As a mum of three, I’ve brought my children up with an awareness of other languages, using point and name, playing, reading, singing, puzzles and DVDs. My husband is German, so we mostly did so in German and English, with a bit of French and Hebrew.
My youngest child started school last September and, as I thought about paid work, I wanted to combine my love of languages with my experience working with mums and toddlers that I’d gained through unpaid work.
I soon realized there were very few people starting language learning with very little ones (if you do already, please get in touch. I’d love to share ideas!)
I also realized that bilingual parents often give their children this advantage, but even mummies who are themselves language teachers can find it hard to teach their little ones. I provide a framework to work in and encourage mummies along the journey.
Writing the classes originally was not difficult. I've gradually introduced more props and activities and tailor each class to the children who come along.
My class seems to provoke strong reactions; either mummies have been looking for something like this for ages or they think children need to speak well in English before exposing them to other languages.
I’ve approached local schools and nurseries with little interest so far. I’m happiest to be working with mums and their little ones, as they can easily carry on at home.
I currently run three classes a week, for children aged 6 months to four years. One in a private members club called Sanctum, one in a play cafe in Chorleywood and one in a hall in Chesham. I’ve interest for a class at a local RAF base, so this looks like the next step. I’ve also had interest for other groups since I started, but was unable to find a venue. Another issue has been mum’s availability, as many of them work.
We run six-week blocks of German, French, and Spanish. Four weeks into the French block, a 17-month-old heard a song on the radio and recognized it was in French. She started saying Ding Dang Dong and saying and miming “Blast off,” which we do each week at the class.
By week three Spanish, another girl was saying Hola at the start of the class and adios at the end, without prompting. The children often carry on with the songs at home too. Our favorite song is “la vaca Lola,” which everyone goes home singing.
Pretty amazing, right?
I’ve also spoken to mummies living too far away to come to my classes, but having offered them some tips and directed them to our YouTube channel, they are more confident to start introducing their little ones to languages.
My own three children are benefiting too. As we practice songs at home, my children learn the songs too, as well as most of the vocabulary words we are teaching that week. We've coached my eldest son for his GCSE exam which he starts this week.
Most of the mummies that come along have said they’ve been looking for something like this for a while and I know that, for many families, Lingotastic makes a tremendous difference, bringing language learning into their everyday lives.
As a language learning and teaching enthusiast, I’d love to connect with any like-minded teachers and learners. It would be great to meet those with little ones or who work with little ones, so if you’d like to get in touch, let me know in the comments below or you can connect with me on www.lingotastic.co.uk
Sarah Barrett, a mum of 3 and started Lingotastic, based in Buckinghamshire, England back in January 2014. The parent and toddler group uses puppets, craft, music, and stories, to help young children and their families to take their first steps into a second language, in a friendly and welcoming environment.