ERG SES B 08, Early Childhood
Parallel Paper/ Poster Session
Education is a fundamental human right to which all children should have access, contributing as it does to individual freedom, empowerment and to human development. In the past decades, worldwide focus on early childhood education has augmented significantly, illustrating a strong commitment of the international community to ensure basic education and improve enrolment, retention and achievement for all (UNESCO, 2001). In order to fulfil these goals, access to education has to be complemented with quality education, providing children with significant and engaging experiences that take into account their individual characteristics, needs and pre-existing knowledge (Dahlberg et al., 2007).
With the advent of increasingly multilingual and multicultural societies, educational systems are faced with new challenges that require the development of more flexible, appropriate and inclusive forms of education. This will be possible only to the extent that policies seek to educate through and for diversity. Therefore, we must strike a balance between the requirements of education for all and the integration of linguistic and cultural diversity in the early childhood curricula, through the diversification of strategies and methods, and a new emphasis on the development of attitudes and skills conducive to dialogue, respect and peace.
The inclusion of the awakening to languages approach (ALA) in the curricula from a very young age presents itself has a worthy possibility to meet these challenges. Partially inspired by the 1980's Language Awareness movement started by Eric Hawkins in the United Kingdom (Hawkins, 1987), this "pluralistic approach" (Candelier et al., 2007) provides opportunities for children to actively explore a large variety of languages the school is not aimed to teach, in order to help them discover new sounds, experience new cultures and understand new outlooks on the world.
Results from previous studies (cf. Candelier, 2000; Candelier et al., 2004; De Goumoëns & De Pietro, 1999; Moore, 1995; Perregaux, 1995) suggest that the ALA can have a clear impact on children’s attitudes, allowing them to cultivate a sense of understanding and respect towards diversity and otherness, to embrace their plurilingual repertoires, and to be willing to learn languages in the future. Furthermore, by promoting comparison and explicit reflection upon inter/intralinguistic phenomena, the ALA can also develop children’s (meta)linguistic and cognitive skills, which are extremely valuable for language learning. In this sense, the ALA can build on children's plurilingual and pluricultural competence (Coste et al., 1997), and make them more willing to accept and participate in other linguistic and cultural experiences, which are seen as essential skills in today's world.
Bearing this context in mind, it is our goal with this paper to evaluate and understand the results of an AL program, both in the development of preschool children's metalinguistic abilities, particularly at a phonological level, and in the promotion of positive attitudes towards linguistic diversity. We hypothesise that through AL activities, such as listening to songs in different languages and comparing writing systems, children may not only develop a heightened awareness of language, but also be more willing to embrace linguistic and cultural diversity.
Candelier, M. (2000). L'éveil aux langues à l'école primaire et la construction de compétences - pour mieux apprendre les langues et vivre dans une société multilingue et multiculturelle. In L. Collès, J.-L. Dufays, G. Fabry & C. Maeder (Eds.), Didactiques des langues romanes: le développement de compétences chez l'apprenant (pp. 495-486). Bruxelles: De Boeck. Candelier, M., Andrade, A. I., Bernaus, M., Kervran, M., Martins, F., Murkowska, A., et al. (2004). Janua Linguarum - The Gateway to Languages. The Introduction of Language Awareness in the Curriculum: Awakening of Languages. Strasbourg: European Centre for Modern Languages, Council of Europe. Candelier, M., Camilleri-Grima, A., Schröder-Sura, A., & Noguerol, A. (2007). Framework of References for Pluralistic Approaches to Languages and Cultures. Graz: European Centre for Modern Languages, Council of Europe. Coste, D., Moore, D., & Zarate, G. (1997). Compétence plurilingue et pluriculturelle. Strasbourg: Conseil de l'Europe. Dahlberg, G., Moss, P., & Pence, A. (2007). Beyond quality in early childhood education and care (second edition). London /New York: Routledge. De Goumoëns, C., & De Pietro, J.-F. (1999). Des activités d'éveil au langage et d'ouverture aux langues à l'école: vers une prise en compte des langues minoritaires. Bulletin suisse de linguistique apliquée, 69(2), 7-30. Hawkins, E. (1987). Awareness of Language: An Introduction (revised edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Moore, D. (1995). Eduquer au langage pour mieux aprendre les langues. Babylonia, 2, 26-31. Perregaux, C. (1995). L'école, espace plurilingue. LIDIL, 11, 125-139. Silva, A. C. (2002). Bateria de Provas Fonológicas. Lisboa: ISPA Editores. UNESCO. (2001). Relatório mundial sobre a educação 2000 - O direito à educação: Uma educação para todos durante toda a vida. Porto: ASA Editores.
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