Early language acquisition

English right from the start
We have been working bilingually since 2004: in a continually converging world, language competence is becoming increasingly important. The EU recommends mastering three Community languages.

Small children have the ability to learn several languages at an early age. According to international research bi-or multilingualism is best fostered when children start learning the language as early as possible and through intensive contact with the language in a natural and motivating context.

We have chosen English based on its status as a world language in business and science. English expands the children’s knowledge of the world. We apply the immersive method of teaching, meaning that we employ pedagogical staff who conduct all their communication throughout the day in English at mother tongue level, thereby immersing the children in the other language. German and English speaking pedagogues work alongside each other, always adhering to the principle “one person – one language”. Parent-teacher conferences as well as team meetings might be exempt from this rule. Our approach uses the basic ability and willingness of children to learn a language. Usually all children irrespective of their family background are equally inexperienced with English. The majority language remains German.

In our institutions, bilingual education is based on the latest research findings and the resulting recommendations. We inform parents about our methods, their daily implementation in the day care center and simultaneously offer advice on how to use first and second language at home. A quality circle on bilingualism and team training, help to ensure high quality standards and the continual improvement of our concept.

Bilingualität bei Kinderwelt Hamburg e.V.
Bilingualism at Kinderwelt Hamburg e.V.

  • binding standards for all daycare centres
  • exclusively “immersive learning” as a method
  • four meetings a year of the Bilingual Quality Circle (40 permanent members)
  • Integration of theory and practice

Video - Bilingualism

In this video you can see how we live bilingualism immersively.

You can find more videos about our work here:

Introduced: Angela Löffler, Department of Bilingualism

„Global language English: A gate to the world. “
Angela Löffler has studied at the university of Hamburg: primary school pedagogy, sociology and (theatre) play. After the state exam she was employed in different positions of the child and youth work. „To me it was important to collect experiences with different age groups“, she explains. Since 1997 she led day-care centres: first for the “Studierendenwerk“ in Hamburg, since 2003 the international kindergarten of Kinderwelt Hamburg e.V.. In 2005 she took over the department of Bilingualism and is responsible since 2011 as well for team consultation plus advanced training in early childhood education and leadership. Angela Löffler lectures at conferences and is leader of the Bilingualism quality management meeting, held four times a year. Working language at these meetings is English.

Angela Löffler
Department of Bilingualism
Flachsland 29
22083 Hamburg
040/20 00 03 54

Quality Management

An opportunity for support, mentoring and reflection

A “forest box” as a tool to implement nature in education
Bilingualism is an educational offer for all children in our facilities, and an integral component of language education at Kinderwelt Hamburg e.V. and Flachsland Zukunftsschulen gemeinnützige GmbH.
As immersive secondary language acquisition is practised in all our facilities, no other methods are applied simultaneously.

An excerpt of our standards for your kind attention:

Pedagogical practice
– The principle “one person – one language” is adhered to. Work organization and social intercourse are adapted to meet this requirement (comp. intranet guideline)
– Everyday rituals are performed in English on a regular basis: verses spoken before meals, morning greetings and songs, saying goodbye, etc.
– English material like books and CDs are accessible at all times
– Information sheets, announcements, letterings are usually bilingual (depending on the parents languages in the Kita)
– As educators we need: differentiated, emotionally charged English, engaging personality, vivid gesticulation and facial expression, the ability to talk to children on “their own level”

Cooperation with parents
– Bilingualism requires open-minded parents as well as an appreciative and informative cooperation between staff and parents
– As an introduction to bilingualism in each new opening nursery or school, a parents’ evening will be held on the issues of language acquisition and bi-or multilingualism
– On request of the team, the professional advisor will hold information evenings for parents or join team meetings to assure the work at the Kita

Quality assurance
– Advanced training options, also for career changers or English Educators who were trained in other states are demanded and encouraged to apply
– Each employee takes part in at least one advanced training course on the issue of language acquisition/bilingualism
– The professional advisor supervises the implementation in each facility. Thus, quality is controlled and developed both on a local and comprehensive level.
– At least one anglophone employee from each staff takes part in the quality circle on bilingualism, which meets on a regular basis four times a year. These meetings are an opportunity for support, mentoring, reflection and inspiration.
– Professional working material is to some extent available in English
– (Reciprocal) visits, also by the professional advisor, are taking place
– The professional advisor is approachable concerning all issues relating to this field and can be called for at any time.

A “forest box” as a tool to implement nature in education

Reviewing the child's English skills

Bilingualism pays off
How much English do our daycare children understand? How does our immersive offer work in the context of open pedagogy? With which English skills do our children come to school? Exciting questions, to which we have found well-founded answers: Our many years of experience, continuous vocational training and scientific support pay off.

The basis is an evaluation carried out by us in May/June 2012 to assess the English skills of the children in our bilingual day care centres. In 16 settings of Kinderwelt Hamburg e.V. and Flachsland Zukunftsschulen gGmbH, 316 children aged three to six years were observed by the native speakers. The instrument used was a two-sided sheet developed on the basis of existing scientifically proven methods.

The following results can be summarized:
Listening comprehension of the English language is already highly developed in all age groups. The majority of children react appropriately to recurring everyday cues and ‘chunks’ in English. Most children listen carefully to English and show very clearly through their actions that they have understood what is said. In conversations with the English-speaking teachers, the language used by children remains German.

Active speech development in English is strongly age-dependent (just as it is in German). However, we found that almost all children can count up to 10 in English, half of them even up to 20. It is evident that ritualized language application in English (such as counting, fingerplay, singing, naming colours, table blessings, etc.), helps children to reproduce words in English sooner and is done by more children/ leads to earlier and more widespread active language-use.

All children observed develop very good relationships with English-speaking teachers – even across language barriers. Since we know that bonding is the prerequisite for successful educational processes, this is an important result for us.

For Kinderwelt Hamburg and Flachsland Zukunftsschulen and especially for the English-speaking educators, these observations provide certainty for the daily use of the English language. The findings furthermore help to react to the uncertainties of parents regarding their children’s development, especially when they already grow up speaking more that one language. Although some of the children in the day care centre learn a third or even fourth language, there is a similar development in English language development to children growing up speaking German only.

If we compare our observations with the requirements for learning English in elementary school, we find that children develop English language skills in the areas of listening comprehension (e.g. following instructions, understanding formulaic utterances) and language production (e.g. counting, colours) quite early in their childhood in our day care centres.

Prof. Daniela Elsner, University of Frankfurt and Prof. Jörg Kessler, PH Ludwigsburg support us with their evaluations at our Flachsland School. Since 2009, the scientists have been using test procedures to determine how the English language of elementary school children develops. They found out that children with prior experience of bilingual settings (e.g. a from the pre-school sector of Flachsland Zukunftsschule or other Kinderwelt-Kitas) clearly have an advantage – both in comprehension and speech production- over children who come from monolingual settings.