Gentofte Municipality has begun teaching three-year-olds English, and the program has inspired other municipalities to follow its example, DR reports.
The program, in which children are taught English for one hour a week, is called ‘Play and Learn’ and was developed by the professional college UCC. Hanne Toft is the head of the program at UCC and told DR there are ancillary benefits to the language lessons.
“You also become aware of other languages,” she said.
“It simply stimulates children’s ability and preconditioning for learning Danish – and all sorts of other languages.”
Danish not an option
Meetings have been held with other municipalities interested in adopting the scheme.
Janne Krohn, the head of the Lykkesholm kindergarten, one of the institutions taking part in the program, explained that during the English-hour speaking Danish wasn’t an option.
“We sing and talk together in English and it’s just in English. We don’t translate,” she said.
More hours needed
Anders Højen, an associate professor at the centre for children’s language at the University of Southern Denmark, applauds the initiative, but told DR that there should ideally be more hours a week.
“When it’s just one hour a week, as is the case here, it is a more superficial learning experience that you could make up for later on,” he said.
“It won’t be as deep learning as if you used it every day.”
But Højen agrees there are benefits beyond mere language proficiency to being exposed to foreign languages from an early age.
“It can have the advantage that the children become more aware that being able to speak several languages is a positive thing,” he said.
“So when they hear someone who speaks Arabic or Turkish, they might not think that it’s something weird, but that it’s a fantastic ability you can be proud of.”