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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015
19 REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SPRING 2015 - ISSUE 60 What better way to address NQF 1.1.2 “Each child’s current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program” and EYLF 1.3 “Children develop knowledgeable and confdent self identities”, than to explore each child’s experience of language. Our Sitaray (babies) group are speaking and singing in Mandarin and Farsi. The educational team find that the babies settle in and develop a strong sense of belonging, if the team uses familiar words in the child's home language. Sometimes we have to fight our (Australian cultural) urge to avoid practising pronunciation of each word that is new to us. By practising new words with family members, we are sharing a moment where they are the experts and we are the students. This can only enhance our relationships with families (NQF Quality Area 6). Practising pronunciation also improves our accuracy when sharing these words with children (making us understandable!) It is especially important to practise the pronunciation of people's (big and small) names until we can pronounce them as their speakers pronounce them. Doing this consolidates our work with EYLF 1.1 (Facilitating children's development of a strong self-identity). You may ask, "What are the children learning from this?" Most importantly, the children are learning that the acquisition of language is one of the most complex achievements they will experience. Each time a child utters a word or sentence, they are using most parts of their brain, strengthening the neural pathways, developing concepts, mastering narratives and enhancing relationships (Makin, Diaz, McLachlin, 2008, p. 206). When two or more languages are developing, children are developing more cognitive flexibility. At the same time, they are developing facial, throat and nasal muscles and learning to co-ordinate these to create specific sounds. On top of all this, languages are the portal into all histories and cultures - and all the learning that comes with this. The children also learn that although each of us is different from each other, we are all similar in our use of language. In their small groups, the children are developing awareness that the language experience is different for each of them, and there is a richness and social intimacy that can develop when different languages are shared and explored. The children coach each other to get the sounds of their language right. Some of the children can be found experimenting, on their own, with new sounds from new languages. The kindergarten children are very proud that they can name each child's home language and speak some words in each. From an educational point of view, the main advantage of multilingual curriculum is the development of auditory acuity. The children in our groups have to listen with concentration, to hear the nuances in sounds in unfamiliar languages. This skill reaps great rewards in their developing phonemic awareness, which educational research assures us results in better outcomes in literacy development (in English or any other language). We all know that successful literacy development opens up the world of reading, research, entertainment, and academia (Makin, Diaz, McLachlin, 2008, p.20). This allows us to address the foundation English language skills of the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, 2015). As I write this, Igor and Samuele (our children quoted at the beginning of this article) have counted in each other's languages at their morning meeting. It is clear that they have spent time practising Russian (as an Italian and English speaker) and Italian (as a Russian and English speaker). They are both confident that this skill is valued and have confidently (and rather smugly, I might add) shared this with their teachers and their peers. So, if you are ever in doubt about continuing to speak your first language with children, or encouraging staff or children to share their first language, remember all the advantages that this provides for the children, their friends and families. References: Australian Curriculum, 2015, http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/ english/curriculum/f-10?layout=1 Being, Becoming, Belonging: Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, 2009, Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace. Guide to the National Quality Framework, 2013, Commonwealth of Australia. Klass, P. 'Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language', New York Times Oct 10, 2011. Makin, L., Diaz, C., McLachlan, C. 2008, Literacies in Childhood: Changing Views , Challenging Practice, MacLennan and Pety: Chatswood.
Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015
Reflections Issue 61, 2015