Languages Other Than English (LOTE)

In the Montessori view, from birth to the age of six, children are in a sensitive period for language development. For this reason, in Montessori early childhood settings, a great deal of emphasis is placed on supporting and enhancing children’s language development. Supporting language development in early childhood settings includes:

• Valuing the language/s spoken in each child’s home, and the language development achieved by each child when they enter the early childhood setting
• Structured support with the development of spoken English, both for children who speak English as a first language and for children for whom English is not the language of the home
• Systematic preparation for the development of written English (writing and reading)
• Engagement with a language other than English.

Because Montessori educators recognise the special sensitivity to language of children from birth to the age of six, in many Montessori early childhood settings, where possible, children are exposed to a language other than English in order to capitalise on their capacity to absorb whatever language exists in their environment. Montessori educators recognise that young children associate any language spoken in their environment with particular speakers. For this reason, in Montessori early childhood settings where a language other than English has been introduced, the designated adult speaker, ideally a native speaker, speaks only that language to the children without mixing it with English. Young children learn very quickly which language to use whenever they interact with that speaker. Because the use of the language is integrated into the daily activities of the classroom, children use the language unselfconsciously and habitually. They also engage with many of the spoken language enrichment and early literacy activities in the language other than English, in the same way as they work with them in English, but they do this work with the adult who speaks the language habitually in the environment.

If there is no adult speaker of another language available to spend extended periods of time in the Montessori setting, and especially where there are children whose home language is a language other than English, the teacher will often incorporate awareness of another language into the lessons of grace and courtesy, language enrichment and word study activities. Engagement with a language other than English inspires in children interest in and respect for other cultures, especially when the language, and the culture represented by the language, is integrated into the other areas of the curriculum. For example, activities and artefacts from the culture might be integrated into the practical life area, or pictures relating to the language and its culture might be included in picture material placed in the language area.

Blue Gum Montessori School offers LOTE programs in Chinese and French for students from Junior to Upper primary, and in accordance with the ethos of Montessori education. We strongly believe that one of the aims of teaching languages contributes to ‘free the child’s potential’, and that the benefits of learning a language ‘transform him(her) into the world’.

In Junior Primary, children experience languages to primarily communicate with their peers through song, dance and games.

In Middle and Upper Primary, children start to focus on the structure of languages: reading and writing are introduced to record information and respond in the target language. Children also experience an understanding of linguistic and cultural practices through the celebration of festivals and special rituals. As children develop their knowledge and language skills, they progressively develop their communication capability.