As I was rushing around last night to make sure I could pick my little boy up from football practice, I wasn’t paying much attention to anything around his school but was trying to focus hard on getting there on time (and losing my reputation of ‘mummy-who-cares-more-about-work-than-her-own-kids’) until his teacher, who seemed quite determined, approached me and said: ‘Can I ask you something?’… Oops, I panicked that Maxie had done something wrong.. Actually to be truthful, I worried that I, had done something wrong! Did I run in the corridor? Did I forget to say hello to the Headteacher? Did I use the wrong door? Oh dear…
Well actually, no, I hadn’t. None of that in fact. Instead, his teacher asked me if a little girl named Freya, in Maxie’s class (Reception year) came to my Academy. ‘She certainly does’, I replied. ‘She learns Spanish, she is delightful, isn’t she?’. ‘Well’, replied the teacher, ‘I was wondering because she keeps counting in Spanish in class and always tries to translate all we do’.
If the teacher seemed somewhat perplexed about the situation, and wondered how she might handle the situation as Freya progresses and becomes bilingual, she didn’t realise that she had simply just made my day!
I am often asked what it means for a child to be bilingual and how long it might take to get there… The answer is not to think about it as math calculation or science experiment. As far as I am concerned, Freya is well on her way to bilingualism.
A second language does take years to learn, but parents shouldn’t focus on this; children have years ahead of them, time is on their side. Freya’s willingness and desire to communicate in Spanish during her normal school day when no one else speaks it in her class shows how wired young children are at learning a new language. Also, bilingual children are generally more effective at communicating even the most tenuous, ephemeral ideas… So if Freya’s teacher is lost for words, I’m sure that this clever little girl will soon be able to help her… In two different languages!