One Language – Many Cultures: Marking the 25th Anniversary of Children Franchise Helen Doron Early English

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Using the English language as an international bridge between cultures is a very lofty goal, yet it is only part of the successful outcome and continued development of the international children franchise phenomena known across the globe as Helen Doron Early English.

Where did the inspiration for the unique Helen Doron Early English language learning system come from, and why 25 years ago was it considered so revolutionary by conventional education? Helen Doron based her learning method on special materials and a creative approach to language acquisition in young children that stimulates a child's natural ability for language through repeated hearing at home, and play activities in the class - creating a positive, fun-filled environment that stimulates children to learn English as if it was their native tongue.

Because of her groundbreaking efforts, these learning principles in early English education (accepted in the pedagogic world today) overcame the opposition and prejudices of many parents and educators in the 1980’s who considered it very unusual indeed to teach babies and children a second language , in some cases even before they’ve learned their first one. Through her methodology, Helen Doron has promoted the understanding that children are built to be multi-lingual, and that stimulating this ability not only promotes a better grasp of language for the child, but enhances their world in general; broadening their culture development and mental and personal development.

In 1984, Helen took her 4-year-old daughter, Ella, to Suzuki violin classes. The Suzuki Method teaches children to first make music, and learn to read music later. “Notes aren’t music”, Suzuki insisted. “It’s like forcing a child to read a book before it was allowed to speak!” For Helen, this was a revelation, and being a linguist she thought, “If there is a mother-tongue way to teach music, why not have a mother-tongue way to teach language? Teaching babies and children spoken English – and indeed, any oral language was so obvious to me that I didn’t realize at the time no-one else was doing it.”

Helen began to dig deeper - researching the subject thoroughly and examining the work of others in related fields, such as Dr. Suzuki and the esteemed Glenn Doman (Institutes for Achievement in Human Potential). His focus on infants and very young children was in line with the premise that a child’s brain grows (both in size and in the number of neural connections) until the age of six. Helen then started working with small groups of children aged 1 – 6 years old. “Research indicated that we were increasing the child’s overall abilities for life by learning the extra language at the age where the brain neurological connections were being made”, explains Helen, “And this excited me.”

Helen then dedicated her efforts to teaching children English as a second language using this special understanding, and creating her exclusive methodology. The rewards for giving children the gift of language and watching them boom was in every way was such a powerful experience that the parent’s took notice – and so did other teachers. Soon, many people with an interest in the betterment of young children were clamoring for copies of Helens leaning materials and specially produced songs. Helen recalls, “My husband, David, and I came to the conclusion – it was time for me to duplicate myself – allowing others to teach my methodology with professional materials and receiving expert teacher training.”

Many years of hard work was required to build up a thriving business based on the Helen Doron Early English approach - learning materials based on high standards of pedagogic excellence, a dedication to the joy of teaching, and a true desire to improve children’s lives everywhere. “In 1997 it was time to let the world know about us, and our worldwide franchising operation was born”, exclaims Helen. The success built steadily - as few Learning Centres in Europe grew into the many hundreds of Learning Centres today located on 4 continents. It seems very evident that parents, teachers and franchisees the world over can see for themselves how beautifully the Helen Doron English learning system works.

Helen is proud to say “we are touching the lives of children and their families across the globe.” She further explains that this benefit to children consists of the ‘Individual Influence’: Self-confidence, Self-esteem, knowing another language as a mother tongue, greater brain capacity, greater tolerance and better job prospects, and the ‘Wider Influence’: Bilingual = bicultural, multilingual = multicultural (especially if the child starts early enough).

Helen continues to ask important questions related to language development. “Does language colour our world view, or does our world view colour our language? How many of you grew up seeing those tall leafy things as ‘trees’ and only later grew to appreciate them and their qualities when you learnt their individual names? Is it the language that created your view of the trees or the trees that created the language?” Helen firmly believes that just as the only age in which a language can be learnt as a mother tongue is by immersion up to the age of 7 and again a certain window of opportunity remaining open until the age of 10, that this is also true of learning about a culture too. Indeed, language and culture are inextricably interwoven.

Experience shows that learning languages from a very early age is an important factor in better performance at school. Contact with another language is not only compatible with becoming proficient in one's mother tongue, it also makes it easier. It opens the mind, stimulates intellectual agility and, of course, expands people's cultural horizon. Multilingualism is part and parcel of both European identity/ citizenship and the learning society. The European Union is launching the Piccolingo campaign in all Member States; seeking to raise awareness about the fact that young children who start learning languages at a very early age will, as they grow older, more confidently approach foreign languages and cultures. Helen Doron learning was a forerunner of initiatives like the Piccolingo campaign.

About the Helen Doron Educational Group
The Helen Doron Educational Group stands at the forefront of innovative educational systems since 1985, providing exclusive learning programs and quality educational materials for babies, children and adolescents the world over. Our quality educational programs include Helen Doron Early English and MathRiders for inspired learning in small groups; Polly the Collie, Didi the Dragon, Super-Nature and Ready Steady Move! designed for larger groups (kindergartens and schools). The Helen Doron children franchise model invites entrepreneurs to join a successful business operation that benefits children around the world. For more information

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Nicole Fleischer
Helen Doron Educational Group
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