Insight or Perspective: If we lose the language we lose everything!

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By Eleni Elefterias

(Part 6)

Imagine this. You are learning Spanish or Chinese for the very first time and at your first lesson you are shown a beautiful storybook, which the teacher reads in Spanish and then a song.

The lesson is a lot of fun but when you leave the class and your mum asks you what have you learnt? You do not remember a thing.

Welcome to the world of most children beginning Greek in Kindergarten.

Even an adult would be lost.

So let’s rewind and maybe the first day was filled with a short story reading, a simple song or some background music and lots of playing games using words.

Maybe you can learn to pick out your name in Greek from a table with many names on it. Maybe you can pick out your friends’ names too!

Maybe the teacher has given you some stickers with words and a picture on them so you can label your pencil case, your book and your pencil. Maybe you can play a game with your friends and see who can copy the teacher’s voice and say these things in Greek. 

These are tags. Maybe you have a picture of mum and dad and your sisters and brothers and your favourite pet or animal. All have a tag or word attached.

Sometimes, Kindergarten pre-school children cannot write at all. They are still learning to draw a straight line. How can they write their name in Greek when they haven’t even mastered a straight line or a circle yet.

Isn’t it more important they learn to recognise whole words that are relevant to them first?

So, reading often comes before writing and speaking sometimes comes before reading for native speakers. For our children it may come as they see the word for the first time. Especially for children of mixed marriages. 

This is where reading to your children in as many languages as possible comes in.

The more books you read to your children the better. More about books later!

READ MORE: Insight or Perspective: If we lose the language we lose everything (Part Five)

*Eleni Elefterias-Kostakidis is a teacher of Modern Greek and University lecturer. 

Read Eleni Elefterias’ column ‘Insight or Perspective’ in Greek, every Saturday in The Greek Herald’s print edition or get your subscription here.

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