At Springfield the language team teach French from Prep through to Year 12 using the Accelerative Integrated Methodology (AIM) of language teaching in the Primary Years. This creates an environment where students feel comfortable to express themselves through gestures, play, drama, songs and games. The goal being to encourage critical fluency at a young age by taking advantage of the vitality and playfulness inherent in young children. 

Learning your native tongue is done from day one of your life and is accomplished by way of listening, mimicking, understanding and verbalising. The very same is done for a second language but the benefit of learning it at such an early age is young children don’t have half the inhibitions or fear of adults. Tapping into prep-aged kids’ learning abilities and natural curiosity allows these five-year-olds to let their inhibitions run free whilst developing positive attitudes to other cultures. They are able to get a head start on others the same age which, in turn, leads to numerous benefits later in life.

These benefits include developing critical thinking skills and problem-solving as your brain is challenged to recognise, negotiate meaning, and communicate in different languages. It strengthens the ability to identify patterns, which is a transferable skill to other areas of academics and improves memory. “Did you know people who speak more than one language are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia?” explains Rae.

Coupled with these benefits, through comparing and contrasting cultures, learners develop a greater understanding and appreciation for their own and can evaluate different aspects with confidence. Not to mention the more obvious advantages which, enable the learner to travel and work globally with more ease and confidence. 

Why French? It is the only language, after English, spoken on all five continents. Consequently, it is the language of international relations, the official language of the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross and international courts. A significant proportion of English words have French origins (up to 45%), so the study of French broadens the knowledge of English learners’ first language. With so many similarities to English, French is an easier second or third language to learn than others.

This article is also available in the June 2019 Plus Ultra.