Research shows learning to speak a second language can improve children’s overall school performance and problem-solving skills, positively affect their performance on standardized tests, and increase their awareness of the vocabulary and grammatical structure of their first language. Exposure to a second language is best at the earliest age possible.
Capitalizing on these findings, Canterbury School is the only school the Fort Wayne area to offer French instruction to Early Childhood students. Research of the brain in language development indicates there is a “window of opportunity,” or an optimal, time for language acquisition in the early childhood period, especially if the goal is accent-free speech. This is because the neural connections being established to produce and recognize the first language will also be established for the second language.
In early childhood, these connections are very flexible. Children are capable of learning the sounds and structures of a second language without the obstruction, or filtering action, of their first language. This flexibility enables them to adopt additional languages with greater ease. Without early exposure, this window of opportunity closes around the time of puberty, when the brain firms its neural connections. That's why is harder for older children and adults to learn a second language, and why they usually retain an accent.
At Canterbury, the French teacher employs a number of teaching methods. Students sing songs, perform humorous poems, play games and role-play activities, move to commands, listen to stories, and identify familiar vocabulary. French vocabulary also is woven into the music students are learning – whether it's for a parent night or a simple rhythmic exercise.
French begins at age 3 (Cavaliers) and continues into Lower School. A student many continue with French instruction throughout High School or transition to Spanish in Grade 3. Latin is also offered, beginning in Middle School. All languages continue through High School, where Japanese is an additional option.