FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

Interested in teaching your child a second language? Here are some questions we are frequently asked. We hope you find them helpful!

When starting on our Spanish full immersion preschool at age 2, if attending 3 or more days a week, your child can be already fluent and with beginning literacy in Spanish language by age 5. Later, with our unique Spanish immersion school-age afternoon program offered once (or twice) a week for 2 hours per day, your child will keep up the language fluency and literacy with age-appropriate classes until the age of 12. You can achieve the same results when starting your child at age 3 (if enrolling 3 or more days a week and adding Summer Camps).

 

 

Why learn Spanish during early childhood?

  • “There is an ideal 'window' of time to acquire language in a linguistically rich environment that ends around the age of 5. In second language acquisition, the strongest evidence is in the study of accent, where most older learners do not reach a native-like level." (Critical Period Hypothesis for Language Acquisition from "Speech and Brain Mechanisms" By Wilder Penfield and Lamar Roberts)

  • "Recent research has demonstrated that positive cognitive gains are associated with learning a second language in childhood." (The Cognitive Advantages Of Balanced Bilingualism By Lisa Chipongian)

  • "Children display an amazing ability to become fluent speakers of any language consistently spoken around them." (Language And Its Structure By Ronald W. Langacker, UCSD)

  • "Language is inextricably entwined with our mental life- our perceiving, our remembering, our attending, our comprehending, our thinking- in short, all of our attempts to make sense of our experience in the world..." (Lindfors, 1991)

  • "The same strategies used for first language acquisition are used for subsequent language learning" (Bialystok & Hakuta, 1994; Collier, 1995; Lindfors, 1991)

 

Why Spanish?

  • Spanish is spoken by over 350 million people in the world, and is the 4th most commonly spoken language worldwide.

  • A growing percentage of jobs today require Spanish as a second language.

  • Learning Spanish helps students learn more about their own language. As you might know, English has many words of latin origin.

 

What can I expect if my child enters the program at age 2 or 3 with no previous Spanish exposure?

The "window" of time for an effective Spanish learning acquisition is open at this age. When enrolling 3+ days a week on program, the student will be able to become bilingual easily. In 1 month he/she will begin to understand Spanish, and after about 2+ years could be able to carry on a fluent conversation. By continuing on our Bilingual School-Age Program the child should be able to keep it up throughout the school-age years.

 

 

What if my child hears two or more languages at home?

Hearing two languages spoken is a real advantage to a child. If, for example, the mother is a native English speaker and the father is a native Spanish speaker and the child hears the two languages from birth or very early childhood, after attending our program starting at preschool, the child will maintain the ability to hear the sounds of both and be able to speak each language with the accent of a native speaker. It is helpful if the child hears the same language consistently from the parent who is its native speaker. It is better for the child to hear each parent speak in his/her native language. The child may mix the languages in his own speech initially, but will typically sort it out by around 2-3 years of age. Then he will separate the words belonging to each language and know which language to use with each parent. By 5 years of age, and after attending our bilingual preschooler program from the very early stages (6+ hours a week), the child is likely to be able to cope with the two language systems without a problem, using both vocabulary and grammar appropriate for his/her age. By continuing on our Bilingual School-Age Program the child will be able to keep it up throughout the years.

 

What are the main expectations fulfilled within the classroom environment?

  • to create an interest and enjoyment in foreign language learning

  • to recognize the sound system of Spanish and distinguish its phonemes

  • to understand and respond to simple instructions and personal questions

  • to understand information relating to self and the immediate environments of home, school, and community

  • to ask and answer personal questions

  • to make short personal statements

  • to sing songs and recite chants in Spanish

  • to use formulaic phrases, e.g. May I have the scissors?, to interact with others

  • to be introduced to a large amount of vocabulary and expressions that students will eventually remember in context when there is a communicative need

  • to acquire a great pronunciation on the language

  • to develop a positive attitude toward foreign cultures and people

  • to learn to inquire and explore

  • to acquire reading and writing skills

  • to develop cognitive and creative skills (preschool and pre-K programs)

  • to grow physically and emotionally (preschool and pre-K programs) * See courses descriptions for a detailed list of objectives by level and a complete description for each particular course.

 

What should I NOT expect from this second language programs at the beginning?

  • spontaneously talk or ask questions in Spanish outside the proper class environment. The child can only do that when he or she feels a real need. It is usually when there is no English spoken and within the classroom environment. The child will simply not speak the language just because he or she is told to do so. We often hear "Say it in Spanish" or "Speak Spanish to me". This is not recommended.

  • communicate fluently with a native speaker. The child will eventually get there, usually after years of study and commitment, but is not there yet.

  • translate from Spanish to English or vice versa. Translation is a completely different task that is not taught in these courses.

  • to come up with a word in Spanish from a word in English. For example, “How do you say _______ in Spanish?" That is considered translation.

  • to remember words in Spanish right after class. For example, "What did you learn today?" or "Tell me two new words you learned today". Children are being exposed to hundreds of words in every class without being conscious of it. When parents expect their child to remember something specific, too much comes to the child's brain. It is very difficult for the child to extract one or two words only, without a real communicative need.

 

How can I accelerate the language learning process?

Helping the child build his/her self-confidence during the time he/she is learning a second language is very important. Talking slowly, clearly, and simply is very helpful. It is also important for parents to continue speaking to the child at home in his/her native language (if English) because it continues to lay the foundation for the second language by providing the basic rules of communication. Also, the parent-child interaction might suffer if the parents speak less to the child in an attempt to use the second language. 

 

We ask parents to expose children to the language as much as possible outside the school. There are many ways you can do this:

 

  • Watch movies in Spanish. Many movies have specific language learning purposes. Other commercially produced videos can also be a powerful stimulus to oral input. You may have your child watch any regular movie he/ she enjoys or is familiar with by simply changing the language features of your DVD to Spanish.

  • Listen to music in Spanish. There are many great options to sing along with or just listen to in the car. Once students have learned the course songs, you can also borrow a CD of our course music for your child to practice and sing at home.

  • Expose your child to native Spanish speaking people, adults and kids. Become interested and involved in their culture yourself even if you don’t speak the language. We are fortunate to live in a multicultural community where there are thousands of Spanish speaking people to interact with at the park, beach, etc.

  • If you are confident with your own language skills, read books to your child in Spanish.

  • Label different objects around the house and in your child’s room in Spanish once you know your child is able to orally recall the words.

  • Travel! Visit any of the different Spanish speaking countries with your children. It is a great motivation for both them and you!

 

How can I test if my child is learning?

 

The first test you need to do with your child is how much he or she is comprehending Spanish, not necessarily speaking. Speech emergence will come later! 

 

How can I test my child's Spanish comprehension skills?

  • While watching age-appropriate movies, listening to music, playing with native Spanish speaking children, try to learn how much your child is understanding.

  • If you are watching a movie in Spanish with your child ask what is going on in the story, what is happening to the main character, what the characters’ intentions are. After viewing, you can have your child retell the story in his/her own words.

  • If you are listening to music, ask if your child has heard any of the words before or what the songs are about. Queue parts of the songs and let your child keep singing. Sing the song incorrectly and wait for your child to correct you.

  • After playing with native Spanish speaking kids or after any life situation where your child interacted in Spanish, ask your child if he or she understood something of what the others were saying. Ask if he or she could communicate. Students are actively engaged in trying to make themselves understood if they really need it, even when their knowledge of the target language is incomplete.

  • Collect various snippets of different languages on a tape including both English and Spanish. See if the child can identify the Spanish parts.

  • If you speak Spanish give your child simple instructions relevant to what he or she is doing at that time ("abre la boca"). See if your child can complete the request. Keep the instructions meaningful and within context.

 

 

 

 

References:

From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (Shonkoff, J.P.)
Fertile Minds (Nash, M)
Your Child's Brain (Begley, S. - Newsweek)
How to Build a Baby's Brain (Begley, S. - Newsweek)
Building a Better Brain for Baby (Johnson, G. - New York Times)
Brain Development and Mastery of Language in the Young Years (Elaine Shiver, ParentingInformation.org)

Teaching and Learning Languages (Earl W. Stevick)
Teaching Practice Handbook (Roger Gower & Steve Walters)
Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (Diane Larsen-Freeman)
Language and Content (Bernard A. Mohan)
Motivation: The Key To Success In Language Learning (Cecilia Elorza)
Teaching and Learning Vocabulary (Linda Taylor)
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (Colin Dawson)
Whole Language, The Complete Guide (Brian Cutting)
The Art Of Teaching ESL (Addison-Wesley Publishing)

 

For further reading: If you are interested in learning more about foreign language acquisition methods, please contact us and we will provide you with an extensive reference list.