In a world where learning foreign languages is becoming more and more a valuable asset to soar in the academic field and to enter the job market successfully, we notice a constant concern of educational authorities with the introduction of a foreign language in the school curricula as early as possible. Educational institutions perceive it not only as a way of preparing students to become proficient in as many languages as possible, but also as an approach to eliciting awareness about linguistic and cultural diversity and, therefore, preparing future job seekers to adapt to any cultural and linguistic environment they may encounter in their work places. Along with this sensitization to otherness, learning foreign languages can also be seen as a way of developing communicative competence in the mother tongue itself, a skill that is so valued as well in the job market.
In the past decade, in many European countries and in Portugal in particular, schools have started to implement various projects of sensitization to different languages starting at pre-school. They believe these programs may contribute significantly to the beginning of this process of awareness of others, as well as to the development of the communicative competence of children.
Our presentation gathers the opinion of several authors, putting together research findings that allow us to identify some reasons and advantages of early sensitization to language diversity, and presenting the results of an in-progress PhD study carried out by us with two groups of Portuguese pre-school children with which we worked on four foreign languages (English, Spanish, French and Italian) for three months. The results not only seem to demonstrate the acceptability of all the four foreign languages by all the children but also seem to indicate that exposing children to several languages can enrich the language activities worked at pre-school, contributing for a considerable development of the children’s communicative skills in general.
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