As one of the few Christian Spanish immersion preschools in the county of San Diego, at Miracle Moments, we take pride in the quality and value of the language immersion aspect of our daily curriculum. Currently, we have five native Spanish speakers on staff, providing instruction to our students in both English and Spanish so as to develop fluency in both (many of our students come from homes in which English is not spoken).
Learning a language is a natural process for children this age as they do so without thinking about it, mimicking sounds and words heard from others in order to be able to communicate. Because the "fundamental architecture" of our brains are fully developed by about 12 years of age, according to pediatric neurologist Harry Chugani, languages should be taught earlier rather than later while the child is still willing and able to learn a language. If we wait until kids are in high school to teach languages, we have missed the optimum learning period, Chugani says.
While children are so absorbent at their age, it's important to teach language, and all things, in a way that is fun and enjoyable for them. In fact, there is science behind why this is so: The portion of our brain which stores memory is at the center of our brain (known as the mammalian or emotional brain). Therefore, learning is easier when a child is emotionally engaged, or having fun. At Miracle Moments, we not only engage with each child in general conversation in both English and Spanish, but we also make language fun by incorporating music, poetry and games in both languages.
For parents who would like to reinforce the language skills they are learning in school, I have provided below a list of tips to help you effectively engage your child in the learning process:
- Incorporate pictures and sounds to reinforce vocabulary words in another language. You can do this using flashcards with colorful pictures, having them tell you the word(s) they see.
- Don't be afraid to break out into song! We all have songs we learned in preschool and Kindergarten that we still know today. We retain these songs because putting concepts to music helps reinforce what the lyrics are saying.
- Talk to your child. When reviewing words with your son or daughter, pick simple words that you can then review in conversation later. For example, you might teach your child the Spanish word for "table", then talk about "la mesa" later on at dinner time.
- Remember that it takes time. When it comes to learning a language, there is a period between the time a child is taught the word and the time he or she uses it. Let the words "simmer" and things will happen naturally.
I hope these tips are helpful as you begin to explore the exciting world of languages! If your child is preschool or even elementary age, don't wait! Start working together with your child or her school in learning another language. In our increasingly bilingual society, you can't afford not to!