When and why should I introduce a second language to my child? Studies show the earlier exposure to foreign languages, the easier they are to learn and excel at. In addition, on average, students who are fluent in more than one language have higher IQs, much higher vocabulary levels, and perform better on standardized tests. In Texas, most students are required to take at least a couple foreign language classes in high school and/or college (definitely helpful if they’ve had some prior exposure.) Lisa Brown-Olsen of The Language Project discusses the multiple benefits of second language exposure in this video. I think you’ll be amazed at how learning a second language can benefit so many aspects of child development!
Simple ways to expose your children to another language at home:
- Get a first words book or beginner teaching books for another language. I self-taught myself with sign language books so I could sign with my two girls (We aren’t fluent, but it helped my girls communicate much more easily before they were able to speak.)
- Watch TV in another language or choose a show that incorporates foreign language vocabulary in to the program. My daughter loved learning new signs on the show Baby Signing Time and occasionally picks up words in Spanish when she watches Dora the Explorer!
- Choose toys that offer settings for more than one language! V-Tech and Fisher Price both make a lot of fun bilingual toys for early exposure.
- Attend a bilingual story time at your local bookstore library! The Lone Star College Cy-Fair Library hosts a free Spanish Storytime every Thursday morning. Their library programs are usually excellent, but packed, so get here early if you plan to go!
- At the library, pick up bilingual picture books to explore. My 2 year old loves the Richard Scarry Best Word Book Ever / El Mejor Libro De Palabras de Richard Scarry which features a ton of pictures and the English and Spanish word for each.
- Listen to music in other languages. On a road trip this summer, we brought along a Sesame Street Playground CD we borrowed at the library which featured songs from multiple cultures. It was a really fun way to expose our family to other languages!
If you’re looking for a place for your child to begin or continue learning a second language in the Katy area, Crossing Borders Katy is definitely a great option to look in to. I visited the center during their after-school program and observed a Mandarin class and beginner Spanish class. The class sizes are just right for opportunities to practice communication while also allowing for very personalized attention and assistance. In the Spanish class, the teacher was a sweet mothering lady who laughed with the students while also implementing excellent class management and discipline when it was needed. She encouraged each beginner elementary students to speak in Spanish as much as possible. Most directions she gave were twice in Spanish, once in English, and repeated in Spanish for optimum comprehension. Both teachers really worked to incorporate all learning styles into the lessons- there were hands-on games, musical learning, practice in writing, listening and speaking, and both independent and collaborative work. They used both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards to motivate the students. The atmosphere was studious and enjoyable at the same time. I truthfully hadn’t considered foreign language classes for my little girls before, but as I sat in the class, I couldn’t help but thinking about how I really could see them enjoying class while truly learning a foreign language at Crossing Borders.
What they offer: Foreign language classes for all ages and lifestyles in a variety of times and formats- one-on-one, small group classes, family classes, online, in-home and more. Classes are available for German, English, Spanish, French, and Mandarin. After explaining the huge variety of class options, Ms. Sylvia of Crossing Borders told me “they always take input from a parent and create a new class if they don’t already offer what a parent wants/needs”. For instance, if a parent wants to enroll a very young child for which there isn’t a class already advertised, she said “call and they will do their best to arrange it”! They also offer after-school programs and day camps during holiday and summer breaks which incorporate learning about cultures and languages through crafts, field trips and fun activities.
What’s Special: The teachers I observed were really top notch; they seemed passionate about teaching and really used a lot of strategies and “best practices” to maximize learning in the classrooms. I also got the impression from everyone I spoke to at Crossing Borders that they are very open to customizing and creating new classes to meet the needs of any student(s), which is definitely a rare feature for extra-curricular programs.
What do you think? In the comments section, tell us what language you think would be most beneficial for your child to learn and why!
By Mary West
About me: Mama, wife, daughter, sister, teacher/tutor. I took Spanish for 3 years in high school and taught my girls baby ASL with a book from Half Price Bookstore. Becoming fluent in another language is on my bucket list!