Nina's dedication to learning English has turned her into the “most happy girl”.
In common with most of her young classmates, Nina Emanuelsson shed a few tears on her first day in Pre-School last August. But there was one big thing that meant Nina’s first day was an even bigger step than usual – she barely spoke a word of English.
“We were very nervous at the beginning,” says Nina’s mother Emelie, who had relocated from Sweden with her family. And Nina herself remembers the difficult time. “I could only say ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’. I did cry every day at first,” she says.
Wind forward just one year and Nina is now thriving in her new environment, having set about learning English with remarkable dedication and passion. “I really wanted to learn English so much because I really wanted to join in,” she says.
She had plenty of help. In the Lower School, teachers Sarah Burnham and Rossa Phul, and one of the school counsellors, Lea Richter, made a plan that could take account of the whole picture. “We managed to get her together with a couple of Swedish girls in Kindergarten that she could play with outside at recess,” says Sarah. “Having some buddies and a friendly face made a really huge difference to her school day.”In no time, she started to ask simple questions and began using short sentences to join in the play and contribute to class discussions.
The benefits of learning a second language at a young age are widely documented, but it can be easy to underestimate the effects on socialisation, sense of belonging and ability to settle into a new environment. By spring break, Nina’s confidence had progressed rapidly and, says Sarah, “she became a thoughtful and regular contributor in all our class discussions,” just one of 400 students in the Lower School – from more than 70 nations – who between them speak 40 different languages.
Nina now happily plays games like ballerinas, tag and hide and seek with her friends – in English. When she made cinnamon rolls during the holidays, she was able to come back to school and teach her classmates how to make them, using English instructions. And as she starts her second year, Emelie says Nina, now five, “is just the most happy girl. She has the confidence to play with anyone and is herself again. It is amazing to see.”
WORDS HAZEL DAVIS PHOTOGRAPHY OLIVER OETTLI