Wirral's First Bi Lingual Nursery opens

Published on 11-11-2017 10:23AM

 

Jenny Birch from Wallasey has opened Habla, a Spanish-English dual language nursery on the site of the former Wendy House Nursery in Upton. Habla is the first Wirral nursery to provide fully bilingual early years provision and will cater for up to 30 children. Jenny, who studied Spanish at school and university, set up Habla with her mother, Lynne, who has worked in primary schools for over 25 years and will manage the nursery full time. 

 

Bilingual nurseries across the UK are helping children form a foundation to become fluent in multiple languages, with Welsh, Irish, French and Spanish firmly part of the normal nursery day. As owner of training and translation company Passport Language Solutions, Jenny said that providing private language tuition for businesses, schools and nurseries had sparked her interest in education and in particular the early years setting. She said ‘Half an hour a week is not enough to learn a language. A fully bilingual environment provides so many benefits for cognitive development that it gave me the idea to open a Spanish-English nursery.’

Half of the nursery staff at Habla will have Spanish as a first language and half will be English native speakers. One Spanish and one English practitioner will work in each room, and will only use their first language when speaking
to children. Jenny said ‘This is how children will pick up the two languages alongside one another, and avoid any confusion.’ 

‘We work on the “one person, one language” system,’ she said. ‘The English staff will only speak English and the Spanish staff will only speak Spanish. It works like a set of drawers in the child’s mind, so when they see a member of staff they associate one language with them, and they will open the drawer for that language in their mind. That way, they are dealing with the two languages separately and they get a good balance of each language every day
to help them to learn the two simultaneously. Children have the capability to learn more than one language, and it helps to differentiate between the languages depending on who they speak to.’

Jenny’s son, who was born earlier this year, will also attend the nursery and Jenny already speaks exclusively
to him in Spanish at home while her husband speaks to him in English.  She believes that with foreign languages now compulsory at key stage 2, there is scope for language learning to continue beyond the nursery. 

‘People do sometimes say that they don’t feel there is a pathway for the children
to continue learning Spanish after nursery, but I think the potential for this is just going to increase as we go forward,’ she said. ‘Even if the children don’t continue with Spanish straight away at primary school, the seeds are sown and the language is there. It creates pathways in the brain to help with reading and problem solving.

‘Many
top educationalists are convinced that children who speak more than one language develop educationally and socially much quicker than those who don’t.  I’m convinced it’s the way forward for nursery education in the UK and I’m so proud that Habla is a first for Wirral and Merseyside.’