They say the best way to learn a foreign language is to start young. Most of us had to take French or Spanish in high school, how much do you remember? Exactly. So you’d think that a new program to start teaching Spanish in Kindergarten would meet with wide parental approval. Not so fast…
Currently my daughter has a Spanish teacher visit her Kindergarten classroom once every three days. She speaks no English while she’s with the students so the kids are ‘forced’ to pay attention and (theoretically) learn better. All the research indicates that the best way to achieve results is to immerse the students in a foreign language.
This means that children enrolled in the new dual language program will have alternating days of instruction in Spanish and English. Literacy will always be in English, but other academics will alternate. The goal is to have students fluent by the time they leave elementary school after completing fifth grade.
The school has held numerous meetings with parents to discuss these plans and the program will be opt out, meaning that unless parents say no their child will be automatically enrolled in the dual language program.
On paper everything looks good to me. My daughter learns a second language and her young brain grows and thrives in an accelerated atmosphere. The reality is that every other day her homework will be in Spanish. Do I need to learn Spanish just to help her? The school suggests I do and has offered advice on how to go about doing it. What if she grows frustrated trying to learn math concepts in a different language? Will her academics suffer? Will she fall behind the kids who opt out?
Another big hurdle is that going forward into Middle and High School, classes will return to normal. There are plans to offer Spanish literature courses for graduates of the dual language program, but is it enough to maintain fluency?
Even given all this, we thought it was going to be an easy decision.
Her initial reaction to Spanish was overwhelmingly positive. Every day she’d come home singing Spanish songs and pointing out the Spanish names for household items. We thought this would be an easy choice. Then things changed, she grew frustrated at not being able to speak any English during Spanish class and when we asked her about learning MORE Spanish she said, ‘no way.’
Beyond the academic realities there are social obstacles as well. Enrollment in this program will mean that she will have the same classmates for the next five years…for better or worse.
Nothing has been decided yet and we will continue looking into it to see how it will affect our family.
If anyone has any experience in this area, I’d love to hear your thoughts.