A University of Tasmania study has found that a Vietnamese language program for pre schoolers stimulated interest in the Vietnamese culture as well as improving their linguistic, literacy and numeracy skills.
The study looked at 35 children at a long day childcare centre in northern Tasmania and involved 20 half-hour lessons over a period of ten weeks.
Study author Dr Vinh To said the research found that the 3-5 year old children who learned Vietnamese increased their international mindedness.
“Parents told us that in many cases the children started using Vietnamese words around their home,” she said.
The lessons focused on a range of topics including greetings, morning activities, colours, numbers, action words, toys, foods, animals, cultural symbols, and songs.
English/ Vietnamese picture books appropriate to the children’s age were used in the classroom and also sent home as part of the home reading engagement program.
The outcomes of the study were based on discussions with 13 stakeholders comprising a manager, five educators and seven parents.
Dr To said that the lessons provoked interest and curiosity in language learning and broadened their perspective about the world.
She said the pilot project was one of the first research projects to introduce a second language to pre-school students.
“Given that Tasmania is an island state the opportunity for young children to engage with different people around the world and different culture is somewhat limited,” she said.
“For many children, participating in the Vietnamese language program was the first time for them to engage with a different language and culture.
Dr To said the study was critically important in a Tasmanian context to help inform languages, education practices and policies.
“The project has enabled children to explore the world more fully to become “confident and involved learners” and “effective communicators”,” she said.
She said the ability to speaking at least two languages would eventually offer job seekers more opportunities in competitive job markets.