Monday, May 18, 2015

¿Hablas Español?

Early in 2015, we started Benjamin at Language Stars. He's been attending Spanish class with an awesome teacher ever since. We paid something like $500 to finish the schoolyear with him in a 1-3yo class with other kids. I attend with him as it's a parent-tot class. Claire cannot attend, or the price will jump to double since she's above 1 year old. It would be awesome to bring her, but we didn't want to front the cash so soon and have it conflict with her naptime. This can pose a problem when I have no one to watch Claire and it has resulted in me rescheduling a number of classes.

We didn't enroll him in Spanish so we'd be those pretentious parents who can boast about their kids requesting to have mucho agua. It's just, we want him to have an upper hand in this world with language, knowing Spanish is progressively changing our country. It would be wonderful if he had a good base for Spanish as a second language as he grows into adulthood and his career life.

We're also quite terrible at acquiring languages ourselves. I can handle my own when in Mexico (especially after some cervezas), but basic and (short) conversational. About eight years of Spanish education between us and we barely scratch the surface understanding the language when spoken or in print. We know vocabulary and can probably take down some serious flashcards. We had a German tutor multiple times weekly while living in Germany, and I can get by in restaurants, short conversation and at the grocery store, but that's about it.

It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. We're old dogs.

But Benjamin and Claire? New, young, fabulously adorable little poodles. And we want them to have the advantage we didn't have. Their brains are sponges and inhibitions minimal and learning is the only thing they are responsible for doing at this stage in their lives. It's natural and easy.

I can roll my r's, can you? My husband can't. Maybe it's something you're born with, but maybe it's something you teach your brain to do, and at a young age if you're lucky.

One minor problem in this great Language Stars program. It's about as expensive as preschool and only 15% of the time he spends at preschool. It's pricey. They've raised the prices by 20% for fall and he'll be in the more expensive class sans parent in the new schoolyear. We can front it for him, but then what about Claire? How important is it really for us? And then there are swim lessons and enrichment classes and maybe sports... and they're not even in elementary school yet! I'd love to find a former Language Stars teacher to come teach my two kids under the table each week, but I feel a little awkward asking his current teacher about that. A Spanish-speaking nanny would be great, but I like the structure of the Language Stars program and fear a nanny won't be as engaging. Benjamin does watch television in Spanish and we have the whole set of Little Pim videos (they sell at Language Stars) he requested, but he rarely wants to watch those. I have the iPad apps and Spanish music and well... that's probably not going to cut it.

Two years from now, Benjamin will have a shot at the Spanish immersion program lottery for kindergarten, but that's two years away and without guarantees. But man would we love that!

Anyone else considering a second language program for their kiddo?


LookItsJessica said... [Reply to comment]

Second language lessons are included in the tuition at A's school. For what we pay, I expect something like that. I admit she probably knows more Spanish than anything else JUST because of Dora and the Spanish flashcards app. Our school prices are going up next year big time and we are adding an additional science class each day after the normal preschool hours. We also do swim lessons and dance. Expecting to DOUBLE these payments in the next 2-3 years as we add another child to the fam. I'm excited for public schools because a large expense will be eliminated. Although you could get deep and say we chose a pricier area to live and pay taxes just to have access to the schools.

Have you considered an international or Spanish language immersion preschool? They have one here, but we decided against it for other reasons. If Spanish is large priority, you might be killing two birds with one stone sending the kids to such a school.

Mama Bear said... [Reply to comment]

My niece and nephew are in Spanish immersion elementary and it is awesome! And public. We really hope we are in a neighborhood where this is an option in three years!!

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

This is so neat and I agree about wanting my kids to have a good foundation. I grew up in Arizona where Spanish was taught starting in elementary school (sadly budget cuts have stopped that), my Mom is a Spanish teacher, and father in law is from the Dominican, and yet I'm in the same boat as you - flashcards and restaurant conversations. I have taught Finn some very basic things but that's hard to keep up with And even harder to build on.

No advice, but I think what you're doing is muy bien :)

Mama Bear said... [Reply to comment]

Oh, and Julie S (fluent of course) is considering a Spanish immersion preschool for Cate in the fall.

Sneaker Teacher said... [Reply to comment]

We will probably enter Grace into the lotto for a Spanish immersion program. I think it would be a good way to ensure that she's challenged and my husband and I both speak Spanish, so I'd like my kids to learn the language too. Our local school has 30+ kids in the Kindergarten classes and that sounds like a nightmare to me. The Spanish immersion class has 24 spots to fill, which isn't a small class by any means, but at least since there's a lottery to get in, there should be consistency with that number and the kids who are in the class (not as many move ins/move outs that change the class dynamic). It's hard that the program is based on a lottery system though because we are not sure what we will do if she doesn't get in. And, although they have some system where siblings are given preference, there is no guarantee siblings get accepted.

I think it's so important for kids to grow up bilingual. I wish I did. I learned Spanish in high school and took only one year in college, but through teaching in a Head Start program I became decently fluent and have some opportunities to practice with parents at my current school.

Laura Jane said... [Reply to comment]

I'm with E- I can't roll my rs at all!

We have french as our second language here (obvi.) and I took it until the end of the tenth grade. Ultimately I don't have much knowledge of it left, but I would love for our girls to know it. We have the option for emersion, but my high school bf was in that and his language skills in English were meh (he was also a terrible boyfriend, but that's neither here nor there). lol

Jenny said... [Reply to comment]

As a K-12 French and German teacher, at B's age the biggest benefits are sound exposure and cultural differences exposure. Occasional freshman would show up all cocky about their preschool or Kindergarten language classes... and would be on level ground with other 14 year olds by the eighth week due to HS pacing.

The way the brain acquires language is this: baring speech impediment, all babies are born with the ability to make all sounds in any language in the world. Because of a limiting environment, they attuned their ears and mouths to making the sounds they hear daily. Playing sound mimicking games helps playfully maintain an "ear" and mouth for languages. Playing a musical instrument helps, too. As do excellent math skills. The window of opportunity for the brain begins to close at age 14 (insert gripe here about HS only language programs), but the brain isn't totally set until about 22-26 (why college matters more at a younger age).

The best advice I can give is, expose him to a variety of experiences and model interest yourselves. He will make his cultural preferences known as he ages, and may not be interested in Spanish but may prefer Mandarin or Latin. Keep all cultural doors open until he's a teen and make his own decisions.

Since you speak Spanish conversationally, you should be able to confidentially read children's books from the library... dual language ones are great because you can read one day in English and the next day in Spanish. High Five magazine has a regular story rotation that introduces basic phrases within an English story (code switching is ok at PreK). You could stretch your brain by sight translating any basic story around your house into either Spanish or German... hey, breaks up the monotony of reading the same story the same way for the millionth time!! And since you all like to get out and about, go to cultural festivals, like Chinatown for New Year or go eat dim sum after reading library books about it.

Language Stars hires excellent teachers and has honed their curriculum, but they are expensive. If you want, I have connections with teachers, students, and tutors in Chicagoland who could work on your schedule... and as the daughter of a 203 language teacher, don't be too wowed by the elementary language programs.

Julie said... [Reply to comment]

So…is Language Stars a portion of his preschool day or is it a Spanish immersion preschool program? I'm with you, I want our kids to have a solid exposure at least and have failed pretty miserably at speaking it at home.
I want to know what Spanish TV shows you have him watching! Channels? I TOTALLY need to be taking advantage of that action. Daniel Tiger has to be translated into Spanish on some channel…doesn't it?!