Bilingual playgroups a hit with Greek parents
To his mother’s surprise, two and-a-half year old Lucas DiCarlo came home singing a Greek song to his Italian father he had learnt from his bi-lingual playgroup.
“For the first three weeks I didn’t know why I took him (Lucas) because he was distracted by the toys rather than the singing and languages,” said mother Mary Di Carlo. “But out of the blue he came home and ended up teaching the song to his father!”
The Di Carlo family are one of many families who are teaching their children to be bi-lingual at a younger age. Or to be more specific, tri-lingual.
“My partner is Italian and I’m Greek so we make a conscious effort to teach words in all three languages (including English),” says Ms Di Carlo.
Ms Di Carlo takes her sons Lucas, and baby Adam, four months, to Kalimera Kids bi-lingual playgroup in Prahran. This is the only Greek bi-lingual playgroup in Victoria according to Playgroup Victoria.
Newly established by Omiros College this year, Kalimera Kids offers themed-based activities in Greek including reading, singing, dancing, story-telling and puppet shows.
Children are also encouraged to socialise with others their own age in Greek by sitting down and eating together or sharing fruit.
“It enhances the Greek culture in a playing environment and my two and a half year old daughter loves it,” adds Mary Chrisant, who sends her daughters, Irena and Helen to Kalimera Kids in Ivanhoe.
“My daughter now understands Greek fluently and Kalimera Kids encourages her to speak it more, especially through singing songs.”
Co-ordinator Georgia Polidoros-Gilmour says that the groups have grown quickly, with 45 families and 65 children attending all seven groups in community centres around Melbourne.
“There was a real demand for it because there are a lot of mixed marriages and people were not speaking Greek at home,” says Polidoros-Gilmour. “But they are still interested in embracing the Greek culture. It’s interesting because we are finding that guardians who come are tending to speak more Greek at home now and those guardians not of Greek background are able to learn along with their children.”
According to multilingualism researcher Professor Michael Clyne from Monash University, there are various benefits of multilingualism beyond cultural awareness, including cognitive and social advantages.
“Children who develop more than one language early develop an extended range of ways of understanding language,” he said. “For instance because they are constantly switching between languages, when they can’t express something well in one language they turn to another language to express themselves. They are also more flexible and able to problem solve well.
For example, if you were to ask a mono-lingual child if you could call a dog a cow, they would tend to laugh and say that is stupid.
Whereas a bi-lingual child is more likely to respond that there may be another language in which a word for a dog is cow.”
Kalimera Kids runs from seven locations including Altona Meadows, Brunswick, Doncaster, Ivanhoe, Oakleigh, Pascoe Vale South and Prahran. It costs $175 per term, which includes 10 sessions running for 1 hour and 40 minutes.
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