Children pick up language much easier than adults. For that reason, it has become commonplace for elementary schools to integrate a bilingual program into the curriculum for students in Kindergarten up through grade five or so. After that, the student can decide whether or not he or she will stick with the Spanish language or try learning a new one.
However, based on the rapid rate at which kids learn language, they are usually able to speak it sufficiently by then. Shows like Dora the Explorer provide further evidence that children are encouraged to pick up Spanish early so that they won’t need a Spanish translation service later in life when the Spanish-speaking population has grown even larger in the United States. One grade school in Texas has adopted a novel approach to teaching students to speak Spanish.
School Offers Two-Way Dual Language Program
McDougal Elementary School in Texas has launched a bilingual program designed to make students bilingual and bi-literate. The goal of the program is for students to come out of grade school with a fluency and deep understanding of the Spanish language. The program is designed so that students learn certain subjects in English and others in Spanish.
Each class is a mix of Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students. After lessons, students are paired up with a speaker of the opposite language. The pairs try to solve problems in each language, and teachers often witness the students helping each other to understand, almost acting as English and Spanish translators for each other.
Teachers Rely Heavily on Gestures and Images
The teachers in the bilingual program rely heavily on gestures to maintain students’ attention and interest. One teacher explained that language is 80% non-verbal, so she makes sure images and hand movements are a major part of her lessons.
Though the results are not yet quantifiable, teachers say that they are seeing a major improvement in their students’ linguistic abilities. They went from speaking only one language to being able to provide English to Spanish translations at the drop of a dime.
By teaching children to become bilingual at an early age, we are setting them up to be fluent for life. This skill will come in handy when they enter the business world or any other facet of life that is culturally varied. At the very least, we might be saving them money on a Spanish to English translator some day.