between the two writing systems. And if one views the ability to compare things as a higher-level thought process, this is certainly trained. It is always important to be able to differentiate between superficially similar systems. The children are happy, they cooperate, and they attempt to communicate, which is the performance to be desired and expected in accordance with the curricula at this level.


Q4:

May early language learning harm the formation of identity?

A:

Children do not know that diversity exists and so they do not see it as such or merely observe it in other children without experiencing it.

By learning two languages, by learning to think in two languages, children live and experience plurality, they are no longer prisoner of a monolithic identity. One of the most frequent criticisms about early language learning concerns the risk of creating rootless persons; in fact, it produces persons who have roots as all others but who know that their roots are not the only possible roots and that there are as many roots as there are persons.


Q5:

Does learning a foreign language at an early age also improve cognitive abilities?

A:

The formulation is actually correct in some ways. Another language is a challenge; another language is fascinating; the materials are nice to work through. If a visitor or a kindergarten group comes from a neighbouring country, the hosts’ curiosity is piqued and they want to understand their guests. There is research showing that early language learning may even improve non-verbal cognitive abilities like mathematics.


Q6:

Do children who learn a foreign language at a very young age have an easier time learning additional languages?

A:

It is easy for them if they’ve remained motivated through good instruction and teachers who put them in stimulating situations where they see how the language is actually needed.


Q7:

What will happen if the children do not continue learning later on in school or if they learn a different foreign language in school? Will the efforts to start learning languages in preschool age have been useless?

A:

The problem of continuity exists in any case, even if the children start to learn English in kindergarten and then continue with the same language at school.

Even if there is less space for languages in the subsequent levels of education, early language learning will open children’s minds and even take away the fear to learn languages considered as very difficult.


Q8:

Why is it useful to involve parents in the process of very early language learning of their children?

A:

Currently, few children start the language acquisition at very early age (pre-school) and those who do usually attend school like courses. The disadvantage of such an approach is that there is usually only minimal exposure to the target language, which keeps the language foreign.


Q9:

Which are the problems, parents are faced with when trying to support their children in the process of very early language learning?

A:

The main problem lies in the parents’ language and methodological skills. Although the level of motivation of part of the parents is quite high, their ability to transfer the target language to home environment and their everyday activities tends to be limited due to the level of the parents’ language skills as well as their uncertainty how to treat the foreign language in their activities with their children.


Q10:

How will the project help parents, to support their children in the process of very early language learning?

A:

The project will create a parent training model enabling parents to become their children’s guides in the language acquisition process. The parent training model is going to stand on a triangle frame – the courses offered will concern the following areas:

  • Ability to speak the foreign language
  • methodology for very early language learning
  • Knowledge about developmental psychology

Training for parents seems the most fruitful way to maximize the time of children’s exposure to the target language in a natural and also the most economic way.