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Fri Nov 28 08:47:58 CAT 2014

Children adapt to language: iLIVE

Ken Simmonds, by e-mail | 24 January, 2012 00:15

The failure to provide mother tongue education for primary school pupils may not be such a bad thing.

I volunteer at an English medium school, where I listen to Grade 2 children's reading.

I generally listen to the slower readers. They are the children of domestic workers who happen to live in the former model C school's area.

When they enrolled, they didn't know any English.

According to the teacher, they learn the language simply by being immersed in it.

Other children help them along, and they seem to pick it up as they go. By the end of the first year, they are coping.

Pre-adolescents have a special gift for learning languages. The culture of multilingualism in South Africa also helps.

By the end of Grade 2, those children read competently in English, can understand what they have read and can answer questions about it in fluent, if not perfect English.

The books they read are written for English-speaking children and are appropriate for the age group.

Those children thrown into an English medium school have learnt not only the basic literacy and numeracy requirements for their age, but have also got up to speed in another language.

Hats off to the dedicated teachers who bring this about.


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