Hablo Espanol?

My daughter, L, is four years six months.  When we lived in Illinois, for about a minute, I enrolled her in a Spanish immersion class run by a foreign language school specifically for children.  During the 45 minute, Mommy & Me style class, she was invited through song and snack to parrot the teacher and speak Spanish.  By the end of the series, her Spanish sounded more like words and she did better when I went to the bathroom – evidence that it was time to move to the next level.  Unfortunately, it was also time for us to move to Texas.

This school, called Language Stars, was a commercial enterprise but it totally worked.  The songs were all traditional children songs replaced with lessons on big vs small, hot vs cold, simple terms that children can understand.  We got lessons to take home.  I would post them on the refrigerator and use them during the week – I’d point to her hand and say “mano” and ask her to repeat.  Sometimes L would, sometimes not.  Did it help?  I don’t know.  I think it made it okay to have fun in the class, and of course L had no idea that I don’t speak actually Spanish.  Or any other language besides English.

Learning a second language was a struggle for me.  I got mediocre grades in the class.  No matter how much I studied the best I could ever do was a B.  I just don’t have the mind for memory.  My husband was luckier and excelled in his French studies (and so much more).  If she is anything like me, L is in big trouble.  Now, I want to tell you that this is all about her future and being bilingual will open so many doors for her, etc.  While this is definitely true, I confess that I also worry about the competition in public school.  Let’s face it.  The Asian kids are already being tutored in math at her age and will continue to do so through high school.  Unless she’s an Einstein in hiding (possible, not probable), she’ll likely feel intimidated by the competition (I would!).  I want to protect her, and speaking a second language is a good way to arm her with smarts early.   And what I have been told again and again is that the earlier a child learns a language the easier it is for them.  We are getting dangerously close to the end of Lillian’s prime language learning time.

Language Stars is only in Illinois.  I passed on a couple of Spanish immersion preschools and picked a Montessori close to the house.  Dallas has an International School where she can take a 1 hour class in French or Spanish.  Of course, we would have to pay.

And this is the rub.  Our financial situation is, let’s just say, less than stellar.  We are facing a redesign of our budget to do more with less.  We are also facing having to pay for a larger chunk of her current tuition at Montessori due to the economic slowdown and a certain family member no longer being able to help with tuition (we were grateful for what we got and J and I understand the situation completely).  We are readjusting all over the place.  Should we put ourselves out even more and spend the money on the class, thus feeling better that her brain is being developed at this important time before we run out of time, or just let it go and if she struggles with language then she does (and maybe she won’t)?  Am I being weak-minded by worrying about how she will compete in highschool or smartly preparing her for the future?  What would you do?

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9 responses to “Hablo Espanol?

  1. Learning a second language isn’t just about preparing her to compete in school; you’re also helping to prepare her for life — and work — in a multicultural society and a global economy. You’re expanding her opportunities.

    But, if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it. And she can still learn those languages, later. You could also focus on multi-lingual videos, games, flash cards, etc.., until your financial situation improves.

    • These are some good ideas. We have a cd from that Illinois school that we listen to and because I learned French and a little Italian, I can interpret some of the words.

      If she knows how to use the word “mas,” does that count as bilingual?

  2. Wow, that’s a tough call!

    But the thing is, you don’t really know how she’s going to feel once she’s in school. You are not her, and she isn’t you. You might guess she’d feel intimidated, but maybe she’ll look at it as a challenge to better herself, and nothing more. Or, if she IS intimidated, you can help her see where she has strengths, and help turn her attitude more towards bettering herself vs. comparing her abilities or lack of knowledge to other kids.

    I had this very struggle growing up, when I entered piano competitions. The Asian kids often had a leg up on technicalities and straight up ability, but when it came to raw talent and expression, I had ’em beat every time. I worked diligently to improve my technique and dexterity, and as a result I became a far better pianist than I otherwise would have (if technically superior Asian kids hadn’t been in the picture).

    Point is… a language can be learned. If she chooses to learn it down the line, then she will. It’s as simple as that.

    If money is tight but you still want her to learn, find other ways. Find a teaching CD or contact UNT or another local college to find out if any education majors need extra credit hours, or you can pay $10/hour for them to work with her one on one. Something like that. Get creative! Just because you want her to learn Spanish now doesn’t mean there’s only one way (or one “right” way) to accomplish that goal.

    • I didn’t know you were a pianist. How interesting. What age did you start? That’s a whole different blog entry for me, actually. But I am interested to know. And hear you play.

      Thanks for the reality check. I don’t know how she will react – the challenge of parenting is to notice when I am transferring my anxiety on to her and when I am logically in her world.

      Yeah, being creative would be great. I have found, unfortunately, that that takes a lot of work! I might start with the lessons and look around for alternatives while she is still learning, rather than waiting for me to get it together and find a cheaper way.

  3. My oldest daughter spent the first 4 years of her life in El Paso with a live in maid who no habla Inglish. She did not speak alot of spanish around the house (I took Berlitz and was pretty fluent at the time), but when she was between 1-2 she responded better to Spanish commands than English. Fast forward to Highschool and College. She got A’s in spanish, but I dont think learning it at a young age helped alot because once we left El Paso she had no reason to keep up with it. If you teach your child a language what will you do to keep her fluent in it until highschool?

  4. I had my oldest in Waldorf school when she was in 1st grade. after that we could no longer afford the tuition, so she went to public school. We kept in contact with a few of her Waldorf classmates, and many of them are now needing tutoring to adjust to middle school, where my daughter is doing great, all A’s and B’s. I was worried back in those early days that she was missing something, so I supplemented her public school education with things I found online or from our library. You would be amazed at the free resources that are out there.
    Look into bi lingual playgroups too, we found one where every month we focused on one of our member’s native culture, eating foods and learning the language, mostly simple phrases, but the kids picked up on this so easily, and I feel like all 3 of my children are more well rounded and curious about things as a result.
    Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities, they seem to show up like miracles!
    ~In my opinion, your being stressed over money issues will affect your child more than the positive effects of being bi lingual will.

  5. I’d hold off just for a while….to get used to the budget restructuring, and then see. She might have to be older than you’d like her to be to continue her studies, but she should still do really well.

  6. Or you can pirate some language software…. not that I’d ever do that… I’m just sayin’….