By Letitia Baker
Kickstart School has recently introduced KICKSTART FOR KIDS – Dutch and English language courses for children and teenagers. Our English teacher Nicky Sully has taught language and speech and drama to students of all ages in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Here, she talks to us about how children learn languages, why it’s important to start young, and why she would recommend Kickstart for Kids.
Why is Kickstart offering courses for children?
The Hague is a very international city with a large international community. Therefore, there’s a strong need for multicultural children to have a common language with which to communicate.
How is it different from learning languages at school?
Our courses are tailor-made and the emphasis is on fun! We have a colourful approach to teaching English because it’s extramural, so it’s very different to “school” English. Children need variety and stimulation, so we explore language through games and different activities. We use images, colours, sound, singing and, as they get older, role play and practical interactions too.We also provide individualised attention and a strong focus on speaking. That’s a huge advantage. In a big class in school, children don’t get that sort of opportunity.
School is also test-related and children often feel under pressure. At Kickstart, they have an opportunity to experiment and gain confidence!
What advantage is there in learning a language as a child?
Learning a language at a young age is a bit like learning to ride a bicycle. If you have a grounding, it’s easy to come back to it later and pick it up again. What’s more, children have heightened listening abilities and a much better ear than adults. Children learn by associating images with sound, well before they read or write. So if children start early enough, they can learn a second language in a similar way to their mother tongue.
How does it differ from learning as an adult?
The key to learning a language is not to be inhibited – to be willing to make mistakes rather than being too embarrassed. And children are far less inhibited than adults. They’re very experimental.
You can teach children in ways you can’t teach adults. For example, nursery rhymes and actions help children enormously when learning pronunciation, intonation, and the rhythm of language, but you can’t really get adults to start singing and acting.And of course children are like sponges – they take it all in and they’re less forgetful!
Why should my child learn at Kickstart?
Kickstart has small groups. It’s personalised and easy to establish trust, so children feel confident experimenting with the language. And as I said before, language learning is all about confidence.
So I would say, let your child come and play with the language!