Nowadays, we know for sure that getting a child familiar with two languages at an early age, is a positive development factor. However, the paradox is there are very few childcare facilities providing a bilingual development.
How does it work in ?
We must admit we have always been really impressed by young children from bilingual families, showing capacities to learn several languages at home.
In order to understand these mechanisms, we met scientists in neurosciences from CNRS where we benefited from enriching talks and presentations dealing with the advances of research-works and numerous experiments carried out in the past 30 years. These meetings got us utterly convinced that exposing a child to a second language from an early age, is beneficial to her/his development and the earlier the exposure, the better.
Consequently, our idea lies in setting up bilingual immersion conditions as similar to home as possible. So as to implement these conditions in our crèches, we have come up with two major guide-lines.
For each Plume crèche, we recruit an English-speaking professional in addition to our French-speaking staff : (s)he is specifically in charge of interacting in English with your children and giving them the opportunity to get exposed to both French and English permanently all day long.
We have developed a customized programme and specific interacting materials for beneficial communicative language activities for each age-group to give your child the best possible opportunities to unfold her/his skills in two languages.
Any further information?
If you're interested, you can find below more detailed on research conducted in the field of early bilingualism.
Early bilingualism, what are we talking about?
Early bilingualism is not the addition of the two languages in the brain of the child, but rather a two fold linguistic capacity. The brain structure of a young children is so flexible that he will easily learn two languages.
Provided that the languages are learned at "the age of the language", that is to say when brain plasticity is booming, it is quite natural for a child to learn two languages. In short, if one is lucky enough to be immersed in bilingualism from the early days, there is a strong probability that he will easily become bilingual.
Past the critical age of seven, the acquisition of a new language belongs to another process and has to detour through the mother tongue.
How does it work?
In a child early years, the acquisition of a language will fully come from his daily environment, as he does not know how to “learn” it.
Basically, the more he is exposed to a foreign language, the more he will learn from it, on the same model as his mother tongue.
From a neurological point of view, some connections between neurons are stressed when the "flexibility" (in scientific language, cortical malleability) of the brain is in full swing. After a while (around 7 years old), connections among them are being “fossilized” and as a result, this cognitive window is closing once and for all.
These "wiring" installed during the construction of language, affect the whole future of the child.
And how do we know that?
The most extensive research in this field come from immersion programs conducted in Canada for twenty years, between the sixties and eighties.
During this period, the French in Canada was threatened by English Canada. That is why attempts have been made to offer a curriculum in French to English-speaking children, and, conversely, an English course for French-speaking children. Thus, comparisons have been carried out on samples of monolingual children of the same institutions with verbal and nonverbal tests.
It should be noted that it was in these programs for children who did not use the second language (English or French) outside the school context.
The results are surprisingly unanimous. Excellent results were observed in terms of learning abilities of the second language in children exposed to these tests.
Even more surprising conclusion, one could also see a better mental flexibility, conceptual mobility and ability to solve problems, than monolingual children. Particularly impressive benefits have arisen in the field of mathematics, where children from bilingual education had consistently scores higher than their monolingual peers.
According to researchers, this phenomenon is explained by the intellectual stimulation provided by bilingualism. Specifically, phonological and grammatical skills and computing capacity are governed by the same frontal area of the brain (called Broca's area). Thus, stimulation of this area by early bilingualism leads to the establishment of many neuronal connections, which have a direct impact on children linguistic but also science-related abilities.
All the above mentioned items are taken from the publication by Maria Kilhstedt, Maitre de Conférence in psycholinguistics at the University Paris X Nanterre.
The whole article can be found in full and in French at this adress: skoldiwangwengamp.com/testennou/avantages_bilinguisme.pdf