The bilingual school day
In 2002 in Barcelona, the EU Heads of State and Government agreed that at the end of their schooling every EU citizen should have a relatively good mastery of at least two further languages. This cannot be achieved using conventional foreign language teaching methods.
The "bilingual teaching - English language intensification" school pilot project is intended to satisfy this international objective and give pupils an early opportunity to learn a further language (English) alongside their mother tongue.
Educational principles of bilingual teaching
The language is acquired using the effective and recognized immersion method. In this method, the new language is increasingly also used as the working language. According to the principle of "one person, one language", one teacher speaks only German, the other only English. This is the most natural way for children to learn languages – "immersion" in another language. During the initial period, the child learns to understand. This is done by means of a high degree of contextualisation of the teaching content, for instance using pictures, gestures and symbols. It then gradually begins to use the second language itself. Thus the child's access to the foreign language is similar to the way babies learn their first language; acquisition of knowledge about the world and the development of language are closely tied to each other. Nor does the successful development of German as a mother tongue suffer, since the acquisition and use of German is, like all public schools, in accordance with the Austrian curriculum. Pupils should achieve a high degree of communicative skills and be able to use the English language in simple contexts, including in writing. Unlike conventional foreign language teaching, the children do not learn a second language systematically but rather through everyday activities. The children's curiosity for learning a new language, their urge for knowledge and their natural delight in speaking act as motivation, which is further encouraged by means of customised sensorial teaching methods. The materials and textbooks needed for this are provided by the school.
The teaching is bilingual throughout, with some subjects (e.g. Movement and Sport, Music, Art and Crafts) being taught entirely in English from the third grade upwards. The English-speaking educationalists are financed by the school sponsor and are required to have an appropriate pedagogical training. They are selected by the team of teachers in consultation with the Educational Director of the de la Tour Diakonie. The class teacher and the English-language teacher form a team that works closely together. Regular team meetings are an essential element of the school's approach.