Wannon preschoolers learn a second language

Minding their language: Preschoolers in western Victoria are using a digital, play-based program to learn a second language.
Minding their language: Preschoolers in western Victoria are using a digital, play-based program to learn a second language.

Four-year-olds in the Wannon electorate will this year be given the opportunity to learn languages such as Indonesian and Mandarin under a digital, play-based program.

The children in participating preschools such as Warrnambool’s Koala Child Care and Early Learning Centre, the Banana Splits Child Care Centre in Camperdown and the Macarthur Kindergarten will learn second languages using a series of interactive applications (apps).

About 344 children at 16 preschools in Wannon are expected to boost their linguistic skills through the Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) program.

ELLA is designed for use by educators who do not have formal language training, and extensive support, training and resources are provided to assist educators in the effective delivery of early language learning and cultural awareness.

The program is backed by $15.7 million in funding from the federal government and includes nine languages with the introduction of Hindi and Modern Greek this year to add to Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), French, Indonesian, Japanese, Italian, and Spanish.

Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said “it was encouraging to see so many Wannon preschools taking part in the ELLA program”.

“We know the positive impact learning a second language can have on a child’s engagement and development,” Mr Tehan said. “This will be the start of a life-long interest in language learning for Wannon children while boosting their problem-solving skills,” he said.

Federal education minister Simon Birmingham said more than 80,000 children at nearly 2500 preschools across the country will take part in the program.

“The feedback we’ve been getting from educators and parents means this year we’ll have record numbers of children learning a second language in our preschools,” Mr Birmingham said. “Exposure to another language and culture can have significant benefits … it opens up exciting opportunities around the world when they reach the workforce,” he said.

The federal government has also provided 1000 support grants of $500 since 2017 to contribute towards the purchase of tablet devices to support participation by preschools in disadvantaged areas.