Youngsters tackle the Italian language in Coburg

Moreland Leader, February 27 2012

 BABIES and toddlers are learning to say ‘‘ ciao’’ through a Coburg- based Italian language program.

La Coccinella Italian Preschool founder Dora Menz said families from a range of backgrounds were realising the value of teaching their children a second language, judging by the numbers flocking to her program at Robinson Reserve Neighbourhood House.

Ms Menz runs 45- minute sessions for babies and toddlers and two-hour sessions for preschoolers. She previously ran a similar program under a different name.

‘‘It’s a structured program where they learn the language through interactive artsbased activities like singing, dancing and art,’’ she said. Ms Menz said about 35 per cent of her families hailed from non-italian backgrounds, and the rest had married into Italian families or were rediscovering their roots. This included parents who grew up speaking Italian but lost the skill as adults, and Italian-speaking grandparents accompanying their grandchildren to class. Ms Menz said early childhood was the ideal time to start learning a language.


La Coccinella preschool offers Italian and English. Teacher Dora Menz with Isabella, Sofia, Alessia and Anabella.

Yarra’s bilingual schools offering children more options

Melbourne Leader, November 18th 2013

STEP into a primary or preschool in Yarra and you are increasingly likely to find students chatting to each other in Chinese, Vietnamese, German, Italian or Greek.

Bilingual and immersion programs are growing in popularity, as research points to enhanced problem-solving skills and cognition and families see opportunities for students versed in two languages.

But an early education expert has warned against treating bilingualism as a “fad” and said children should speak both languages regularly to benefit.

Many early years centres in Yarra incorporate languages other than English, including Boroondara Kindergarten in North Richmond (Vietnamese), Alpha Children’s Centre in Richmond (Greek) and Froebel in North Fitzroy (German), which is set to open next year.

One of the popular preschool options is La Coccinella, which offers Italian and English classes at centres in North Fitzroy and Coburg.

Teacher Dora Menz runs programs for babies as young as four months and their parents.

Primary schools offering bilingual programs include Abbotsford (Chinese), Richmond West (Chinese and Vietnamese) and Deutsche Schule Melbourne in North Fitzroy (German).

While many students speak the second language at home as sons and daughters of first or second-generation immigrants, educators report that many families simply want their child to pick up a second language young.

Kay Margetts (pictured), a Melbourne University Associate Professor in Early Childhood Studies, said children achieved much of the development of spoken language at just three years of age.

She said a toddler’s flexible brain could learn multiple tongues more easily, without negative effects on English ability.

“Usually with children who are bilingual, their language development in both languages is pretty similar,” she said.

Prof Margetts said researchers acknowledged social, personal and cognitive benefits from bilingualism, including increased self-esteem, motivation for learning, cognitive ability, the basis to learn another language and strengthened ties to family if family members speak a second language.