Mgr. Zuzana Sedlackova, child psychologist:
Naturally, we can learn a language at any age, yet the quality, together with work and energy, differs. From the psychological point of view, the fact that at that age, it is a completely unforced and natural process, providing our children with a great advantage in their future lives, is an undisputable advantage. It has been proved that, from the point of view of language competences, the period between 2 and 8 years of life is the most significant one. From the age of approx. 18 months, a child is programmed to acquire a language.
Concerning language competences, this development period is unique. Psychological predispositions for learning at an early age chiefly include: Extreme sensitivity to both common and specific language stimuli, child's spontaneity, minimum social inhibitions, nervous system flexibility, exceptional imitation abilities, high level of memory development with prevalence of mechanical memory unit, ability of auditory differentiation, etc. At that age, children learn involuntarily, by listening, imitating, repeating; they use the method of attempt-failure, testing word they do not understand. Children are thus naturally able to catch proper pronunciation, intonation, and tempo of a foreign language.
Research shows that, compared to their peers who speak one language, small children that learn another language before they are five, tend to be better at reading and writing in their primary language, having better analytic and social skills, as well as broader vocabulary. At that age, anything new they learn makes children happy. Remember how they like to show off with what they can do. By praising and awarding them, we build their self-confidence and develop their will to learn more and more.
Prof. PhDr. Karel Kamis, CSc., linguist:
(Head of Primary Language Education Department of Pedagogic Faculty, University of J. E. Purkyne, Usti Nad Labem)
Based on our experience with speech ontogenesis of children in early childhood and young school age, there is one rule: the sooner you speak to a child the better for speech acquisition, i.e. English, German, Russian, or Chinese, from a child's birth. However, proper pronunciation is important; children are especially perceptive to speech melody and intonation. When they like a sound, they remember it.
At that age, children acquire language directly, not via another "translation" language. Such a process of creating of a child's individual vocabulary, grammar, and stylistics is absolutely valid for both the beginnings of acquisition of mother language at an early childhood and another language that - at least at the first phase of ontogenesis - the child forms similarly to the mother language.
PhDr. Jan Mattioli, Ph.D., pedagogical psychologist:
(Psychology Department of Pedagogical Faculty, University of J. E. Purkyne, Usti Nad Labem)
Parents expect their children to be as fluent in the second language as they are in their mother language. This is where they are greatly mistaken. We must only promise to parents that we can, as experts in a given field of human knowledge and activity, achieve. In a kindergarten, we create foundations for the consequent ability to learn a second language with fewer difficulties, i.e. we create verbal vocabulary and simple phrases in a given language. That should consequently make further leasing easier.
Andrea Krizkova, Chair of the Czech Association of Language Schools:
Language learning can start as soon as three years of age. However, we must not think that children should be sitting down, focusing on studying. We teach them to perceive, listen to, and understand the language. Pre-school children can only concentrate for a very short time. We must not stress them with a continuing lesson; we need to change activities, use physical activities, and develop children's interests. We must also consider that significant progress cannot be expected from pre-school children.
It is already a success if a child understands what he or she is being told in a foreign language, reacting properly. Kindergarten headmasters often face ambitious requirements of parents who, after attending a language course for two years, expect their children to interpret for them when they go on a holiday abroad. That cannot be expected.
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