Early childhood education is the foundation of a child’s learning journey, and each subsequent stage of education relies on that foundation for success. Learning a second language as a child provides lifelong benefits for their future. Bilingual children have been shown to learn faster and easier, develop better problem-solving skills and creative thinking abilities, and find it easier to connect with other cultures. They also tend to have better career opportunities in adulthood.
The Hong Kong Institute of Languages (HKIL) has been teaching young learners, students and adults in Hong Kong for 34 years. For children aged three to 12 years, the institute currently offers seven languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese.
Origins and approach
HKIL founders DOMINIQUE and CHRISTIAN CHASSET set out in 1985 to provide youngsters with a fun and engaging way to improve their language skills. The institute’s approach presents children with a wide variety of age-appropriate activities designed to bring languages to life, cultivate creativity, encourage interaction, build confidence and develop effective communicative language. Classes are delivered entirely face to face by qualified native teachers in dedicated facilities. Bright and cheerful decorations set the scene for a fun and nurturing environment where children are encouraged and inspired to develop their skills naturally and spontaneously. The small class sizes – from two to eight students – help teachers focus on each child individually and create as many opportunities for learning as possible.
At the early learning stage, HKIL uses what is called the immersion process; this means children are spoken to in the target language only. How do they learn in this way? “Very much like they learned their own language, by hearing, playing and being immersed in a wide variety of educational activities in the target language,” says Dominique. “Because they are so young, they don’t even realise they’re in a language lesson, and the language acquisition takes place naturally and spontaneously. This is why, contrary to what some people still believe, starting children very young is actually the best.”
Children also have fewer inhibitions to stifle learning. When they’re young, they can acquire a native-like accent, and integrate the sounds, structures, intonation patterns and vocabulary naturally – an aspect of language learning that grows more difficult as they get older.
Camps for culture and language
Holidays are a perfect time for children to be introduced to a new language. This summer, HKIL is providing culturally enriching language camps with a choice of five languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Mandarin) for ages four to 12 years. The camps place an emphasis on the spoken language to encourage children to speak as much as possible and become actively involved in each lesson. The language is learned through culturally-relevant topics from the arts, festivals and cuisine to iconic places and more. All of which help to bring language learning to life.
Sign up now!
What: Culturally-themed language summer course for children available in English, French, German, Spanish and Mandarin
When: From 2 July to 30 August 2019, 9.30am to 4.30pm
Where: HKIL’s Central Campus
What else: Choice of half-day or full-day curricula, and choice of days
• Central Campus: 3/F, Wellington Plaza, 56-58 Wellington Street
• Wong Chuk Hang Campus: 306-307, Level 3, One Island South, 2 Heung Yip Road
See more in our kids section
This article first appeared in the June/July 2019 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.