‘International Montessori’ offers an environment rich in languages and cultures.
A complete and consistent bilingual English-French environment is offered by our centres to the children aged 1 ½ to 11. Each group is staffed by two teachers—one addressing the children in English whilst the other always speaks French. Thus giving the opportunity to children from a young age onwards to absorb the new language(s) as a whole. Due to the full time exposure and the concrete nature of the daily activities, this approach to second language acquisition works particularly well in Montessori settings.
Young children absorb languages very fast, and often understand the vocabulary used in their group within four months. Due to the intense absorption of everything that surrounds them, children thrive well in a bilingual environment. They learn languages ‘without effort’, as long as the same person speaks the same language to the child and the language is offered in a concrete, child-oriented manner.
In the Primary sections the language skills mature and the children become bilingual at a verbal and written level. The students progress by means of reading, drama, writing stories, spelling lessons, and working with specific language materials such as Grammar Boxes and Logic Sentence Analysis & Construction. More and more, the second language also becomes integrated in the other subject areas.
Students who then move into the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme are on their way to becoming completely multilingual. Subject lessons are now given in one language as there is one teacher per subject. However, depending on the child’s level, they hear, speak and work in several languages. Multilingualism becomes the norm. Many teachers are also multi-lingual and are therefore in the position of exposing the children to this interchange of language use on a day-to-day basis.
Students can further choose Dutch, German or Spanish language lessons. Advice on the amount of languages to be chosen is given by the mentors, this depending on the student’s background and previous exposure to second language learning. The program encourages the students to express themselves at an advanced level in several languages.
This bilingual and multilingual environment has been put into practice at our school over an extended period of time. Our experience is that this approach has a very positive outcome. By living and learning amongst such a wealth of languages, and simultaneously working within multi-age groups that function with appropriate freedoms and limits, the students become multilingual and develop an openness to different cultures and habits.
Multilingualism has an extra bonus in that it assists the logical mind. Being able to speak several languages means you have several “answers” to any particular issue. Each answer has a slightly different connotation. The user therefore refines the analytical capacities and abstract thinking abilities! What a great asset for the future!