During the sensitive period for language (ages 0-6) when the mind absorbs the sounds, words, and grammar of the environment effortlessly, the child is innately driven to make meaningful connections to the objects and people around him, to communicate his needs, and to describe his thoughts and feelings.
”The senses, being the explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge Maria Montessori
Through spoken language, the dual-language environment enriches and enlarges the child’s awareness of sounds, vocabulary, and verbal expression in both English and Chinese simultaneously. In the same way a baby develops spoken words spontaneously, the hands-on multisensory language materials enable the child to create writing and reading on his own. This is not applied as skills training. Instead, the appropriate materials and activities are presented to the child when he is thirsting for new knowledge, allowing writing and reading to manifest spontaneously through a voyage of self-discovery.
As the Montessori Method is an “aid to life,” so is a child’s ability to use language to communicate his or her ideas to others. Maria Montessori recognised this and took into account the human tendency for communication and the sensitive period for language that is present in very young children. Thus, in the Casa classroom the language programme for the young child is a voyage of discovery. The child learns to build on what he already has, expanding his ability to communicate needs, then wishes, thoughts, and finally, ideas.
Speaking in English and Chinese
As spoken language serves as a foundation for the child’s later facility of reading and writing, emphasis is placed on establishing a solid oral-auditory experience first in both languages.
Writing in English
Between the time of birth and six years of age, the child’s motor mechanism is fixed and as the body’s instrument to write, the hand must be trained with care: “[It is] the most precious instrument of the human will” (Montessori, Discovery of the Child). Before writing, the child’s hand and pincer grip must first be thoroughly prepared through extensive use and repetition of the Practical Life and Sensorial activities.
Reading in English
As the language is not phonetic like English, the progression to reading in Chinese happens differently. In English, typically the Casa child will begin to write six months before reading. However, because of the nature of characters, reading in Chinese generally begins much earlier than writing.