Thursday, 29 September 2011

S is for Sponge

I'm back to working in an academy after a break of a few years, and it's that time of the year when parents come in to ask about courses. This week, I was asked to speak to a father about his 5 and 8 year old. Now, silly old me had forgotten the mad (IMHO) questions people ask. I remember in my first year of teaching I was asked "When will my child be bilingual?" I kid you not. This child was four and was coming twice a week for 50 minutes. I remember being amazed at this question at them time. I was even more amazed when I found out that the parent in question was a teacher! 

Where do people get the idea that children, especially young learners between 3-6 are "sponges" when it comes to language learning and what does that mean exactly? Why would a child be a "sponge" at learning a foreign language but struggle in their own language? The mind boggles. 

Getting back to the father in question, he asked me, if after a year, his five year old would be able to "defend" himself in English. When I told my boyfriend this, he fell around laughing saying what did he want me to teach him. Basically, he was aksing if his five year old would be able to answer questions and have a conversation after a year of English. 

I spent about ten minutes explaining that he would be able to produce between 50 and a 100 words and have a passive knowledge of classroom instuctions, that he would be able to sing some songs in English and that he would improve his ear. After my long and honest explanation, he said that he would have to go away and think about it. I haven't seen him since.

Children are like "sponges" it is said, yes, they suck it up without fear and then it slowly leaks out!

Anyone teaching any "sponges" ?