The 100 Languages Of Children
Even when they’re not speaking, children use at least 100 languages to express themselves.
At least, that’s what Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach to early learning fervently believed and it’s the foundation for what has become an acclaimed pedagogical strategy right around the world.
Malaguzzi penned a poem ‘The 100 Languages of Children’ in which he acknowledged the ‘infinite ways that children can express, explore, and connect their thoughts, feelings and imaginings’. The poem illustrates the myriad methods and mediums that children seek out in order to express their ideas, theories, thoughts, feelings, frustrations, discoveries, understanding and knowledge.
Of course, these languages are symbolic – but they allude to the key concept of the Reggio Emilia approach – which is that every child has infinite potential to discover, learn and communicate. Children do this in many, many different ways including drawing, playing, painting, writing, sculpting, construction, dance, music, movement, role playing, drama – even reasoning, listening, laughing, crying, hating and loving to name but a few. The possibilities are endless.
This innovative approach to early childhood education has gained momentum around the world including Australia where increasing demand is driving significant growth in the number of Reggio-inspired schools, particularly in Perth and Melbourne.
The Reggio approach is unlike conventional approaches to early childhood learning.
Instead of having their learning planned for them and the outcomes designed and decided by adults, the Reggio Emilia strategy puts children at the heart of directing and organising their own learning. Children don’t all learn or do the same things at the same time and there isn’t a distinct teacher/pupil type of relationship.
Instead, skilled educators accompany children on their journey of exploration, providing diverse and visually appealing environments, open-ended resources and experiences and indirectly provoking ideas and thought processes that encourage the children to communicate through their ‘100 languages’. Every child is given the opportunity to use as many of the 100 symbolic languages as he or she wants – and it’s their right to express themselves freely. Collaboration is encouraged and because children continually revisit and revise their work using the symbolic languages, learning is deepened and extended – not only for the child but for the whole group too.
The Reggio approach is deeply rooted in the belief that there are multiple ways of seeing and multiple ways of being and that there isn’t a ‘correct’ way of learning.
Malaguzzi’s poem emphasises that all children are competent and capable thinkers and that they’re all naturally curious – and he talks about how adults tend to suppress and devalue a child’s expressive methods in an attempt to teach them the ‘right’ way. Yet, as he said, when adults take a step back and encourage children to express themselves freely, they (and we) discover an abundance of ‘languages’ or expressive communications.
The learning environments of modern Reggio-inspired schools are just as important as they were back in the 1940s when Malaguzzi developed his ground-breaking approach. They’re all carefully designed to allow and encourage children to use all of their senses for hands-on investigation and discovery and where each one of the children’s many ‘languages’ of expression are valued equally and nurtured.
Reggio-inspired centres such as the Early Learning & Kinder schools around Australia are highly regarded for the quality of their education and their success in stimulating every child’s intrinsic curiosity. If you’d like to find out more about premium education at a Reggio-inspired early childhood learning centre in your local community in Perth or Melbourne, please get in touch with Early Learning & Kinder through their website, www.earlylearningandkinder.com.au.
THE HUNDRED LANGUAGES OF CHILDREN
The hundred is there.
The child is made of one hundred.
The child has a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
a hundred, always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds to discover
a hundred worlds to invent
a hundred worlds to dream.
The child has a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and Christmas.
They tell the child
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says
“No way- The hundred is there.”
(translated by Lella Gandini)