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VivaLing’s essence: the communicative principled approach

The VivaLing ViLLA method – innovative and constantly enriched thanks to the latest scientific reports in neurolinguistics – has built its identity around a linguistic theory dating back to the 1970s, born in the Anglo-Saxon world.

A movement born in the USA and in the United Kingdom from a Hungarian linguist.

The principled communicative approach to language teaching was born in 2009 from a small revolution in thinking by a Hungarian linguist, Zoltán Dörnyei, then professor at the University of Nottingham, who was keen to structure the communicative approach already developed by his Anglo-Saxon peers in the past decades. The latter, which was already in use in the world of language teaching, needed only to be popularised and developed for better application in everyday life.

Before them, was predominating the audio-linguistic method, a method widely used since the 1960s and was still practiced in the world of academic teaching, was based mainly on exercises and memorization. Showing its limits in terms of the development of communication skills, it was about to be overturned by the arrival of a new innovative approach.

From classical to pragmatic language learning

Indeed, the audio-linguistic approach had shown its limits – as a whole generation of frustrated adults who were almost unable to express themselves in a foreign language, despite years spent in the classroom, testify. A new era was dawning thanks to the communicative language teaching, the fruit of neuroscience and a broad range of teaching experience.

The communicative approach, implemented by some teachers in the 1970’s, was now focusing on the learner’s participatory experience and use language tasks that were less academic and more in tune with the modern world. Scripted and repetitive dialogues would be replaced by playful interactions, problem-solving exercises and spontaneous role-playing, for greater learning fluidity. Later, in the late 2000’s, the principled communicative approach would surface as an even more efficient pedagogy – structuring it all.

visuel sur l'approche communicative structurée

Seven fundamental principles

The principled communicative approach adopted at VivaLing offers its teachers a fundamentally structured pedagogy through 7 core principles. Learning must be meaningful to the learner and clearly explained through the principle of declaration, during which clear and concise rules and examples are provided. The learner can then interpret and repeat, allowing awareness and appropriation of competence.

The session takes place through structured practical activities, similar to the physical and psychological preparation of a musician or an athlete. The teacher must maintain an optimum balance between meaningful session content and adapted materials, while developing the formal language necessary to meet the need for modern and realistic communication.

For this reason, our coaches practice a spontaneous and functional conversation with their learners, while taking care to provide them with a rich linguistic contribution during the sessions.

Linguistic success based on a return to the origins

Zoltán Dörnyei’s principled communicative approach is in fact largely inspired, by a mechanism that has proven itself for millennia, the fantastic neuro-linguistic alchemy of learning the mother tongue. Haven’t we all successfully learned our native language, instinctively, in our early years, by communicating functionally and spontaneously with our parents and educators?

This skill is particularly well developed in young children, allowing them to absorb a phenomenal amount of linguistic elements and to multiply language acquisition with ease. Proof of this is Layla, 3 and a half years old with all her teeth, who is now learning Spanish at VivaLing with Nuria after having assimilated French and English, her two native languages and Greek, the language of her adopted country.

Discover a vidéo conférence de Zoltán Dörnyei at the University of Cambridge, in English,thanks to the following link.

A la tête de la pédagogie VivaLing: Abbie Adeyeri

The Head of VivaLing’s pedagogy: Abbie Adeyeri

Child of Ohio, having lived in the four corners of the world (Australia, Singapore, Hungary, England and Belgium), Abbie, Head of Learning at VivaLing and co-author of the ViLLA method, has now settled down with her family in Michigan and tells us about her journey and her love story with the Principled Communicative Approach to language teaching.

Abbie VivaLing

From Sydney to Singapore – back to the origins of VivaLing

It was during her university studies that she discovered the Principled Communicative Approach to language teaching. While a student in Sydney, Australia, sitting in the Royal Botanic Gardens opposite the city’s famous bridge, she first learned about Zoltán Dörnyei’s landmark study.

Sign of fate, a few years later, when she had just become Head of Learning at VivaLing in Singapore, the co-founder of the language school, Bernard Golstein, who had had personal contact with the Hungarian author of this new pedagogy, forwarded the text to her again.

The theory then imposed itself on Abbie as a resolutely innovative and pragmatic way of teaching languages – while adapting perfectly to the very structure of online teaching – thanks to all the creativity it allows through a resolutely more playful and pragmatic approach to languages.

Mutual respect

With the benefit of hindsight and a few years of practice – Abbie joined VivaLing when it was created in 2014 – one of the main sources of satisfaction and fulfilment linked to this style of teaching is, according to our Head of Learning, mutual respect and the authenticity of the relationships established, putting an end to the “unproductive teacher/learner power dynamic”. Thanks to the permanent consensus around the setting of objectives between teacher and learner, the aforementioned really get to know each other and reach together the targeted results more quickly.

One of the experiences she likes to cite as an example is that one of her students from Mongolia had to learn English in order to be able to follow her university course. She was immersed in an English grammar book that she had almost completely read and completed when they met, but she still couldn’t hold a conversation – even a basic one – with her teacher. This served as a revelation of the inevitable and necessary changes to be made in language teaching that Abbie now preaches with determination at VivaLing.

VivaLing – a breeding ground for forward-thinking coaches

At VivaLing, when recruiting, candidates’ familiarity with Communicative Language Teaching is a key criteria. All future VivaLing coaches are therefore at least familiar with the communicative method, and in the best case scenario are whole-hearted practitioners of it. Once integrated into the academy’s ranks, their initial training – the VOLT – allows them to upgrade their skills.

The diversity of practice among our coaches is then due to their “different application of the 7 principles,” explains Abbie. Some will naturally be very comfortable in building grammar, others in establishing strong relationships with their learners. It is at this level that the mentoring provided by the Master Coaches team will make the difference, building new principles into their repertoire throughout their time with VivaLing. And the main source of satisfaction as a trainer – she proudly announces – is to see these teachers discover new skills they didn’t know they had as a teacher thanks to regular follow-up interviews with their supervisors.

Beyond professional life

Since becoming a parent herself, Abbie has been practicing the communicative approach with her 16-month-old daughter on a more personal level and sees the benefits in her daily life. Raised in a multilingual environment, Kiki is naturally acquiring her own language system and rules while receiving constant input in both her native languages.

An anecdote she enjoys mentioning illustrates the practice perfectly: the word “up” – used by Kiki as an injunction in most movement situations, for sitting as well as standing – is corrected implicitly. Instead of thwarting her learning by explicitly changing the word used, Abbie and her husband continue to present Kiki with a wealth of vocabulary, and the budding young linguist will decide when it’s time to use these new alternatives.

This positive philosophy is widely applied to VivaLing learners – under the gentle guidance of Abbie and her team of tutors – which allows all our students to blossom serenely as they gradually master their new language.

VivaLing featured in The AsiantParent : 5 myths about raising a multilingual child

Asian Parent VivaLing

Did you know that more than half of the world population actually grows up speaking more than one language? However, this doesn’t mean that raising a multilingual child is an easy task!

When considering giving your child the opportunity to learn 2 or more languages, whether you’re bilingual or not, you may wonder:

  • Am I doing the right thing for my child?
  • Is all this really worth it?
  • Will this have an impact on his/her well-being?
  • Am I asking too much from him/her?

Here are the Top 5 Myths you should know before launching into the fantastic adventure of multilingualism!

10 Good Reasons to Learn Foreign Languages

  • Discover Oneself

There is often a language that plays a special role in a family’s history. This language is that of the local land, forefathers and roots, culture or religion, or even in-laws. You may have come across this little child whose family immigrated one generation ago. For lack of a common language, she cannot communicate with her grand-parents who stayed back in their country. As she grows older, more and more questions come to her mind. By learning her parents’ language, she will also discover the culture and the country of her ancestors, and better understand where she comes from.

  • … and discover the Other

You may be in a large city or a small village, in the desert or the jungle, in an office or on the beach, abroad or in your own country. When the Other sees how you make the effort to address them in their own language, they will turn their head towards you, stare at you and start smiling. Whether your accent is barely detectable or clearly audible, whether your grammar is already perfect or still perfectible, the Other is moved by your respectful behaviour. They relax, open up, ready to share more personal thoughts now that a psychological filter has been removed. Language knowledge is an invaluable gate-opener towards the Other.

Nelson-Mandela-on-Language

Nelson Mandela on Language

 

  • Go on a trip

Be it for holidays, a stopover or a business trip, knowing the local language can change drastically your experience. Not knowing the language, have you ever been hostage to the exclusive grip of a guide monopolizing all exchanges with the outside world? Have you ever seen foreigners fall prey to a complete misperception of the host country because they could not communicate? Conversely, has the local language never made contact with locals, planned or not, much easier? It will sometimes enable you to find your way, have dinner at night, even get your passport back or go through customs.

  • … or go for good

Between 1990 and 2010, about 160 million migrants changed countries. Do you happen to be one of them? Whatever the reason to migrate, it is life-changing. Having a good command of the host language is a pre-requisite to social and economic integration. In some countries being granted a visa –let alone citizenship- is subject to a minimum level in the host country’s language. Parents sometimes struggle and prior knowledge of the language is a decisive advantage; children usually adjust much quicker and soon surpass their parents.

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Global Migrations 2005-2010 (credit Abel, Sander et al)

Global Migrations 2005-2010 (credit Abel, Sander et al)

 

  • Be successful at one’s career

As globalization increases, there are few jobs and positions left that do not require at least one, maybe two or even three foreign languages. English has become the unchallenged lingua franca of science. In business, one of the job interviews could take place in a foreign language. Language skills will enable the applicant to stand out from multiple candidates with similar résumés, if she manages to put forward her knowledge of Japanese, Spanish or Bahasa at the right moment. As for incumbent employees, some see their career development hampered by their weaknesses in international communication.

  • … and start by succeeding in one’s studies

The role of languages at school increases as that in life. In Singapore for instance, pupils take one of the two most important exams of their lives at the end of Primary School; half of the subjects are languages –English and their mother tongue. Elsewhere in the world, language level might decide which high school students will attend, impact significantly the matriculation results or give a huge edge in a University application file.

ScreenHunter_136 Mar. 30 21.43

The language section of a resume found on LinkedIn, exceptional yet increasingly common

 

 

  • Live better, live longer

Language practice shares cerebral mechanisms with those involved in old-age neurological diseases. Thus it has been noted that Alzheimer’s disease sets off on average five years later for bilinguals than for monolinguals. Do your linguistic gym and live better!

  • … and increase your cognitive capabilities

Knowing several languages is the ability to switch from one to another by focusing on the language used while ‘inhibiting’ the others. Multi-linguals resort to this capability even in non-linguistic fields. They demonstrate a bigger intellectual flexibility, a better ability to deal with ambiguity or apparent contradiction, and can cope with information while ignoring unnecessary or spurious signals.

factorial-task (credit dimensional-overlap.com)

Bilinguals are more successful than monolinguals at classical Strimulus Response tests where the stimulus contains conflicting elements to be processed or ignored (credit dimensional-overlap.com)

 

  • Marvel at other languages

You may be amongst those passionate people for whom discovering any new language triggers jubilant amazement. What sounds has this new language produced? What ingenuity will it come up with to convey such or such concept? Will it be isolating, flectional, agglutinative? How will it address, for instance, the possessive, given that some languages will alter the possessor and others the possessed, or both, or neither, some resorting to an affix, others to a particle, and others still elegantly doing without any grammatical appendix? Isn’t it extraordinary that the French version of this post should have 5368 characters in 1006 words, the English one 4978 characters in 980 words, and the Chinese one only 2174 Chinese characters?

  • …and understand better one’s own language

One’s mother tongue remains for very long the obvious response, the one found without having to look for it, the only possible option that no one even thinks of challenging. But opening up to a second language puts things in perspective. Without a doubt an additional language enables to further one’s native language knowledge. The language structure that such and such language has adopted becomes more palatable when compared to others: the origin of words is unveiled, roles in the sentence take shape and the meaning of words is refined. If shadow and shade have the same translation in French, does it not prove blatantly that ombre has two distinct meanings? Even the infamous agreement of the French past participle when used with the avoir auxiliary can be better understood if one is introduced to the Hindi ergative.

Levels of language structure (credit glogster.com)

Various levels of language structure : Phonology – Morphology – Syntax – Semantics – Pragmatics (credit glogster.com)

 

And what are YOUR reasons?

To Read Chinese One Must Start Early

In any written language, words are subject to a triple association: sound, spelling and of course meaning. For example, the English word horse refers to the working and racing animal, is pronounced /hɔː(ɹ)s/ and spelled h-o-r-s-e. Anyone knowing how to read will be able to pronounce the word relatively correctly even if they have never seen it in writing before, as English is written in the Latin alphabetical script.

As explained by S. Dehaene, the reading process takes place here through the so-called phonological route: graphemes are mechanically converted into phonemes without resorting to deeper semantic representations.

cheval

The situation is quite different when it comes to Chinese. All Chinese languages are written in the unified system of Chinese characters. These Chinese characters are pronounced differently in each of the languages of the Chinese linguistic branch, for instance in Mandarin, the most widespread. Non-Chinese speakers often claim that the mapping of a Chinese character and its pronunciation is completely arbitrary; therefore it is said to be impossible to pronounce a character, even when knowing its meaning, unless its pronunciation has been learnt by rote beforehand.

The reality is slightly more subtle. Indeed, it is often necessary to learn simultaneously a word’s character and its pronunciation. But it must be stressed that 80% to 90% of Chinese characters are actually compound characters. They often consist of at least two subcomponents: a phonetic root (there are about 200 of them) and a semantic root (there are about 1000 of them). The phonetic root, often on the right side of the compound character, may give clues as to the pronunciation of the character. The semantic root, often on the left, tells about the word’s meaning, or at least the lexical category it belongs to. For instance, the Chinese character for a horse is马in simplified Chinese, and is pronounced  (third tone) in Mandarin.

The word for mother is pronounced mā ma (ma is doubled, the first one is pronounced with the first tone); the compound character for each ma has the semantic root of woman on its left and the phonetic root of horse on its right.

ma ma English

In a paper dated 2007, Bao Guo Chen and colleagues proved that the more arbitrary the mapping between meaning and sound or spelling, the higher the effects of the Age of Acquisition (AoA) on Chinese reading (for native speakers). Characters acquired early would be read with ease; characters acquired at a later stage would be more difficult to read if the correspondence between writing and sound or spelling was difficult to predict.

In other words, the more difficult it is to deduct meaning and spelling by reading a character, the more detrimental late acquisition is to quality and speed of reading.

Thus, within Chinese language and for native speakers, the impact of the Age of Acquisition increases with the arbitrariness of the mapping between meaning, pronunciation and spelling. What is the situation for alphabetical languages? By definition, reading an alphabetical language gives a very valuable clue as to what the pronunciation is going to be*.

Taken as a whole, the Chinese language is significantly more arbitrary than alphabetical languages in terms of mapping from character to sound and meaning. One can therefore assume that for Chinese even more so than for other languages, there is benefit in learning the language early so as not to be negatively impacted by the enhanced effects of the Age of Acquisition on reading.

 

 

 

 

 

To learn more about Chinese learning :
Chen, B. G., Zhou, H. X., Dunlap, S. and Perfetti, C. A. (2007).Age of acquisition effects in reading Chinese: Evidence in favour of the arbitrary mapping hypothesis. British Journal of Psychology, 98: 499–516. doi: 10.1348/000712606X165484

Stanislas Dehaene (2007). Les neurones de la lectureEditions Odile Jacob

 

Note : * The situation varies quite significantly from language to language. Italian or Turkish, for instance, are very easy to pronounce when reading a text, while a given spelling in English can be read in multiple ways (refer for instance to  toughthroughthorough, etc…)

For Victor and Aude, the World Tour Is a Family Project

Victor, Paris entrepreneur and founder of (soccer center company) Urban Football, and his wife Aude, manager at BNP Paribas, decided to take a year out  to  travel the world with their 4 children: Candice 8, Georges 6, Maxime 4 and Emile, 1. They packed a few bathing suits, travel guides, toys and … VivaLing!  Staying in Singapore for a few months, they  share the story of this fantastic family adventure with us.

Victor Augais VivaLing

  • What was the trigger and what is the purpose of your World Tour?The arrival of our last son, Emile, and the Victor’s decision to start a new entrepreneurial adventure, gave us the occasion to take this year-long trip.We wish above all to live a different year, together as a family, and to discover cities that we believe are nice, staying for a few months in each of them. This is the opportunity to do homeschooling for our two eldest children (year 1 and 3), to take time to have a break and think about our priorities in life. This journey is also an opportunity to discover different cultures, and to educate our children in this cultural diversity. We hope that our children will make progress in English, and will want to speak several languages ​​in the future. For Victor, the trip is an opportunity to find  innovative ideas for the launch his a new business when we return to France.

Victor Augais VivaLing

  •  What is your itinerary?We are alternating short stays in different countries, with longer stays of several months in large cities. Our program includes traveling the West Coast in a camper van, San Francisco, Mexico, Singapore, Bali, and finally New York.
  • Why did you decide to go as a family on this adventure?Because neither of us could imagine travelling the world alone :). The adventure with the whole family is the real goal of our journey

Victor Augais VivaLing

  •  What events and / or encounters have affected you most so far?We’ve liked everything: seeing the beautiful West Coast landscapes by campervan, the fireside evenings in the national parks, the energy of San Francisco and its provincial appearance, the calm of the Yucatan beaches and the perfect organization of Singapore in a green environment. Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve  been warmly welcomed by families settled there.
  • How is your children’s schooling going on during this year?Victor gives classes to our 2 eldest kids in the morning, via remote education courses while I take the 2 little ones out –  otherwise there would be no possibility of concentrating at home.
  • What is the importance of languages ​​in your journey?We try to educate children in speaking English and different cultures.  They also take lessons, especially with Vivaling. In San Francisco, we enrolled them in a public “afterschool” to meet young Americans, and we will do the same in New York in the spring.

Victor Augais VivaLing

  •  Why did you choose VivaLing for your children?The service proposed by Vivaling seems to me to be excellent, and very suitable for a year of roaming.  With online courses, there’s the possibility of keeping the same teacher and the children can also take advantage of our  trips to review the language.
  • What do you like most about VivaLing?Children are able to review the language taught in the sessions, and parents are able to check the children’s progress.

Victor Augais VivaLing

  • What qualities do you think children and young people today will need to succeed in their professional lives tomorrow?They’ll need to be curious and adaptable, to take nothing for granted, to have the discernment to make their own choices and the courage to put them into practice. And to speak English!
  • “And after the tour of the world?”Back in Paris, for a new entrepreneurial adventure for Victor.

Victor Augais VivaLing

You can follow Victor and Aude’ s adventures on their blog ( in French) : https://ensemble-autrement.com/

Why Children Learn Better: Science Is Shedding Light

The man on the street has noticed it and science has confirmed it: children are more able to learn foreign languages and achieve high proficiency than adults. What are the reasons? All else being equal, neurology and psychology will provide us with the answers.

Neurological explanations address the state of the brain and its ability to carry out a given task at a certain stage of its development. Several hypotheses were explored as early as the 60ies. One dealt with brain maturation: the brain was thought to be like a slate of clay which, once carved with the mother tongue, could neither be erased nor re-written nor complemented by a foreign language. Another explanation, focusing on native language interference, claimed that once the mother tongue had been acquired, the learning mechanism itself was completely dismantled in order to reallocate neural tissues – a scarce resource – to other tasks. It is known today that some of these extreme explanations are wrong and others, incomplete and oversimplifying.

However, other age-related phenomena affecting foreign language learning are now much better known. The first one is the decrease of brain plasticity over time. Brain plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity, refers to the changes in neural pathways brought about by environmental or experiential stimuli. Each new learning (be it knowledge or skill) triggers new brain circuitry creation so as to transfer and process the information. Conversely, unused connections are disposed of in order to optimize the brain functioning and performance. At birth, each neuron (and there are about 100 billion of them) has 2500 synapses enabling neural connections. At age 2-3, the number of synapses per neuron increases to … 15000, that is to say twice the average adult number. In fact, by neural pruning, synaptic density progressively decreases from mid-childhood and teenagehood onwards, at a pace specific to each brain area. In addition, myelination (the sheathing of axons) reinforces the effectiveness of existing neural connections but is detrimental to the brain’s flexibility to set up new neural pathways. Specialization of brain areas to specific and precise functions carries on. Neuroplasticity inexorably decreases with brain maturation. Processes like language learning enjoy a privileged window of opportunity after basic sensory functions and before higher cognitive functions.

Hensch - Brain plasticity

Based on brain plasticity, learning goes through successive sensitive periods focused on: senses during early childhood, language and motor functions during childhood, and later higher cognitive functions (maths, critical thinking, etc…) (credit : adapted from Hensch, 2005, Nature Reviews Neuroscience)

 

David Birdsong, one of the current leading researchers on effects of age of acquisition, identifies other sources as well. Firstly, the widespread decline of cognitive capabilities with age is a regular phenomenon that does not spare language learning. Secondly, interference of the native tongue probably increases with age – age being a proxy of usage of this language. Last, according to psycho-linguists, Chomsky’s Language Acquisition Device –giving access to Universal Grammar –, or any other language-specific acquisition mechanism, seems to disappear with age.

Socio-psychological reasons are completely different in nature but no less significant. Children do not feel embarrassed by novelty, since everything is new and consequently nothing is really abnormal. New sounds, even when very different from the mother tongue’s, are not frightening. Children utter them convincingly whereas adults might hesitate to stress them as strongly – they are so “weird”! More importantly still, children will not shy away from trying even if not completely sure, from having a go even if they are mistaken and must start again. Besides, other children will not be critical of the mistakes, at least not in the same proportions. As for adults, they might fear that their social status – which comes across so naturally in their mother tongue – could be degraded by an incomplete command of the other language. To make a long story short, social self-awareness sometimes plays against language learning by adults.

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Regardless of the quality of the learning environment – this topic will be addressed at a later stage –, children are more able to learn foreign languages  than adults  because of neurological and socio-psychological reasons. This is why one should make the most of sensitive period of childhood – it is so favourable !

Chaos inside My Child’s Second Language – Should I Worry ?

Have you ever felt disconcerted by the unpredictable and chaotic progress of your child’s second language acquisition ? Dazzling progress seems to be followed by periods of slower growth, sometimes even laborious, not to mention times of regression. She seemed to master this notion, and all of a sudden she stumbles where she never would have in the past. Why does he now treat this irregular verb as a regular one ? And why does she no longer pick up any of these expressions that were so obvious to her previously ? But there are more twists to the story : soon afterwards, he will surprise you by unexpected expressions that will amaze you again.

Second language acquisition is as chaotic as, for example, the weather. Do you remember the butterfly imagined by Lorenz which modified the weather in Dallas by flapping its wings in Tokyo ? A seemingly trivial and barely perceptible action could have considerable consequences in a totally unpredictable fashion and far from where it originated. Even the simplest of complex systems, the double pendulum (or pendulum with two degrees of freedom) behaves in a way which is extremely hard to anticipate. Not that proper equations do not exist, but the system is so sensitive that any dynamic forecast becomes impossible. Look at the movement of the red ball of the double pendulum variant shown below when the main pendulum is made to swing. Forecasting its trajectory is just impossible.

 

Language learning is itself a complex process. It is remarkably well described by the Dynamic Systems Theory (DST) that was first introduced to linguistics less than twenty years ago. Second language acquisition depends indeed on a large number of cognitive and social variables : quantity of language input and output, feedback, the learner’s intrinsic or extrinsic motivation, the learner’s interactions with individuals, groups, or surrounding society, the learner’s first and second language knowledge, learning history and duration … and the list continues. These variables are not only numerous but also interconnected through rich and complex dynamics.

Learning is highly non-linear : the effects are not proportional to the forces applied. Consider now hiking as a metaphor for a linguistic journey. During the hike milestones will be crossed and left behind one after the other. As for language learning outcomes, they are not a nice orderly series of elements mastered one after the other. They are a dynamic set, the components of which sometimes overlap, scattered over a large “learning” surface area filled with pitfalls hard to avoid and overcome, or mountains hard to climb. Each new learning stage is the result of combined variables and influences applied to the previous stage. Lastly, the learning journey is closely linked to the child’s neurological, physiological and psychological starting point.

Are you now convinced ? The fine path of Second Language Acquisition is by and large unpredictable. In the case of children, however, the end state is statistically more likely to be a good command of the language. Chaos by itself is therefore not to be feared, but tamed. The key point to remember for the educator, as is well known, is to customize the teaching to the largest extent possible to the learner, their history, their present state ; to react with the utmost attention to each development and to guide them towards their ultimate objective. The main take away for the learner and their family is, once the right educator is found, to never get discouraged and conversely to always persevere. This is what you are already doing, isn’t it ? This will lead your child from chaos to actual learning, from struggle to success.

 

For more details :

De Bot, K., Lowie, W. & Verspoor, M. (2007). A dynamic systems theory approach to second language acquisition. Bilingualism : Language and Cognition, 10(1), 2007, 7-21.

 

 

Your Child’s Journey with VivaLing

Start early, learn well, don’t forget : these are the very simple stages of your child’s Journey with VivaLing. Find out more below about the theoretical framework developed by VivaLing and how it is implemented in order to achieve results. You can also read the related posts throughout our VivaLing blog.

 

The VivaLing framework v2.6 English Image

5 Myths about Your Child Learning Another Language

One day you will probably have to decide whether or not to encourage your child to learn another language. Here are 5 myths you need to dispel first.

  • Myth 1 : Most children are monolingual, so why bother ?

Well, no. More than half of the world population actually grows up speaking more than one language. To start with, quite a few countries are officially multilingual (for example, Singapore), and many others are functionally multilingual. In China, while Mandarin is the lingua franca, hundreds of millions speak other regional languages such as Shanghaiese, Cantonese or Hokkien. In India most people speak one or both of the national languages (English and Hindi), one official regional language (there are 22 of them), and a local or family language. Even in Europe more and more children grow up with several languages, so much so that multilinguals now represent 54% of the population.

  • Myth 2 : Leave the kids alone, they will learn when they grow up.

You wish. Unfortunately it does not work that way. True, adults can progress much quicker at the beginning thanks to their advanced analytical skills and their life-long acquired knowledge. But very soon they hit a wall. And how far that wall is varies greatly from one individual to another. Conversely, children might start slowly, but they – and only they – will eventually overcome pronunciation and proficiency issues. So keep this general rule in mind : age of acquisition is a very good predictor of ultimate nativelikeness. The younger, the better. Childhood is indeed a sensitive period when it comes to languages. Oh and by the way, learning too can be great fun for them.

  • Myth 3 : Multilingual kids are late in their language development.

Wrong. Children growing with two or more languages have by and large no delay in language development. Of course, their vocabulary knowledge in any of the two languages may often be smaller than that of a monolingual child ; but when taken together, the lexicons in both languages are at least of the same size as a monolingual child’s. There are also positive interferences, for instance metalinguistic knowledge acquired through one language and transferred to the other.

  • Myth 4 : Multilingual kids confuse their different languages

No they don’t. In fact, right from birth, infants can discriminate between different languages. What does indeed happen is that children speaking different languages may often mix them in a conversation (as in combine them or use them concurrently) – but it is no confusion. This is called code-switching. Why would they do so ? Usually because the right word comes first to their mind in the other language (and maybe they do not even know it in the first language). This happens only when they are aware that the person they are talking to also understands that language. In conversations with monolinguals or when required not to code-switch, multilingual children will stick to one language.

  • Myth 5 : There are no worthwhile advantages to learning other languages

Really ? Incredibly, someone recently claimed to have calculated the return on investment of language learning by studying people’s salaries, and concluded that one should only learn English, if anything. But there is so much more to multilingualism than a higher salary. Being truly successful at school or at work, grasping the most subtle details. Opening up to other people and cultures, and speaking to their heart rather than to their brain. Reaping non-linguistic cognitive benefits, for instance, a higher ability to process conflicting information. And even, as recently discovered, delaying the onset of old-age related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Convinced ? Let us know !