Children that learn a second language are provided several advantages often including higher test scores, increased understanding of their native language, heightened cultural understanding and appreciation, and better problem solving skills. These students will also have more opportunities in various career fields because "within the next 10 years more people will speak the language in the US than in Spain." (Manuel Morales, 2018).
Prior to staying home with my crew I was a Spanish and ELL teacher, so naturally I believe it is important for them to learn a second language. I began speaking Spanish to them early on, but admittedly, not as often as I should have. It worked well with our first, but I did a poor job maintaining it on a regular basis.
I traveled one summer break with a friend and we spent a couple of weeks studying in Tamarindo, Costa Rica and I just fell in love. Our family has visited several times since, and on our latest trip our oldest boys were old enough to attend Spanish Language school at Wayra Spanish School.
The school is located between Tamarindo and Langosta and caters to young children as well as college students and professionals working to increase their language ability for the workplace. Wayra also offers a Spanish and Surf program as well as a Homestay Program for those interested in making the most of their language acquisition.
On the first day my oldest was very much against the idea. We mentioned the program months before our trip and he immediately let us know that he would not be attending and that we shouldn't waste our money. His brother, on the other hand, didn't have one complaint and was excited to attend. This pretty much sums up how each of them felt before heading into the school for the first time.
Be advised that the less enthusiastic of the two is often against all things new. Each unfamiliar adventure requires an amount of encouraging before finally convincing him it will most likely not be the worst experience of his life. Last year, I may or may not have had to physically push him off the side of the mountain on a zip line tour. He survived and met me at the bottom yelling about how much fun it was and that he couldn’t wait to do it again. (I was in an advanced pregnant state or would have joined him.)
All to say, he also made it through his first day in a Spanish only classroom and loved it! We are returning for a quick trip soon, and he is sad that he doesn’t have time to attend school this time.
They spent four hours each morning in a small class reviewing basics like the alphabet, colors, numbers, and more. Their instructor quickly added more vocabulary and created activities for them to practice their written and oral language with her. They returned each morning to review what they were learning, begin new vocabulary and practice their verbal skills.
After the first day of class, I noticed an immediate interest in the boys wanting to practice their pronunciation and learn new vocabulary. They would ask for the translation to new words several times a day and point out written language all through town on signage, in restaurants, and at the store. It was so fun watching their young minds recognize the similarities between English and Spanish. Where the oldest was typically more inhibited practicing new vocabulary and conversation, he was no longer shy about going for it.
Once we returned home we soon began our home school curriculum. Spanish was the subject they reached for first which immediately made me aware of the confidence they had gained over the summer. Here are a few differences I have noticed in their language learning due to them studying Spanish abroad in Costa Rica:
- They are quickly learning material that I taught in Spanish One at the high school level. Concepts that I think may take a bit of time to grasp come as common knowledge to them. I am very much enjoying watching them learn at a young age because they are not spoiled by all of the English grammar rules and accept differences in the language pattern with ease.
- They have been much more confident reading to me in Spanish than previously. They read children's books to me and while they are not familiar with all of the vocabulary, their pronunciation has greatly improved.
- I often hear them speaking to each other in Spanish. Sometimes it is memorized conversation they learned in school, but it often includes new questions and comments to each other as their vocabulary increases.
- They are recognizing and enjoy hearing others speak Spanish more often while we are out and about. We are in a suburb where there are not many Spanish speakers, so the kids quickly notice when we head to more populated areas of Spanish speakers and, therefore seem to have a better understanding of the importance of needing to learn it for life and career purposes.
Morales, M. 2018, July 5th. Number of Spanish Speakers Tops 577 Million. Retrieved from https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/07/05/inenglish/1530780465_701866.html.