how do I approach this?
There are two main strategies for introducing languages from the start: One Person One Language (OPOL) or Minority Language At Home (MLAH) or any possible combination of the above. One Person One Language means that you speak to your child -whatever the circumstances- your language. Minority Language At Home means that you speak your language at home and switch to another when you go out. Both approaches have their pros and cons and it highly depends on your circumstances and character.
Dr Anja Leist-Villis has compiled a list of recommendations for parents to think through before embarking on their journey based on 100+ interviews (currently only available in German and Greek). Cindy Kalhoff has summarised her research in Practical Help for Bilingual Families (available in English).
why should I persist?
Because learning a language from the start is different from learning a foreign language later in life.
We've all heard of the advantages multilingualism has. In short it is viewed as brain exercise. It is the same as with sports and other skills: if you train from an early age, you're building up more stamina. Is it bad if you don't start early? No, but when you start later it will require so much more effort to catch up. So why not, given the chance, do it now?
Language is also a way to stay in touch with your roots. Whilst this might not be at the forefront of most people's concern, language gives you access to your heritage.
You can read more about why being bilingual works wonders for your brain in Gaia Vince's article in the Guardian or read Katherine Kinzler's interview with Ellen Bialystock on the bilingual advantage in the New York Times.
what is investigative play?
Investigative or heuristic play feels like an extension of discovery learning, focussing on young children rather than teenage students.
The term was coined by child psychologist Elinor Goldschmied. “Heuristic play describes the activity of babies and children as they play with and explore the properties of ‘objects’. These ‘objects’ are things from the real world.”
They can be “natural materials like fir cones, conkers, seashells, and pebbles, as well as ribbons, short lengths of chain, and ‘found’ objects like curtain rings, jar lids, sturdy cardboard tubes, the circles from inside sellotape, and empty cotton reels.”
We like this “theory” because it is an approach and not a prescription. There is no right or wrong way to do it and whatever your setting, you can always find different interesting materials.
what is discovery learning?
Discovery learning is an education theory that boomed in the 60s. The main person credited with coining the term is Jerome Bruner. The basic concept centres around the idea of inquiry-based instruction. “Discovery learning believes that it is best for learners to discover facts and relationships for themselves” because “students are more likely to remember concepts if they discover them on their own.”
There has been criticism of its laisser-faire approach. We value its core thought of letting children explore to learn, which we believe to be a vital part of the early years journey.