Department program

Early childhood language program

Giving preschool children the opportunity to learn in another language.

Thanks to a $17.9 million investment from the Victorian Government, from term 1 2019, funding will be available to allow around 5,000 preschool children across Victoria the chance to learn a language in addition to English.

The funding will allow services to deliver language programs at no additional cost to parents.

An expression of interest process was run in August 2018 and around 160 services were selected to participate in the program. A waitlist of services was also generated through this process. At this stage, no further expressions of interest will be taken for the program.

Getting started guide

The Getting started guide will support teachers and educators to implement the Early Childhood Language program in their service.

Auslan guide

The Auslan guide gives teachers and educators in services delivering the Early Childhood Language Program information specific to Auslan, including useful resources and links.

About the program

Audio transcript

Ni Hau. Hola. Kalimera. Namaste. Salam Ali Ku.

Hello new beginnings. New potential. A New way forward.

Victoria is leading the way with a ground-breaking new Language program for pre-schoolers. Up to 3000 kindergarten children in state-funded kindergarten programs will now have the opportunity to play, learn and communicate in more than English. And that’s great news in anyone’s language.

The Victorian Government has dedicated 17.9 million dollars over four years to help kindergarten children get their very best start in life with this new program. There are just so many benefits to pre-school children learning another language. Increased literary, enhanced reading skills and cognitive flexibility.

Acquiring new language skills helps to strengthen brain development, improve problem-solving skills and gives a child a richer understanding of how languages work. Language learning can bolster self-esteem and well-being and of course, strengthen cultural identity.

Maintaining a home language has a marked positive effect on children from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse or Aboriginal backgrounds and for children who use AUSLAN. It helps them participate more not just at kindergarten, but in society at large. It’s not just about the language skills, it’s how it can help a child, and their family in so many other areas of their life.

Here are a few details. There are two options for how this might work in your kindergarten. The first one is called the Learn Languages at Kindergarten Program. Funding will support the employment of qualified teachers to deliver up to three hours of a language program per week in eligible state funded kindergarten programs. That includes state funded kindergarten programs in all types of settings, including long day care.

This will reach up to 120 kindergartens so that around 3000 children can learn a language other than English. That’s 3000 children in kindergarten benefiting from learning another language.

The choice of what languages to teach in the program will be guided by communities and each kindergarten’s interest. Each is unique. The community and kindergarten’s diversity and wishes will be taken into account. Children can keep building their language skills from kindergarten through to school and higher education and into their working lives.

The second option is what we call a bilingual kindergarten. This allows ten eligible kindergartens who receive state funding to transition to a model where they will learn their regular program in another language. That’s up to 50 percent of the kindergarten program taught in another language.

So a book may also be a livre. A sandpit a Sandkasten. And lunch, Wǔcān.

In a rapidly changing world where the ability to adapt and diversify is becoming increasingly important, the benefits of early language learning will last a lifetime. So it’s important we start now.

The Victorian Government Early Childhood Language Program. Making sure even the youngest of voices will be heard.


Early childhood services will take part in one of the following language programs:

  1. Learn languages at kindergarten:
    • children will learn in another language for up to three hours per week
    • this will be offered to around 150 kindergarten services.
  2. Bilingual kindergartens:
    • children will learn in another language for up to seven and a half hours per week
    • 10 kindergarten services will receive funding to transition to this model.

Following an expression of interest process, services have now accepted their place in the program.

Languages in kindergartens

Languages on offer include:

  • Aboriginal languages (more than five)
  • Arabic
  • Auslan
  • Chinese
  • Chin Hakha
  • French
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Karen
  • Punjabi
  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese.

The choice of which language to teach has been guided by communities, kindergartens’ interests and the availability of qualified staff. 

They take into account:

  • community diversity
  • languages spoken by children who are newly arrived or have refugee backgrounds
  • continuity with language education at nearby primary schools.

More important than the choice of language is the long-term advantages of improved literacy and communication.

Languages will be incorporated into everyday learning activities to give children the opportunity to use the language themselves. They will be encouraged to engage in language learning through play, art, music and stories, increasing their vocabulary along the way. 

Qualified staff will deliver the program in partnership with existing kindergarten staff. 

Participating services

The below map shows the location of services participating in the language program and the language being offered.

participating services in Excel and search by language (xlsx - 54kb)

We are currently working closely with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated and the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages to ensure protocols are followed in consulting with community and seeking Traditional Owner permissions and endorsement for Aboriginal language programs.

Benefits of learning a language in the early years

Learning in languages other than English helps children to improve their overall literacy and understanding of how language in general works.

Education experts have found that there are many benefits to children learning in another language at a young age, including:

  • increased literacy
  • cognitive flexibility
  • bolstering self-esteem and wellbeing
  • strengthened cultural identity.

Watch this video interviewing early childhood and language experts to find out more:

Promotional materials

Parent information sheet
Read this page in your language