With so many Spanish parents embarking on bilingualism at home from birth, the Madrid Metropolitan takes a look at the nuts and bolts of teaching English as a second language (ESL)
We were interested in finding out what professional support parents sought to make bilingualism from birth a success.
Working with babies and young children
Working with babies and young children takes skill and patience, but it is also deeply rewarding. Many pre-school teachers have chosen to work with this age group as a professional vocation. Their loyalty, dedication and determination to educate the youngest members of society is admirable.
Childcare provides a first-hand opportunity to work closely with and for toddlers as they develop into inquisitive school children.
Teachers who are also able to help children pick a second language naturally in an environment that is conducive to early years learning are remarkable individuals with a wide range of tricks up their sleeves.
Early Years specialists teach English to toddlers
Early Years specialists are skilled at teaching English in an engaging way that helps their students absorb new words and concepts naturally through guided play and other curricular
activities. When their “students” are toddlers, the classroom takes on a unique dynamic.
Youngsters at this age are keen to communicate, come what may. Toddlers have no preconceived idea about language and therefore speak using whatever words they have
learnt. In the right environment, the preschool children pick up the building blocks of English as a second language simply by playing.
ESL goals for toddlers
All parents wishing to introduce English at home are encouraged to follow certain steps to encourage language-acquisition in a family environment. According to Clan TV´s resident
English teacher/presenter Katharine Cannings there are some key language learning goals that pre-schoolers can be expected to reach before the age of 4, such as how to use simple time
expressions like today, tomorrow etc. She also points out that they will be using sentences with verbs from an early age, although they will inevitably make mistakes.
The key sign of a youngster’s language development is, however, their vocabulary. There are some incredible resources available online for parents to support parallel vocabulary learning across two languages from toddler age upwards, such as those found here.
Guaranteed success through constancy
Early Years groups that meet regularly and are supported by a team of professionals such as those behind the successful Bilingual Baby Club at British Council prove to be successful in
fostering bilingualism in young children. Their success stems from methodology that is child-led, fun and full of supervised improvised play time. Bearing this in mind, it is also important to
point out that parental support in using the minority language with their children away from the classroom setting is vital.
Constancy is key, with the journey being more comparable to a marathon than to a sprint.
The Madrid Metropolitan spoke to parents who are delighted with their children’s bilingual progress at preschool English classes.
Furthermore, these parents mentioned the ongoing individualised feedback and support from the teachers who often record observations of children’s learning and development throughout the year, thus making learning English as a baby straightforward and rewarding.
Bringing up children bilingually has never been easier now that Madrid has a network of professional educators dedicated to working solely with pre-schoolers. Through in person and online resources, there really is nothing stopping Spanish children from learning English practically from day one.
The language bubble is expanding so much it is encapsulating the capital city and beyond!