The Language Workshop for Children was really founded in 1954, the year François Thibaut turned six and was sent to boarding school outside Paris. Thibaut’s first language was French. But the world was still in flux following the end of World War II, so half of the student body were recent transplants from Europe, Britain, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and North and South America, none of whom could speak or understand French. So how did the school reach the minds of their non-French students? To young Thibaut’s confusion, they ignored them.
They simply welcomed the foreign children into their classrooms and motioned for them to sit, which they did, week after week, watching and listening, watching and listening. It didn't make sense to young Thibaut. A month went by and they were still sitting silently, fiddling with their pencils and gazing out the window. Young François though the teachers were cruel.
But in week six a miracle happened. The incubator sprang its hatch. The new children were suddenly uttering French, slowly at first, one word at a time, but then making two word sentences, and three. Then by week eight, voilà, they were speaking French in full sentences, getting tenses and noun genders right, chatting about today and asking about tomorrow. And by month four they could speak perfect, accent-free French with the teachers paying no more attention to their talkativeness than they had to their silence, as though they weren’t surprised. Strangely though, when parents came to visit their children were compelled to translate. That confused young Thibaut even more. Adults were smarter than children, weren’t they? If his new classmates could speak basic French in two months, why couldn’t the grownups?.
In the early 1970’s, after attending the Sorbonne in Paris, François Thibaut taught in a Paris high school then came to New York teaching French to adults at a language school during the day and a college at night. As his grown-ups stumbled over simple pronunciation and easy grammar Thibaut couldn’t help but remember the foreign students from his boarding school. Learning French had been so easy for them. Could it be that it was easier for children to learn a new language than adults?
So he began offering classes for 4 to 12 year olds, radically young for 1973. Within just a few weeks Thibaut saw that, in general, his younger students progressed more rapidly than his adults. They mastered pronunciation much more easily. They tended to remember larger inventories of vocabulary more quickly. But he also saw that younger students’ attention spans were significantly shorter, and they had far less patience than adults. Youngsters also paid more attention, and retained more, when words, grammar, and meaning were introduced through songs, rhymes, activities, and context, like mime. Not only did translation bore them, they seemed innately equipped to absorb language without a word of English being spoken.
So he began planning more curriculum for each lesson, quickened the pace, commissioned colorful visual aids, brought in costumes and toys, devised humor-filled activities, and did everything he could to keep them laughing, smiling, and emotionally-engaged. And, whenever possible, he let older children move around. When Thibaut began accepting toddlers (and finally infants) callers felt compelled to say “you’re crazy,” “you’re damaging these kids,” “you’re confusing them,” and “you don’t understand, they’ve got to master English first.” But he and his parents were seeing results, and the students were learning a new language.
So by 1980 he had developed enough routines, songs, visual aids, games, activities, observations, and philosophy to formally name his method The Thibaut Technique®. By the mid-90’s the media began to focus on the topic of early language education as academic studies were released from respected university neurolinguists, child psycholgists, and education specialists confirming observations and methods used by Thibaut, and to some extent his boarding school, for many years.Today, as The Language Workshop for Children® approaches its 40th year, Thibaut and his teachers have prepared tens of thousands of children for a global world and are offering four languages in five programs nationwide. A few years ago the LWFC began licensing its program and training and certifying teachers to use The Thibaut Technique®. Best of all, Thibaut’s dynamic Professor Toto Language Education Kit (a collection of animated DVDs, CDs, and workbooks) allows children to learn with the LWFC at-home and has won six major children's media awards.