Small World Languages is not the first organization to identify the need and benefits for young children learning a second language. Local school systems here in Connecticut and nationwide have either already developed, or are trying to develop, early childhood language studies. For example, the Glastonbury public school system has been offering foreign language classes in elementary school since the 1950s. More recently, Cheshire Public Schools has been considering expanding world language study to elementary schools. Below are a couple highlights from the literature that they have published.
Cheshire Public Schools
In 2015, Cheshire Public Schools conducted a survey of over 120 teachers (Cheshire Teacher Survey Results) to understand their positions on expanding world languages to elementary-aged kids. The results showed that 93% of teachers surveyed said they would like to see instruction in world language added to the elementary curriculum. When given the choice between 3rd grade and Kindergarten, 73% of teachers surveyed responded that it would be best for students to start in Kindergarten.
The teachers were asked to comment on the benefits they would expect to see from the program. Here are a few of their responses:
“Depending on how it was taught (immersion, playful, developmentally appropriate), I would think it would have an immense effect on our children’s understanding of diversity and make them more prepared for the 21st century.”
“Opens doors to other cultures, has a positive effect on intellectual growth and enhances mental development, encourages better listening, and can be used by students as they get into the workplace.”
“Research shows that students who master a second language early in life, particularly at the elementary level, have a greater capacity to learn additional languages throughout their lives.”
“Learning another language helps children with their development and understanding of the English language, particularly with grammar.”
“Improvement in grammar, more culturally aware, more mindful and open minded, enhance memorization skills, enhance language skills (oral/verbal) which impacts written work.”
“Having this opportunity would be a great gift to our students and would set them on a lifetime course of being more open to and adept at learning about other languages and cultures. I have worked in two elementary schools that teach foreign language and it’s amazing to watch how easily very young children learn a second language.”
Glastonbury Public Schools
In 1995, in collaboration with the National Network for Early Language Learning, the Director of Foreign Languages of Glastonbury Public Schools issued a summary paper of Glastonbury’s Language Program. Among the highlights:
“Over the last 40 years, the students who graduated from Glastonbury High School have gone on to prominent positions in society. Many report that the special opportunity they had in the Glastonbury public school system [world languages] afforded them entree to a knowledge about other people, as well as interesting vocations and avocations that they otherwise would not have have the opportunity to select.”
“The ability to function beyond the tourist level in a language – to be able to communicate with a business partner or to negotiate a contract – takes thousands of hours of contact… It is no wonder that the average high school students who have had only about 200 contacts hours can’t say much by the time they graduate from high school.”
“Students graduating from schools where they do have the opportunity to study language over a long period of time recognize that their skills have gotten better and better as they have studied the language. Although they might reflect on their elementary experience as being simplistic, they can say with some certainty that without that experience, they would have had no foundation upon which to build in junior and senior high school.”