Learning English by Kindergarten Children in Saudi Arabia: A Mothers’ Perspective
In an era where the English language has become dominant in all fields and is the prevailing language worldwide, many Arab parents and intellectuals are wondering about the optimal age to start teaching their children English. Should they speak to their children in English at an early age? Should they enrol their children in a pre-school that teaches English only? What is the effect of teaching English to children in kindergarten on their learning of Arabic and their academic achievement in later stages? This study aimed to survey the opinions of a sample of mothers regarding the teaching of English to young children. The results of interviews with a sample of 300 mothers representing all segments of society showed that 70% of the mothers believe that the best age to teach children English is between four and five years old. 70% prefer to enrol their children in a kindergarten that teaches English, and 50% prefer to use a mix of English and Arabic languages when speaking with their children at home. About 70% believe that teaching English to children at an early age has no negative effect on their learning of Arabic simultaneously and has a positive effect on their academic achievement in later stages of education. The study also revealed some misconceptions among mothers about the optimal age for learning English, the effect of learning English on young children's Arabic language skills and academic achievement, and that the reason weakness of junior and senior high school students in English is due to not studying English at an early age. The researcher reviewed the results of previous studies on children and first and second language acquisition in several countries around the world acquiring a second foreign language alongside their mother tongue, the impact of learning a second language on their learning and acquisition of their mother tongue, academic achievement, and factors that lead to successful foreign language learning.