From the August, 2018 issue
American immigrants have long turned toward early immersive language programs for their children as a way to preserve a connection to their heritage. More recently, other parents have caught on to the benefits.
Jessica Carter is director of the Manzanitas Spanish Immersion Preschool on Packard near Eisenhower. A mile east on Packard, just past Platt, May DeLosh directs May's Chinese/English Bilingual Preschool.
PreK kids, both directors explain, are at a prime position to learn a new language and gain the benefits.
"After twelve years old, you could have a hard time learning tones," says DeLosh. Chinese is a tonal language, and she says that mastering tones early can also help children with music and math.
The schools encourage kids to learn through play, and let them speak whatever language feels most comfortable. "If they need water," says Carter, "or to go to the bathroom, or a hug, they can tell us those things in English and we'll just repeat it in Spanish."
Both schools also are seeing more students who have no family connection to the language. DeLosh estimates only 25 percent of her students have Chinese heritage, while Carter estimates that hers are equally divided between families with and without a native speaker at home.
Both directors say they'd like to see more immersive and multilingual preschools, and better language education for American children. "The most important goal is that we get kids exposed to this valuable language," says DeLosh. "I think everyone should go to an immersion program like ours!" Carter agrees.
[Originally published in August, 2018.]
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