Thursday, February 28, 2013

A third language???!!

I recently saw this in facebook, and I loved it. 
Something I just recently experienced is connected to this part on the poster "Bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language than monolinguals do to learn a second."  As you know I work with kids. Let me rephrase that: I play, sing and dance with kids in Spanish. I do this once a week at a pre-school near downtown. When I first got the job the director told me that there were a lot of children in that school that were bilingual, and that Spanish was going to be their third language. I wondered how that would turn out. When I was in college I tutored a high-school freshman in Spanish. He hated Spanish. He was already bilingual, he spoke English and Greek. He was also really good at Spanish but didn't want to do the work. He was a little bit lazy. His excuse was "I am already bilingual, I don't need Spanish." Yet, he was so good at it. I did what I could. Now, working with 2-5 year olds the story is very different. In the second class I taught on Monday morning there was a little boy who speaks Italian at home. He was so eager to learn Spanish, and he was no afraid to pronounce words incorrectly. Yes he would sometimes add a little Italian spice to the Spanish words. His accent was great, and he wanted to participate and help others. In the next class I met his younger brother. I found that this little boy was also not afraid to try new words and participate. The little one was only 2 years-old. Many 2 year-olds remain quiet the entire class, and only participate when I ask them to dance or move their hands. Then in my last class another boy who spoke Hindi at home, was also very eager to learn Spanish. He was the first one with his hand up, and would say the new learned words over and over quietly to himself before saying them aloud. 
Of course, many of the other kids who were not bilingual were very eager to participate and try on the new words. It just struck me as interesting that the ones that were the most eager, loudest and excited were the ones who already spoke and heard two languages at home. Not only is it easier for them to learn a third language, but it also helps their confidence and self-esteem. I see 2 year olds three times a week, and for the most part they are quiet and careful. If their parents or caregivers are with them then they open up some. However, if they are in class with a bunch of kids their age they tend to be more careful. It's funny, because my 2 year-old class is my best class. They are the best listeners I could ever ask for. As for my 4 year-olds... well let's just say I'm going out and buying lots and lots of stickers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Making progress.

One of the hardest things as a language teacher is to know whether your students are learning. I remember teaching ESL to beginners my 2nd year as a teacher and thinking that I was an absolute failure. As I mentioned before, I believe immersion is the best way to learn a language. So, I used immersion with the beginner ELLs (English Language Learners). From September until May I spoke only in English to 34 ELLs. I could see some progress in their writing, but I still wasn't sure if they could speak it. The silent period lasts for about a month. There I was thinking that I was awful, and wondering what to change. Then May came and so did another birthday. Along with this birthday there were many birthday cards from almost all 34 of my beginner ELLs which were all written in English and then they wished me happy birthday in English, and from then on, until June 28th all our conversations (and there were many) were in English. It was so great to know that they had learned from all my crazy plans, and that they could actually understand my instructions. This is what keeps me sane on days when I am teaching a 1-year-old something new. A 1-year-old who doesn't speak .
Like any parent, I've been teaching Nesta new words, how to say thank you and please, body parts and so on. It's hard to know if he understands me, because he does respond to me it's just jibberish. And, yes I do respond to his jibberish- I encourage him to communicate in which ever way works for him. As he grows he is able to do more things. He likes to mimic and point. Lately that is how I know he's making progress and he does understand me when I speak to him in Spanish and he understands his dad who speaks to him in English. For example, I have been teaching him where his head, eyes, nose and teeth are. He's always pointed to his head, but I wasn't sure if he was pointing to it because he knew that was his head or because he felt like pointing to his head. After all he's a kid and he's got many ideas going in his brain; one minute he's dancing the next one he's decided he needs a spatula to mix his legos. Now, we play a game in the car when I say (in Spanish) "Where is your head?" and so on. He usually points correctly to his head, nose, eye, feet, teeth and tongue. He also knows many other things that often surprise me, and he's now trying to repeat words after I say them to him (over and over). Today he tried to say "gracias." The other day he tried to say "nariz." I am pretty sure he tried saying "tongue" as well. It's hard to know because he still is just speaking jibberish. 
All I know is that I don't feel so crazy now when I am explaining, showing, repeating and holding conversations with him. Now I know he's responding to me in his own way. I also know that he's responding to me in Spanish and to his dad in English. Call me crazy, but I just know it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bilingual dogs?

Recently I was co-teaching a class with a woman whose native tongue is Spanish. She speaks English as a second language and has been in the United States for three years. She was trying to get a kid to play with some toys, and she kept making the animal noises to get the 2-year-old's attention. I joined in with her, and suddenly we were both barking and ribbit-ing. The funny thing is that she took a toy dog and said "guau-guau" and I said "ruff, ruff." We looked at each other and laughed. She then said to me, "you know that animals speak different in English and in Spanish." 
Then I suddenly remembered having that conversation in the past, and now I realize that my animals speak mostly English! This does not bode well for someone who is teaching her son Spanish. It really doesn't matter, I just find it funny and interesting. The reason most of my animals speak English is because I have learned my animal noises from Gram. His animals are very sophisticated sounding- almost like the animal itself. It's weird how good he is at that. I am not, but I do try. I cannot even spell out what a rooster sounds like in English-but I know in Spanish is "qui-qui-riqui." Baby chicks say "peep-peep" in English and "pio-pio-pio" in Spanish. Gram now says "pio-pio" though. Does this mean he's learning Spanish? 
I went searching in Nesta's books the different noises that animals make, and I found a few that support the fact that animals do sound different in different languages.
One of the few bilingual books.
 "The baby chicks are singing peep peep peep"               "Los pollitos dicen pio, pio, pio."
                                          Lions growl.
                                          El leon dice GRRR.
                                                     El perro dice "guau-guau."
                                                      El gallo dice "qui-quiri-qui."

What do animals say in other languages? 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Language schools in Chitown.

Disclosure: This is my humble opinion based on the experiences I've had at each school I have visited. Every family's dynamic and needs are different. I compared both schools and at the end of this post, I express my opinion on which one I think works best based on quality of classes, budget and location.

Maybe you don't speak a second language, but you want your kids to. Maybe you are the only one at home who speaks a second language and you want your kids to be expose to that language more. We always think about teaching Nesta a third language. I know, we're crazy-the kid doesn't even speak yet! So I started researching language schools in Chicago while trying to find Story Time in Spanish for Nesta. I was also secretly searching for me. I may want to take up French again. 

I have already posted about Multilingual Chicago and my experience there with Nesta. This is about our trial class at Language Stars. You can explore their website here 
If you type <language schools for kids> on your google search engine, the first school that comes up is Language Stars. It is conveniently located on 1741 N. Elston Avenue. They also have centers in Evanston/Wilmette and other suburbs. Here is how our experience with Language Stars went:

First I tried to set up a free-trial class via email like I did with Multilingual Chicago. I find email so much easier, but I understand that it can be impersonal. A Language Stars recruiter did email me back, but they also called me-often. Finally I called them and we set up a day for Nesta to try the class. The day was scheduled for a month after the phone call. Then I got a call a week before the class and they told me that class was actually full and if I could please change it. I did, hoping that the time would work for Nesta's nap. The class was pushed back again. Then I was called and the class was changed again because the class was full. However, this last change was on the same week and it worked for us. 

We went to the class yesterday. The great thing about the Lincoln Park center is that they have a parking lot. Of course, I parked in the wrong parking lot and had to go move the car. A man there volunteered to watch Nesta while I did that. I was a bit hesitant since Nesta has what in Spanish we call "mamitis." Nesta was actually fine. I ran, of course but when I was back Nesta was playing with toys and giving the instructor a hard time. There was a lot of chanting in the class, and action verbs were introduced. There were visual aids on the board, and the instructor would point to them. There was a song on the board as well that we used with each verb. It went like this "Puedes correr? Si, puedo correr" over and over. So each time we changed the verb. Then we counted until 10. Then we ran around in a circle. After all the action verbs were sang about, we moved on to a little table. I really like this part. Mainly, because Nesta lately has been good at sitting at tables. He doesn't last long, but it's a start. So the kids sat on the table and the caregivers sat behind them. Many of the kids participated often which was nice to see. There was a lot of clapping too. At the table each kid was given a place mat with all the action verbs. First the instructor tickled their bellies, then she grabbed their hands and told them they were dirty. She handed them wipes to clean their hands with. Most kids cleaned the table, Nesta included. Then she handed them cheerios which Nesta proceeded to spill all over the floor. The cheerios were supposed to be used as markers. The kids had to move the cheerios over to the action verb the instructor spoke aloud. Some cheerios were moved, some were eaten. The instructor then brought out water, which scared me so I ran to get Nesta's cup. She still gave him a little bit of water, then another little bit which ended up down his shirt. Still, he got the experience of sitting with kids at a table eating. After being at the table, we moved back to the mat and the instructor pulled out balls to practice the verb of "tirar la pelota" as they threw the ball to their caregivers. Nesta just wanted to get into the bag where all the balls came from. I had to step out to give Nesta a snack, since an hour is a bit long for a little guy. When we went back in they were singing the "Hasta Luego" song. 

There was another mom there with her daughter also trying the class. We were both instructed to stay in the room and a guy came in to talk to us about tuition. After he explained tuition he asked if I wanted to sign up. I said that I have to talk to my husband. On the way out, a little old lady saw Nesta walking and she said "he's so young, what's he learning here?" I explained to her that we were just trying it out. She then asked me what other language I spoke. I told her, and she responded "well he'll just learn from you, why are you here?!" I thought that exchange was funny since everyone in the center heard, and tried not to look worried. I laughed, and said good bye. I thought about it, and I was not the only native Spanish speaker at the class. There was another mom with her boy there who was a native speaker. It might seem silly to enroll Nesta in a Spanish class, but I understand why moms do it. They want their kids to be totally immersed in Spanish. So many of our family members speak English, and the world around us speaks English. I'm not enrolling Nesta in a Spanish class, if anything we would enroll him in a French class. I was doing some research, and since I speak Spanish I wanted to experience that class first. 

Actually, we've been trying to take him to "French Explorers" at Multilingual, but it is an early class. It is during Nesta's nap. One day we'll make it. Maybe next year this blog will be "Trilingual Bebe."

What I like about:    Multilingual Chicago                                

        • El Cuento on Tuesdays and Thursday from 10:30-11am.
        • El Cuento is $10 drop-in, no commitment. 
        • Native Spanish speakers as instructors. 
        • A half hour class is all Nesta can handle right now.     
        • It is much closer to my home, located on Central Park and Milwaukee (2934 N. Milwaukee Avenue.)
        • I was welcomed by the front desk lady, and she showed me around.
        • After my trial class with Nesta, I was asked how it went and was not asked if I wanted to enroll.
        • There is a little cafe where the kids hang out after while having a snack that Multilingual Chicago provides.
        • They have coffee for tired moms. (it's the little things!) 
        • If we ever decide to sign up for "French Explorers," it is only $270 for 12 weeks, 50 minutes a week. 
        • They let you sign up whenever, which means a pro-rated price.

                                     Language Stars
        • They have an indoor parking lot.
        • It's in a part of Lincoln Park that is easy to get to.
        • Native Spanish speakers as instructors.
        • The class was long, but there were breaks for the kids like moving to the table for a little snack.   
        • A nice man volunteered to watch Nesta while I moved my car.         
   Really, when it comes down to it both schools offer the same type of class. There is chanting, dancing and lots of repetition throughout the class. The quality of the class is the same at both centers: amazing! Nesta had a blast at each class. He was always included, and asked to repeat even though he doesn't speak. To me it came down to tuition. Language Stars charges $1489.52 for 17 weeks, twice a week. They offered me a 10% discount on that. If I chose to just go once a week then the price was $744.76 with not 10% discount. I'm not very good at math, but I can add, divide, multiply and subtract. Multilingual Chicago is just $270 for 12 weeks, once a week. Maybe, the 10 minute difference is what makes Language Stars pricier, but I didn't include that in the math. Classes at Multilingual Chicago for Nesta's age group are 50 minutes, at Language Stars they are 60 minutes. That's 70 more minutes at Language Stars. However, Nesta is not ready for 50 or 60 minutes. Thirty minutes works great for us, which is another reason why I like Multilingual Chicago best. I don't have to pay a ton, and I don't have to commit. If he had a good nap then we go to story time "El Cuento" on Tuesdays. Sometimes one of the meet-ups I am part of sets up an agreement with Multilingual Chicago and I take advantage of that. 
When I arrived at Language Stars it took a minute for me to find someone. I needed to talk to someone about where I parked. They were busy, not ignoring me. I wasn't shown around, I was just told I couldn't park where I parked, and then shown the classroom. There was no cafe or place to hang out at. Everyone, was nice and that was that. I really did not enjoy the fact that they called me often. I got a call every week twice a week from someone different to schedule the class. With Multilingual Chicago, it was all done via email. Once it was set up that was that. They didn't call me, or push me to sign up. 
When it comes to location, they are both easy to get to. However, I live closer to Multilingual Chicago. Even if I didn't, I would drive there for "El Cuento."

I also found another language schools called Lango Kids:  However, the closest center is in the South Loop. That's out of the way for me. The next class that I can sign up for is in March. I may try it. You should check out their website.          
Nesta after class.