Maggie Makes Four!

This journal started off documenting the adoption of our youngest daughter. It now follows the twist and turns of our lives as we raise these two amazing little creatures into the best women they can become.

Friday, May 18, 2007

We're In...

I wrote a while back that we'd applied to get La Nina into a special language program in our school district. We found out this week, she got in.

The program is really cool. It's called Dual Immersion. It's a language program where kids are immersed in a foreign language. So, La NIna kindergarten class will be taught 90% in Spanish. By 5th grade, her classes will be 50% in Spanish, 50% in English. If history dictates the future, by the time she heads into 6th grade, she will be literate in both Spanish and English. By eighth grade, she'll have the chance to take the AP Spanish test and earn college credits for her work. (About 1/2 the kids that took the AP test this year, passed.)

I've never waived in my desire to have her attend this program. I spent 2 years in a job with Global responsibilities and I did business on 5 continents. During that time, I saw first hand that Americans are just about the only people in the world that speak only one language. Most other countries introduce second language to their children by 1st grade...and many, many people speak 2 or more languages.

The thing that's been interesting to me is the comments I've gotten about our decision. I've been asked why I'd teach my Chinese child Spanish, why I'd neglect my child's english education and why I'd want her to learn a language that "servants" speak. It's been a little shocking frankly. Since I'm in a good mood tonight, I won't glare my answers like I usually do. But if you're curious, here are my answers:

1.) Why Spanish? Isn't it racist to assume Chinese kids must learm Mandarin? I mean, really. In high school, I'm pretty sure that all the kids taking Spanish, French and German are not of Spanish, French and German descent. I think the underlying question here is why not mandari?. It's simple: it's not offered. Chinese school conflicts with Church.

2.) Neglecting English: I've talked to teachers about how they're teaching writing these days, it's pretty unimpressive. There's more to writing than the five paragraph essay, and basically, that's all the schools prepare chidren to write. It's a shame. Creativity and experimentation has been removed from the writing process. La Nina will be taught to read and write (the five paragraph essay, of course) in both languages..I'm not sure what will be missing. Spelling? Ok, may be she'll be a little behind in spelling. Sorry...not worried about it.

3.) Spanish is Second class language: Ok...this is just racist. No doubt. But consider this: Spanish is a Latin based language, and most of the people I know are quickly able to pick up other latin based languages after learning Spanish. I've also heard and read that learning spanish young aids in reading development because it's more phonetic than English and kids pick it up faster. Don't know if it's true, but La Nina is very close to starting to read spontaneously, so she'll be a good proof point.

In the end, all the comments just make me more determined to challenge some of the stereotypes. I'm thrilled that she has the chance to learn a second language, and I'm really looking forward to the school year.


  • At 8:12 AM , Blogger Ani said...

    Congrats on your little girls acceptance at that school! I think its a great opportunity to learn 2 languages from an early age.

    Spanish is my first language (I live in PR) and I learned English from pre-k on. In high school, I took French (ashamed to say I didn't devote much effort to it, so I'm not fluent by any means).

    I will be forever grateful to my parents, who reinforced the NEED to speak more than 1 language. And we hope to do the same with our baby boy, who in the fall will start an English-speaking pre school.

  • At 2:35 PM , Blogger Debbie said...

    I live in Wales in the UK and only speak English. From the age of 2½ both my children went to Welsh- speaking nursery where they immerse them in the Welsh language and then they both went to Welsh speaking school. They didn't even learn to read and write English until they were 7. They never found it a problem at all and I am so glad I gave them the chance to speak 2 languages.

    Debbie in the UK

  • At 4:54 PM , Blogger One Lucky Mom said...

    Thank you both for your support.

    My commitment to Dual Immersion came about in South America. During a meeting with about 20 people, we discussed the language in which to do business...there were 3 choices--English, Spanish and Portuguese, but because Americans were present (and there were only 2 of us) they conducted the meeting in English. At that moment, I vowed that if I ever had kids, it would be different for them. I grateful to keep that promise to myself.

    Your testimonials make me realize this choice is more common that I thought.


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