Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fourth grade foreign language

Fourth grade: Foreign language

Are you bilingual? If you are, when did you gain that ability? Did you learn at home, at the knee of a grandmother, or parent? Or did you gain that ability through lots of late hours and college language labs? I got a little bit of foreign language from both methods. My grandmother was my daytime sitter when I was very young. Spanish was spoken by most of the adults in and around her home, so I was exposed to hearing the pronunciation and to very basic vocabulary as a child. But we did not speak Spanish at home because my father made a decision when he came to the U.S. that English was the language of the country and therefore what we would learn to speak. As I got older and had to learn Spanish in school I realized that it would have been a lot easier if I had learned it at a younger age. I did have a good grasp on the pronunciation part of it because of the early exposure to the language, but the vocabulary and syntax were terrible to learn as an adult. As the world seems to grow smaller with the internet and 24 hour news cycles, our children will have more need of a foreign language than perhaps we do. For better or worse, by high school they will need to be studying another language besides English. Children have an amazing ability to accept new languages, it has something to do with the fact that pathways in their brains are still easily forming. We should not over look the opportunity to get our fourth graders started in foreign language study, even if they have not started to this point. There is a free language program offered by many public libraries, so check that out. Additionally, community centers and sometimes churches offer foreign languages for little or no cost. If you do not already have a second language, then maybe it can be a family study. Don’t forget that you can add history, social studies, geography, and other subjects to that language study to make it more interesting. It is not too late, jump on in!

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