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Opublikowano: 21 kwietnia 2016

Patricia Michalska sat down with Monika Allen – owner of Vancouver Schools, a Polish-English bilingual  elementary school – to talk about a modern early teaching model and foreign language learning methods

Then what is bilingualism in children? What types of bilingualism are there?

It might be good to start by saying that there are various models of foreign language teaching. They say there are as many as fifty. Each one has undoubted advantages. Some are based on learning vocabulary, while others rely on grammar structure, while others are mixed. It is important to distinguish which methods are good for  children and which are effective for adults. One of the most modern methods is the “total immersion” method established in Canada in the 1960s. It is worth noting that this method is, in a way, universal – it can be used with children, adolescents and adults alike. This is because it relies on a complete change of the person’s environment into the environment of a given language. So everything around us is changed into English, for example – the language in our phone, computer, we put post-its with names for objects around the house, we watch movies, listen to the radio, etc. The important thing is that everything must be explained only using the foreign language in question. This immersion must last at least for hours every time. The more the better, naturally. This allows us to quickly shift into thinking in a given foreign language.

When it comes to types of bilingualism, there are two general kinds?

Absorbing (devaluing) – when the second language is an additional, learned language. It can even be learned at a very good level, but it is not a naturalized language, with complete fluency and thought in the foreign language.
Immersive (enriching). It allows the mastery of a foreign language at a native-like level. There are two kinds of immersion: foreign language immersion and bilingual immersion. The first one is when we learn a foreign  language using the immersion method. The second happens if a child grows up with a foreign language at school and speaks a different native language at home.

How do you raise a bilingual baby?

The easiest way to achieve that is to have the baby be born into a bilingual family, of course. Growing up in such a family not only allows them to learn two languages at once, but it also allows them to become multicultural, opening them up to other cultures. Such children have it easier when learning other foreign languages. This in turn grants them a greater openness to the world and international career opportunities.

What about bilingualism taken from home? Is the total immersion method effective then?

Anything can be learned. As I mentioned before, the immersion method is very effective and can be applied at any age. It is incredibly important to meet certain requirements. You must remember to only communicate and explain in the foreign language and spend at least four hours in that state. Children at school have classes five times a week, so the first time the child is immersed in the English language occurs veryquickly. The following subjects are taught in the language: math, science, art, music, IT. Children that enter the classroom with a weaker knowledge of the language receive additional, individual care, so that they may easily use the English language on the same level as the rest of the class and develop harmoniously.

SchoolThus, total immersion. What about the school model? What foundations should the modern school be based on?

There are more important aspects than curricula or procedures, such as an individual approach to the children and surrounding them with a pleasant, creative atmosphere. The school should provide love and care and create the right individual conditions for the children to be able to develop. The Vancouver school is based on modern bilingual education. Considering the fact that we live in a world of modern information technologies, it is incredibly important that we utilize contemporary audio-visual and interactive devices. They support an even more effective absorption of knowledge, and the children are more involved in the classes. The school is of course equipped with that sort of equipment.

Is the Canadian model compliant with your conditions? What is special about this teaching model?

Our school functions based on the MEN and British Columbia curriculum, based on the Vancouver Schools license. Classes are conducted in two languages and using Canadian and British tools. Many subjects are taught in two languages using the immersion method. As I mentioned before, the method is currently one of the best in foreign language teaching. In today’s global society, the English language is crucial in attaining life success. So an appropriately universal education in this language is the main condition for future successes of the student in their adult life.

Monika Allen

Monika Allen

Monika Allen – Cofounder and owner of the Polish-English Bilingual Primary School Vancouver Schools, as well as Buzzy Bee, a Polish-English kindergarten and nursery.

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