Friday, October 8, 2010

Guest Post: Bilingual Education

Today, I have a wonderful guest post from Emily Patterson.  I truly believe the baby, toddler, and preschool years are the optimal time to begin learning another language.  I hope you find this article helpful and enlightening!
Early Childhood Education – The Best Time For Bilingual Learning

Of course, nobody knows what the future will hold – but if current trends continue, your child will grow up to enter a workforce in which the competition for decent-paying jobs will be nothing short of cut-throat. Despite the calls for greater co-operation and "interdependence," human nature being what it is, it's a good bet that the economy of the  future will operate according to the Law of the Jungle. It goes without saying that a good education is one of the best ways to prepare that child for survival in that economic jungle of the future.

The Bilingual Future

One of the future trends that has become certain is the existence of a diverse, global society. Nowhere is this more true than in the United States. Almost from the beginning, the U.S. has been a land of immigrants, and while the "melting pot" has been an interesting theory, it has not happened in practice. On the contrary, most major U.S. population centers have become more of an ethnic and linguistic checkerboard; Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese and Chinese speakers represent some of the fastest-growing segments of the immigrant U.S. population.

In addition, with the rise of China, English may very well lose its preeminence as the international language of business; at best, it will have to share that top status with Mandarin in decades to come.

Getting Ready

Traditional wisdom has been to start teaching a second language in middle school, or even high school. Yet numerous research studies clearly demonstrate that the optimal period in a child's life for multilingual education is during the preschool years – at exactly the same time they are learning their first language. Yes, it is possible to learn a second and third language later in life, but it is more difficult, because that neurological "window of opportunity" – when the brain is most malleable – has passed.

According to Dr. Fred Genessee, Professor of Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, it's as easy for young children to learn two or three languages as it is for them to learn one. He's not alone; educators throughout the world (in countries that often have two or even three official languages) have understood this for decades.

The way a child learns a second language is by actually speaking it in a total immersion environment. You may recall an episode of the animated series The Simpsons in which young Bart gets trapped on a farm in France – and by the end of the episode, finds he's actually speaking the language. While this was a fictional scenario, the phenomenon is real; anyone who has taken young children abroad to stay with relatives in a foreign country for any length of time has observed this happening.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Zionsville child care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Indiana child care schools.  Primrose Schools are located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.

A preschool with an immersion curriculum or contact with a native speaker are great ways to begin your child's language learning.  If those options are not available, consider these resources recommended by Ms. Patterson:

Little Pim: 3-Pak (Spanish)The Little Pim language learning series was designed specifically for babies and toddlers by Julia Pimsleur Levine, the daughter of language expert Dr. Paul Pimsleur. The company offers their products in a variety of languages and focus on concept development and vocabulary found in a young child’s everyday life.
Brainy Baby 21009 Power Pack Set 1 - Music, 123's, Shapes and Colors, SpanishThe Brainy Baby learning series is offered in multiple foreign language versions for babies and toddlers. The Spanish titles in the series are designed for ages 1-5 and include:

Both titles feature live action video with real life people to illustrate concepts and vocabulary. The vocabulary is introduced one word at a time, then combined into phrases and sentences.

The Brainy Baby company also makes their concept DVDs for ages 1-4 available in Spanish [all 2009 editions]: Dónde estás tú?,123, Hemisferio Derecho, Musica, Hemisferio Izquierdo, AnimalesABC, Colores y Formas, Arte, and more.

So Smart Spanish Language DVD for Babies

So Smart! Beginnings: SpanishThe So Smart company provides concept videos for babies as young as six months and up through about 3 years of age. They offer one Spanish language DVD that can be used through the preschool years:

So Smart Beginnings Spanish [2009].
Combining music and animation, this program features 16 sing-along songs. Lyrics and a translation guide for parents are included.
There are also many great computer programs available.  My oldest daughter has used KidSpeak 6-in-1 World Pack: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Hebrew.

KidSpeak 6-in-1 World Pack: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Hebrew

I have several friends who highly recommend the software by Rosetta Stone.  It is available in many different languages.
Rosetta Stone V4 TOTALe: Spanish (Latin America) Level 1-3 Set

TeLL me More Spanish Homeschool Version (4 levels from Complete Beginner to Advanced)
I'm trying to decide between it and Tell Me More!

Do you have any language programs you have used successfully or your own tips for raising a bilingual child?!!



Blogger welcome to our wonderland said...

my youngest knows french and loves learning it. I know not real smart since she will learn spanish in school but my oldest is teaching her spanish and she is picking that up to. I spoke french, german and english when i was little and can still speak french and totally understand french. german a totally different story can't speak or understand it :)

great post :)

October 8, 2010 at 9:26 AM  

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