CHILDREN as young as three are being taught French at a nursery school – and they are saying "oui" to the exciting new form of learning.
Youngsters at Seaton Carew Nursery School are learning the new language through a scheme which is being led by nursery teacher Pauline Thomas.
It is thought the nursery is the only one in Hartlepool teaching French.
Parents have given the thumbs-up to the initiative, reporting that their youngsters are even returning home and speaking to them in the tongue of our friends across the English Channel.
Through a creative language system called Dinocrocs, around 40 children per session, aged just three and four, are being given a very early insight into learning a new language.
Dinocrocs relies on stories, songs and role-play and involves the children spending 10 minutes each day singing a song and telling a story.
Mrs Thomas taught English to three and four-year-old French children as a young student 30 years ago, and she says when the opportunity came up to teach French to English children she and fellow staff members jumped at the chance.
Mrs Thomas, who is being trained in the scheme throughout the year, alongside colleague Sue Abbey, said: "The benefits of children learning French at a young age are that they develop confidence about communicating in another language, they learn how to learn and it aids their communication skills generally, for example through listening and turn-taking.
"They don't understand every word, but they understand the essence of what we are trying to say."
During a typical 10-minute session, youngsters can be heard relaying back to their teacher French phrases and they can understand instructions such as levez-vous (stand up) or asseyez-vous (sit down), aided by gestures of hands.
And if children and staff are wearing the special Dinocrocs badge, they must only speak in French.
The children also take away what they have learned to a special Dinocrocs corner in the school and take turns being the teacher and pupil to learn the words together.
The Dinocrocs system has been developed by five international universities specifically to help the youngest learners speak a foreign language.
Nursery school headteacher Tricia Penfold said: "The children have really taken to it.
"They really enjoy learning something different.
"You can hear them practising and they do understand. It's wonderful to hear them.
"By the time children get to age 11, learning a new language can be completely alien to them, but if they are starting from three or four, it is more natural for them."