The Clockwork Methodology™

Languages are brilliant. They can improve our career prospects, help us make new friends all over the world and have a whole host of cognitive benefits. So it’s really no surprise that many parents want to give their children the gift of a second language

But making that a reality can be tricky. How do you help your child learn another language when you don’t speak one yourself? When do you find the time to do it? What do you do if your children don’t enjoy any of the resources you buy?

That’s why we created the Clockwork Methodology™, which we use in all of our Story Box subscriptions.

Here’s how  the Clockwork Methodology™ makes learning a language as simple as reading a story.

1

We create engaging books that children love, complete with beautiful illustrations. They begin in English.

2

Gradually, words in the target language are introduced in contexts that make their meaning immediately apparent.

3

Words become phrases, phrases become sentences and sentences become whole pages in another language.

1

We create engaging books that children love, complete with beautiful illustrations. They begin in English.

2

Gradually, words in the target language are introduced in contexts that make their meaning immediately apparent.

3

Words become phrases, phrases become sentences and sentences become whole pages in another language.

Here’s an example of the Clockwork Methodology™ in action.

“The little boy looked into the sky at the bright, round, yellow soleil.”

The new word gets used lots of times through the story in different contexts and through this repeated exposure the reader has learnt the French word for ‘sun’. Introducing new vocabulary in this way allows us to create stories that start in English and end in a different language.

How does it work?

The Clockwork Methodology™ works because it helps children learn a new language in the same way that they expand their vocabulary in their native tongue.

When kids are listening or reading, they often hear new words that they don’t understand. But when they come across them in ‘intelligible contexts’, they’re able to come up with a theory about what the word means.

They might get this a little bit wrong at first but that’s okay. In fact, making mistakes is a key part of learning a language. But as a child is exposed to the word in multiple and varied contexts, they’ll develop their understanding of what it means, be able to recall it faster and soon be able to use it in their own speech and writing.

Won’t mixing languages be confusing for my child?

If you’ve ever listened to a bilingual person speak, you’ll know it’s not uncommon for them to switch between languages. It’s called ‘code switching’ and is a fairly regular occurrence for anybody who speaks more than one language.

Speakers choose to do it for lots of different reasons. They might want to express a concept that doesn’t easily translate to another language, or just use it for emphasis. Sometimes, it’s because of who the individual is speaking to or the situation they find themselves in. Sociolinguists have suggested that switching codes like this actually demonstrates a heightened language appropriateness and greater communicative sensibility. 

Swapping between languages is especially common in bilingual families- Alex is always speaking Spanglish when his parents phone him up! Some parents raising their children to be bilingual try to avoid code-switching but studies have shown this doesn’t make language acquisition happen any faster. In fact, exposing children to language mixing may even have cognitive benefits as they develop strategies to process all that input. Bring on the brainy babies!

Isn’t full immersion the only way to learn another language?

Full immersion (where a learner only communicates in the language they want to learn) is a fantastic way to learn a language. Unfortunately, it can be hard to give your child this experience when you don’t speak another language yourself.

There are lots of incredible language teachers who create full immersion experiences in their classrooms but there are also a lot of teachers who are expected to teach a language without being given proper training. In fact, 46% of primary schools in the UK have no contact with a language specialist capable of providing that kind of education.

Though immersion is a good educational strategy, it may not suit all learners. In fact, some children feel overwhelmed and confused when they’re exposed to a high volume of unfamiliar language. This frustration can actually put them off language learning, as they feel it’s too hard for them

With our books, parents and children can embark on a magical language-learning journey together with a bedtime story. Teachers can get their class started on German even if they don’t speak any themselves. The Clockwork Methodology™ makes learning a language accessible for everybody

Can children really understand a foreign word after reading it?

Children learn the meaning of a new word in stages as they are exposed to it multiple times. First, they put it into a ‘semantic field’ which is a fancy way of saying ‘words that are related in meaning’. For example, when a child first comes across the word ‘maroon’ they might be able to work out that it’s a colour but not know exactly which one.

As they see and hear the word more and more times in slightly different intelligible contexts, they’ll form a more complete understanding of what the word means and how it can be used.

In our stories, foreign language words get repeated lots of times which allow children to form a full idea of the meaning. It also results in much better retention of the word.

If the kids do get stuck on a word while they’re reading the digital versions of our stories, they can tap on it to get a full translation. That means they get the information immediately while they are still interested and motivated to learn.

Can you really teach languages through stories?

Psychologists have long pointed to bedtime stories as an important part of a child’s development. Not to mention the fact they’re lots of fun and good for parent-child bonding!

One of the reasons stories are so good as an educational tool is because they keep the kids interested. Children are much more likely to retain vocabulary when they’re reading or talking about something they are curious about and enjoy.

You’ll probably have noticed the same thing yourself. Lots of the foreign vocabulary words we remember as adults stick with us because of particular moments- a market in Germany, a friend explaining an Italian joke, a particularly good dinner in Shanghai.

By introducing children to languages in stories through the Clockwork Methodology®, we can achieve a similar effect. The characters and events make new words more memorable and kids are incentivised to learn so they can keep enjoying the book.

On top of all of that, new information learnt just before sleep is much more likely to be remembered. The benefits of a bedtime story ain’t no fairy tale!

What about pronunciation?

All of our stories will be accompanied by an audiobook read in full narration from a native speaker to help you and your child hear how they sound so there’s plenty of opportunity for kids to develop a native-like accent.

[i]
[i]