Chapter 2Chapter 1 Development of TEYL
For children growing up where two or more languages are spoken, and where their playmates speak a different language at home, it is natural for them to pick up words and phrases from those playmates. The more astute become bilingual by assimilation rather than through formal training. This is the ideal way for children to learn and is sometimes referred to as the natural or direct method.
However, the vast majority children grow up in a unilingual environment. As a result, when they hear other languages spoken, or see them in writing, the words or symbols, tones, will appear incomprehensible. Language rules fly in the face of what they have already been taught is the correct way, i.e., that of their own language. By that time, their minds have been conditioned and trained in the way their language works.
Many of the Asian languages, for example, are syllabic. Chinese does not have an alphabet. Mandarin is written in traditional Chinese characters, a system that developed over 4,000 years ago. It utilizes a set of logographs of several types: pictographs, ideographs, compound ideographs, loan characters, and phonetic compounds. The latter forms over 90 percent of the total set of as many as 40,000 characters (Li and Thompson 1979, 1987). Some 885 million people speak Mandarin Chinese.
The Thai language does not have capitals or lower case. Neither is there cursive writing -only printing. There is no punctuation. Adjectives follow the noun, as in French, e.g. Thai has 44 consonants and 32 vowel sounds. Thus, quite a few challenges exist for a child whose schooling has been in Thai to convert his or her thinking into an English language format.
Trying to teach anyone at an older age to speak, read and write a new language is a formidable task. At a younger age, the task is not quite so daunting. Younger children are less set in their ways, therefore are more open to new concepts. In language learning, this is vital since every language has its own structure, as noted above.
It used to be that, unless children needed it because they lived in a bilingual community, learning a foreign language was viewed as an elective courseEand generally not taught until the higher grades. Many students did not take English except in university as a language or humanities credit.
A number of factors have come into play over the past 15-20 years that have had an impact on the need for younger children to learn a new language:
1. English has become a global language and the language of international communications.
2. Many foreign governments have recognized the value of learning English and are encouraging the teaching of English in schools E at younger ages. A number of foreign government has set up programs to bring in English native speakers on a contract basis. Japan was the early leader here. South Korea and Taiwan have such programs now. Others that do not have specific government programs, help with year-long renewable teachersEvisas (often paid for by the school).
3. The Internet and its limitless resources have become an essential part of teaching in schools worldwide. It includes many exciting sites designed specifically for younger ages.
4. Emigration of whole families to English-speaking countries has resulted in children of all ages being thrust into English-speaking schools. Governments have recognized this as a problem and have or are developing programs such as Canadas LINC (Language Instruction for New Canadians).
5. Many western businesses have also become global so that wherever one goes in the world, one is exposed to such global brands as McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Toys R Us Ell of which target children with their products.
6. Thanks to the development and expansion of satellites and home satellite dishes, telecommunications has also become global. Schools around the world can use such resources as The Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel. Also, MTV (Music Television), Cartoon Network and English movie channels are available everywhere. English VCDS and DVDs abound.
7. The music industry has brought English songs and pop stars to the world through MP3, audio CDs and Karaoke CDs.
In other words, children must become knowledgeable about things EnglishEif they want to be part of what is happening all around them Eand they do!
Bilingual education is becoming more and more acceptable. It has come a long way since its immersionEbeginnings in Quebec, Canada. International schools teaching all subjects in English are springing up faster than one can count them. Why? To fill the need.
Parents are demanding more English training for their children Eand are willing to pay for extra lessons if the schools are not providing these. In South Korea, the demand is so large that families willingly pay thousands of dollars a year for extra tutoring for their children.
Publishers have responded to the demand for more English at younger ages with a proliferation of textbooks aimed at this market. Where as 10-12 years ago, ESL teachers had to adapt material geared for native speakers or for older children, there is now a wealth of material available in print, video, on tape and CD, as well as interactive sites on the Internet.
The advent of Internet-based bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indigo and Chapters means that even if local teachers cannot find the material they are looking for locally, they can generally purchase it through the Net.
Recently, a number of educational theories and terms have been introduced into the YL field:
- Academic: Describes those parts of the instruction received by young children to help them to achieve basic literacy and numeracy skills (Jacobsen 1996).
- Instructivist approach: Certain skill sets are necessary for children to have in order to ensure good performance as they progress into higher grades. Proponents of this theory or approach believe that children must be taught these skills. They cannot be expected to learn them without the help of instructors including parents and teachers.
- Constructivist approach: In this approach, a learning environment is provided in which children build or construct their own bank of knowledge. Under the instructivist model, children play a more active role in exploring the world around them, investigating, discovering, and adding continually to their own learning and development.
- Intellectual Development: When a child experiences something, he or she will develop thoughts about that experience. Intellectual development is guidance that helps the child to develop correct understanding of what he/she sees, feels and experiences.
- Multiple Intelligences (MI): Dr. Howard Gardners Theory of Multiple Intelligences is now 20 years old yet many teachers are not familiar with it and many schools, cling to traditional teaching methodologies. This theory breaks down our learning abilities and tendencies into linguistic, mathematic and logical, visual and spatial, musical, Interpersonal, intrapersonal and kinesthetic.
- Learning Styles: People, including young children usually have one predominant learning style Eauditory, visual or kinesthetic.
- Left brain / Right brain: The left brain is our logical or practical side and the right brain is our artistic side.
- Accelerated Learning: Accelerated learning is a catchall phrase applied to the use of any number of methods to improve the pace of learning. It means that a teacher is aware of and actively applies MI, uses varied teaching styles to ensure he/she is reaching auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners, and provides left brain/right brain activities.
There are many good books available which delve into these approaches to teaching young learners. A list of reference material is provided at the end of the book. A balance between instructivist and constructivist approaches is needed in order to provide the skills children will need later but to also allow ample time and situations for their own discovery. Together, and with the guidance of teachers who know about and apply accelerated learning techniques, this combination should provide continual intellectual development.
Teacher training for language learning at the younger ages has not kept pace with this demand. It is only recently that new courses in TEYL have become available. This book addresses that need. By the time you have completed it, you will have a much better understanding of the specific needs of young learners. You will also be better able to respond confidently and effectively to them.
Teachers in developing countries may find the introduction of methodologies other than age-old traditional ones to be an uphill battle. Rote learning still plays a large role.