Why Include a Foreign Language in a Preschool Curriculum?
Young children have a natural ability to learn, with 50% of this ability being developed in the first few years of life, 30% by age eight (Kotulak, 1996). The first three to four years of life are considered the best time for children to learn a second language, and is as easy as acquiring knowledge in their first language (Vos, 2008). Why? Children are bound to assimilate new sounds and new utterances indiscriminately at that time regardless of whether it is their mother tongue or another language.
The benefits of learning a second language in preschool are numerous, and bound to positively impact children's present and future academic and professional lives. Second language acquisition is tightly linked to increased performance in areas of social and academic development such as verbal communication, mathematical development and reasoning skills. It is also linked to increasing young children's cultural awareness and understanding of differences.
Young children's attitude to languages is usually positive as they, unlike adults, do not feel self-conscious about the way they sound when uttering foreign languages' words. Moreover, many of today's young children's TV programs have popularized foreign languages while giving young children basic knowledge of foreign vocabulary. Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Go and Handy Manny for example, all support the teaching of the Spanish language and the Spanish culture, which teachers could explore further in the classroom, would they want to go ahead in including a foreign language in their setting. Likewise, Ni Hao Kai-Lan, teaches Chinese vocabulary.