Young linguists say 'guten Tag'

8th February 2013 at 00:00
A languages project is introducing nursery children to the joys of German, writes Julia Belgutay

Pupils at Springburn Nursery in Glasgow have made a new friend - Hans Hase, a hand puppet helping them to learn words and phrases in German as part of a pilot project with the Goethe Institute.

With their child development officer Shona McPherson and Birgit Hoffmann from the institute, they have learned to count and sing songs in German, and memorised the words for body parts and colours using a teddy bear jigsaw and other games.

The young linguists, aged about four, also found out about Germany and German culture, including the iconic "Ampelmannchen" (traffic light man) and the German fondness for open sandwiches, in the initial 12-week project.

The Goethe Institute visited the nursery every fortnight to deliver 45-minute classes to a group of eight to 10 children, and Mrs McPherson followed up in weeks in between. All the children in the nursery were exposed to wall displays and German songs.

"I was apprehensive about how the children would respond. However, they participated really well and performed two German songs at the Christmas concert," Mrs McPherson said.

They had also benefited from "learning that words in other languages also mean something".

Mrs McPherson was involved in continuing professional development through the Goethe Institute throughout the project and worked with online resources. A non-German speaker, she said: "I am learning along with the children."

After the initial 12-week programme, the nursery plans to continue the scheme and has formed links with the local secondary, Springburn Academy.

There are also plans for a concert in April by German singer and composer Martina Schwarz, who wrote Hallo, Hallo, one of the songs the children learned.

The Goethe Institute is keen to build on the successful pilot, and head of teachers' services Lilo Borgmann is looking for other interested local authorities.

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