The perception of foreign languages and culture for early childhood
Binnur Genç İlter
Department of Foreign Language Education, Faculty of Education, Akdeniz University, Antalya, Turkey.
Department of Preschool Education, Faculty of Education, Akdeniz University, Antalya, Turkey.
Language acquisition is a multifaceted process that often intertwines with acculturation. When a child encounters a foreign language and culture at an early age, they start to gain an understanding of both their native cultural values and the values of the other culture. As young learners gradually become aware of the world beyond their immediate surroundings, their cultural awareness undergoes a profound expansion. This research endeavors to delve into the perceptions of language learning and the assimilation of the target culture among very young language learners, irrespective of whether they have received formal language education. In pursuit of this objective, a semi-structured qualitative study was designed. The study included interviews with ten kindergarten students of age 5 in Antalya, Turkey. Participants were divided into two: one group had received foreign language education for three years, while the other had not received any. The conversations were recorded and subsequently subjected to an in-depth analysis carried out. The compelling findings of this research reveal that young language learners who have been exposed to previous language learning experiences are significantly better equipped to discern and appreciate the distinctions presented by a foreign language and culture. Moreover, it becomes evident that very young learners, even at the tender age of five, can grasp the lifestyles, needs, and interests of individuals from foreign cultures when they are immersed in a communicative language-rich environment. This underscores the pivotal role of early language exposure in fostering not only linguistic proficiency but also cultural awareness and understanding among children.