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Second and additional language learning in Montessori: Following the child in uncharted territory

Romali Rosales Chavarría 2nd February, 2023

“Follow the child” We all know this Montessori principle. However, when it comes to following the child in supporting the development and acquisition of a second or additional language in the Montessori classroom our preparation and the preparation of the environment sometimes finds unexpected challenges.

Whether you come with the second language into Montessori, or are a Montessori teacher

willing to explore delivering another target language, the Montessori method and the

dynamics of the prepared environment sometimes clashes with more traditional

understandings of second language teaching and learning. How we go about it from there is

precisely the walking the path in uncharted territory.

How do you progress in aligning bilingual education with Montessori? And not only that, but

in your particular context at the present moment with where you are at. This means already

having a bilingual or multilingual environment, a consolidated second language programme,

or just the will to find your way; having resources, supplementary materials, or using the

prepared environment in the target language are all part of the combo that makes it a not one way fits all, but instead acknowledges the diversity and dynamism of the Montessori

pedagogy in action.

There is the child with the capacity to learn what the prepared environment has to offer, which in this case we want it to be an additional language, and an adult that needs to set that in motion.

As Montessorians we know that before we can give help, we must understand; we must

follow the child in showing us what the steps are and what aids better support the natural

progression to achieve linguistic competence in a different language. We need to get rid of

whatever obstructs our capacity to use our knowledge, whether stronger in Montessori or in

second language acquisition and move from there to meet the child humbly as he is the one

who will guide us.

Again, we can go about it knowing there are two plans: “one is to disseminate knowledge, to follow a syllabus. The other is to look into the life of man and serve it, and in serving it, help humanity” (Montessori, The 1946 London lectures: 31). The invitation is to adventure

ourselves in the quest of following the lead of the child using our knowledge and ourselves to serve him to be able to communicate effectively in more than one language and that this

happens with them having the preparation from which will follow the birth and consolidation of this ability at their own pace.

You can read about my journey moving from a more traditional understanding of SLA to one

more aligned with Montessori here. I then moved to exploring doing this in a different context and with a different target language and I am still exploring this uncharted territory.

share your journey

If you’d like to share your journey in this uncharted territory with me you can contact me at

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