Learning other languages, especially English, is essential in the globalized world in which we live. The individual has faster access to a greater quantity and higher quality of information. Consequently, one’s ability to solve problems and make sound decisions increases, opening doors in the labor market and in society.
At Helyos, English classes begin in K2 For those who are still in the early developmental stage of learning their own language, acquiring other languages is faster and easier. For teens or adults, learning a new language is more difficult because their understanding of language and grammar rules have already been assimilated and established. This is not the case with small children, who in turn, are still creating and modifying an understanding of their native language and its grammar rules. Children’s brains are in the process of building synapses and neural pathways to solidify what is being offered to them. This allows for greater flexibility in acquiring linguistic knowledge, as well as promoting pronunciation that is more fluent. It thus follows that children learning two languages simultaneously, are more apt to learn a third or fourth language in the future.
Aside from the personal gain that learning a foreign language represents, recent studies have shown that bilingual students have cognitive advantages over those who only speak their native language. Research has pointed that in bilingual or multilingual people, there is a greater flexibility in the process of thinking, discerning, and focusing on problem solving and its tasks. Also cited: bilinguals and multilinguals find it easier to deal with diversity and interpersonal relationships.
In preschool, we work with content that has to do with what children are exposed to in their native language. As the teachers only speak in English, visual cues are very important. Contextualized classes happen with an abundance of music, videos, reading, experimenting and playing games. They require listening and speaking. In 2016, 25% of class time was in the English language. In 2017, it increased to 50% in grades K2 through K5.
In elementary school, the classes for the Dual Language Education Program involve experiments, videos, songs, games, and activities which are contextualized and all in English. We work with grade level science content that is relevant and in accordance with what students study in their mother tongue. The Coding, Financial Education and Math Lab courses are also taught in English. In this phase, students are already working with the four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Reading and interpretation of texts are very much encouraged by the platform RAZ KIDS, where each student can log in and have access to an extensive online library of titles in English, selected according to their ability to read and understand.
As the Dual Language proposal progresses, students in Middle School have greater contact with activities and projects that require a more significant and relevant use of the English language. An example of this is that projects in English are developed with science related topics and coding financial education for 6th year students. In resulting presentations, students create posters, models and slides to enhance and illustrate their work. The incentive for producing text comes from students writing about themes that have been worked on and discussed in class. To promote writing, publishing informative texts, The Helyos Sun Times and Science Journal was created. As our students work to develop the four skills in English, they are evaluated accordingly in different ways. In addition to the conventional written assessment, other activities such as class participation, oral presentation, listening and production of texts are also evaluated. We integrate reading, listening, writing and speaking to provide better preparation for the linguistic challenges that the modern world demands.
The Dual Lingual Program’s methodology is grounded in Harvard’s “Project Zero” approach called, “Making Thinking Visible” and fostered by the teachers through courses that they take. The main objective is not simply to ensure command of a foreign language, but to furnish a content-rich environment, not only from a linguistic standpoint (semantic and structural) but from an ideological one as well (educational pillars are built on cultural immersion in far reaching themes, and relevant, interdisciplinary issues). Foreign language ends up being learned naturally, and is internalized through a lexical and humanistic approach, where classes “in English” take precedence over “English classes.”