Implementing World Languages in Elementary Classrooms
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Female polyglot explains how to learn languages (CBS) - YouTube

CBS 5 Bay Sunday (San Francisco) interview about the book, Language is Music, with book author, Susanna Zaraysky. Topics: learning foreign languages using mu...
Susan Volinski's insight:

     This was such a great video about HOW to make teaching world languages fun, salient, and exciting. A polyglot is someone who can speak, write, and read multiple languages fluently. CBS had an interview with Susanna Zaraysky, a polyglot and an author. This woman can speak seven languages! I was so impressed, and in my mind, I can’t even imagine having the time to learn that many, and fluently at that! Her method is simply by listening to music, watching TV, and listening to the radio. Her overall message was that “language is music,” which happens to be also the title of her book. She says that before we ever start speaking we are exposed to the language we will be learning. We are always listening, just like music. We listen to a song enough times, we start to pick up on the lyrics. She uses this exact same method and applies it to learning world languages. What stood out to me was when she said, “the way we learn languages, as adults and adolescents, is completely backwards.” This struck me, because as a future teacher, and possible world language teacher, I want to know all the different ways of learning a language. I was definitely intrigued by what she was going to say next, and was not in the least bit offended just because from taking world language classes in high school and college, it can become extremely boring and tedious.

     She says that before one even starts to learn a language through words and textbooks, one has to listen to the language through the media to get accustomed to how the sounds are made. I never even thought about that, because from every language class the first thing we always do is start speaking. I take Chinese at UMD, and for the first year, my professors were constantly correcting my tones (Chinese is a tonal language) and words.  So to me, it makes perfect sense to listen to the language before you are going to speak it.

     One concern that I had though was when she said that she learned Spanish in one year. I don’t know how much I believe her just because I don’t know if it is possible to become fluent in a language after one year. So I guess now I’m wondering what she classifies as “fluent.” Then again, she may indeed be fluent if she did spend a lot of her time just being immersed to the sounds of Spanish before she actually started studying the language.

     She finishes up by describing how to make sure a language is retained. She says that most students go to class and spend about 2-3 hours a week in a language class, and then they continue to live their lives in their primary language. She says the only way to fully immerse oneself and become fluent is by relying only on the language you are learning by watching all TV in the language, balancing a checkbook in the language, putting sticky notes of different words around the house, and so on. If I ever go into the field of teaching foreign languages, I feel that I will definitely incorporate the sticky notes around the classroom and allowing the children to listen to the language through a children’s TV shows. I feel this is important for all teachers to incorporate into their classrooms, especially for students who are learning English as a second language.

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Dual language immersion and bilingual education - YouTube

There are two types of school that teach in a foreign language: bilingual and dual language immersion programs. Learn about the different paths of bilingual ...
Susan Volinski's insight:

     This GreatSchools YouTube video provides parent perspectives on signing their child up for a dual immersion or bilingual education school. The whole video is very interesting and creative, because as the narrator is talking, there is a person drawing out what he is describing in time lapse. One of the reasons I chose this topic is because although learning a second language has many cognitive benefits, I wanted to get a deeper understanding of the programs and why many people are still skeptical about them. The narrator discusses dual immersion programs with his friends, all of whom are fathers of children about to enroll in schools. They said that one of the reasons they are not wanting to put their children through a Spanish immersion program is because they had trouble in school as it was, without having to learn a second language. Another parent, who speaks Spanish, said that because his child already speaks English, there is no need for him to learn Spanish. I was appalled when I heard these comments, because it seemed to me that these parents feel learning a second language is a crutch and something that gets in the way of learning the traditional math and English subjects altogether. As a bilingual person, I came to the United States with no English language abilities. I was immediately enrolled into an elementary school and started 1st grade when I was five. Yes, it was difficult at first, but as I kept going to school, learning English became easier, and as I continued to learn English in school, I simultaneously spoke Russian at home. I don’t like when people treat children who know a second language as a negative aspect to their learning abilities. If anything, knowing a second language allows the child to think in ways that a monolingual speaker can’t.

     The narrator described the different types of immersion programs for languages, one of which is the immersion and dual language program, which allows children to learn two languages, for example: English and Chinese, and become bilingual by the time they graduate high school. But a lot of parents turn down these options because they are uncomfortable with the idea of having a child learn a second language because they will not be able to assist their child in homework and language acquisition outside the classroom. I feel that parents should not let this interfere with giving a child an opportunity to learn a second language. Personally, I feel that all schools should offer these immersion programs within the school instead of as separate schools.

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The Benefits of Being Bilingual - Univision Noticias

Can Speaking More Than One Language Make You Smarter In Other Ways? New research indicates that the brains of bilinguals can adapt more quickly to change sti...

Via Rebecca Hanley
Susan Volinski's insight:

     This witty video from the Univision Noticias Company is not only about the benefits of being bilingual, but it also explains some harsh truths about the overall American view of bilingualism. I am not suggesting that I feel that every American feels this way, but this is what the speaker of the video proposes. The speaker starts off with a joke, “What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks just one? An American.” This was a very bold statement for her to make, considering she just accused the whole country of being monolingual, and I felt as though she implied this in a negative way. She does back up her joke by stating that statistically only 18% of Americans can speak more than one language, while 53% of Europeans can speak more than one language. The video goes on to say that the reason for this is because Americans believed that learning a language too young can interfere with intellectual development, which is one of the reasons that many traditional schools don’t start teaching a foreign language until they are in middle school. Contrary to that belief, it is now proven that learning a language at a younger age actually has many benefits rather than limitations. Interestingly, it is much harder to learn a language after puberty because students’ brains do not develop or absorb as much information as they do when they were younger. So, if that is the case, shouldn’t all schools start teaching foreign languages in elementary school, instead of middle school, since most children hit puberty in middle school?

     Being bilingual in Russian and English, I found it interesting when the narrator mentioned that an old belief of learning two languages simultaneously will make you bad at both languages instead of strong in just one. But this is actually not true because your brain actually works harder to be able to differentiate between the two languages.

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Schools Stop Teaching Foreign Languages — Except Chinese - NYTimes.com

Schools Stop Teaching Foreign Languages — Except Chinese - NYTimes.com | Implementing World Languages in Elementary Classrooms | Scoop.it
Susan Volinski's insight:

Many elementary schools do not have enough funding to hire foriegn language teachers, so many schools do not incorporate world languages into their curricula. Despite the drop in foriegn language instruction, there are many public schools that "are offering Chinese with the help of the Chinese government", explaining that many teachers are coming from China to teach Chinese in the elementary schools. This is occuring because the Chinese government is paying half the funds for these teachers to be able to teach, an offer that many US public schools are not going to let go. I thought this article was interesting because it discussed the economic reasons for not having a world language in a classroom to begin with, which I am starting to understand why it is difficult for many public schools to have such resources. While China's government provides aid to allow many schools to have a foreign language may be excellent, I just wish that children were exposed to more than just Chinese. As a Chinese and Elementary Education double major, I believe having Chinese in elementary schools is ideal because the students will engage and experience a new language system and culture that may further expand their understanding of the world around them.

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More children learn more than one language - USATODAY.com

More children learn more than one language - USATODAY.com | Implementing World Languages in Elementary Classrooms | Scoop.it
In today's globalized world, many young American children have parents that insist their education include foreign languages. Schools that specialize in foreign languages for babies and children can't keep up with demand for classes.
Susan Volinski's insight:

     This is an article from USA Today, which provides parent and teacher perspectives on learning foreign languages in a school setting starting at 6 MONTHS OLD. The article begins with describing a four year old child who is fluent in Japanese and Spanish, and can understand some French, German, Arabic, and Italian. The mother made her daughter start learning foreign languages when she was 6-weeks-old; I’m assuming that she meant exposing the child to the sounds of the different languages, so the child would become accustomed to hearing and differentiating between the languages. François Thibaut, an author and a man who runs nine schools around the East Coast, stated that his schools “get requests from expectant parents wanting to reserve a space for when their child is born.” It’s interesting to read about a school system where the students are from the age range of 6 months old to 9 months old. These babies go into school, with their parents, and are taught either Spanish, French, Italian, or Chinese. I’m actually quite impressed that these schools have been around and are mostly available to parents who are interested in their child acquiring a foreign language. Although this is a great program and opportunity, I have to wonder about the idea of an infant going to classes to learn a language. I don’t know how I feel about babies in a classroom, because I feel that at their stage in their life they should not be learning in a classroom setting.

     I thought this was really cool: One of the children at age two was having a hard time saying the word elephant in English, so she just said “Zo” which means elephant in Japanese. I thought this was great because the child understands the meaning of what she is trying to say, she just can’t say the word yet. I would be interesting to see if bilingual children interact with parents better than monolingual children, because bilingual children have the advantage of incorporating different languages together to make the same meaning.

     Side note: The four year old girl made a comment saying, “I’m smarter than my father. He can only speak one language," which reminded me of the other article I curated describing that some parts of the United States view bilingualism as a bad thing. It’s interesting to see that, to this young girl, knowing more than one language makes you smarter than someone else, whereas the other article pointed out that knowing more than one language means that you are uneducated. I think the topic of what makes one “smarter” than someone else is an interesting topic altogether.

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Dual-immersion language program a big hit in Redondo Beach elementary school - Daily Breeze

Dual-immersion language program a big hit in Redondo Beach elementary school - Daily Breeze | Implementing World Languages in Elementary Classrooms | Scoop.it
Dual-immersion language program a big hit in Redondo Beach elementary school Daily Breeze First graders Carson Peters, left, and Duncan Snider explore a Spanish-language book about money at Washington Elementary School in Redondo Beach, where...

Via Dr. Kathleen Contreras
Susan Volinski's insight:

     I found this article off of a newspaper website called Daily Breeze, which discusses a new dual-language immersion program that was launched at Redondo Beach elementary school for kindergarten and first grade students. I will not only focus on discussing my insights about this article, but also respond to a comment that one man posted about this article. The article says that the program was such a success that they had to take a lottery to admit students because too many students wanted to be part of this immersion program. To me, it's wonderful that the program is so successful, but it’s a bit sad that not everyone can have the opportunity to learn a second language. Hopefully schools get more funding, because I feel that it should go towards teaching world languages. The article also mentions Mrs. O’Sullivan, a mother of a kindergartener who is attending the program. O’Sullivan and her family moved into the school district to have the opportunity for her child to be able to attend the program because she felt it would give her child more opportunities to get ahead of the other students once she was older. A final point that caught my eye in the article, which I hadn’t actually thought about before, was that most students who attend schools with such immersion programs have “academically driven families.” So, I ask could a reason for why bilingual students outperform monolingual students be because students who learn a second language from an academic setting have parents that will invest their time into the student more than a parent of a monolingual student? This may not make any sense, but it’s just an educated guess as to why students who participate in immersion programs always do so well.

     The aforementioned comment that caught my attention was posted by a user named “Concerned for America”. After reading his comment, ironically, he is one of the reasons I am concerned about the direction our country is going in with opinions like his. The part of the comment that stood out to me was “I can't believe we are wasting our money on bilingual programs. Come to America = Learn English. Our education system is overburdened enough without being expected to accommodate non-English speakers." When I read the comment, I actually became so frustrated because it made me feel that it is people like him that are too close-minded to realize the massive benefits of learning a second language – not only is it beneficial cognitively, but it allows for a person to become more invested in another culture and language and gain a new understanding of how other people communicate. I also understand that many people speak English in America, but that does not mean that English is the only language a person living in America should speak. In California, the Spanish speaking population is on the rise, so learning Spanish alongside English will ultimately benefit the residents living there. And NO, this program is not “accommodating non-English speakers” but rather benefiting the whole community, because it is reducing the language gap between Spanish and English speakers. It is benefitting everyone because immersion programs not only help students learn the language, but ultimately understand each other and the people around them.

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Dr. Kathleen Contreras's curator insight, November 22, 2013 4:11 PM

Dual language programs continue to grow in California!

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Schools, society overlook bilingualism's benefits, expert says: 11/02

Schools, society overlook bilingualism's benefits, expert says: 11/02 | Implementing World Languages in Elementary Classrooms | Scoop.it

Valdés, did not look closely at programs designed for gifted and talented students because bilingual Latino children are rarely identified as part of this group. Many of these students are not considered part of the gifted program because the word "Bilingual" is used  to suggest that one is uneducated. 


Via Mayra Villasenor
Susan Volinski's insight:

     This is an article published at Stanford University, focusing on Guadalupe Valdés’ perspective on implementing world languages into classrooms. Valdés is an education professor and specializes in Spanish-English bilingualism. Valdés discusses that in most countries, learning and knowing a second language means that one is educated, while in the United States “the term bilingual is used to suggest that you are uneducated. Bilingualism has a bad rap." She compares bilingualism to gifted education, because a knowing a second language is something with which many students do not identify, yet she mentions that many Hispanic students will typically not be found in a gifted and talented program. I don’t understand why in America it seems that if English is not a child's first language, people feel that he or she will not be able to do as well in classes as the other students. It seems as though learning a second language is a bad thing. Many people feel that knowing a second language will complicate learning the English language, when in fact, research has proven the exact opposite. I remember when my brother and I started first grade – our first language being Russian – the teachers wanted to place us in an ESOL classroom on the first day of class, before even determining our English language abilities. I feel that ESOL students and English speaking students should all be put into the same classroom because how will the ESOL students get any better if they are not fully immersed in the language they are trying to learn? By putting the students in a different classroom, it tells the students that they aren’t good enough to be in a regular classroom, when students will adapt and learn quickly. As the article pointed out, “after closely investigating how a group of so-called “at risk” ninth grade Latinos deftly adapted to challenging situations as they interpreted during a series of simulated exercises, Valdés concluded that the students’ abilities fit the current federal definition of giftedness.” Students are more capable than people give them credit, and I believe that knowing English as a second language, or being bilingual should not be a crutch to students, but rather a strength.  

     Valdés shares that these Hispanic students “often bridge cultural and linguistic gaps by becoming unofficial interpreters in their communities," translating what goes on in the school to the home. For example, during parent-teacher conferences, a child can explain what a teacher is saying to a parent if the parent does not fully speak English. This is a big role that children play, and sometimes it goes unnoticed. By closing the gap between the understanding of English and different languages can make learning more successful because there will be less of a language barrier to overcome, and it will allow students, teachers, and parents to be on the same page about information. Additionally, these “unofficial interpreters” can one day become professional interpreters for the United States to bridge the gaps not only within the community, but internationally as well.   

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