Spanish Immersion Class: We will begin a Spanish immersion classroom at the 3 to 6 year-old level this fall at our school site on Hillcrest Road. Please read below for a list of questions that have been presented and the answers, which should provide further insight into its purpose. If you are interested in enrolling in this unique program please contact our school director at Hillcrest by email at :firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com or telephone at 251-344-8755.
What languages are taught as part of the school’s curriculum?
Of course, English is our primary language. Currently we also teach Spanish and, from time to time, languages such as French and German, depending on parent interests and volunteers.
Why is it so important for small children to begin learning other languages and information about other countries/cultures?
During the ages of birth to six years, Maria Montessori observed that children have what she termed “absorbent minds” where they are most naturally able to acquire new language skills with very little effort. This is why we see adults who try to learn a different language struggle while their young children seem to learn the new language perfectly and without effort.
As far as learning about other countries and cultures, we feel it is important for young children to learn about the differences and similarities in which people do things. This covers transportation, food, celebrations, family activities and other traditions and customs. The more children learn early in life the greater understanding they will have later.
What prompted the school to offer this class/ where did the idea come from?
We have traditionally offered some form of second language instruction, usually in Spanish. After graduating from college, our owner spent a year in Taiwan at Feng Chia University in Taiwan teaching English. He also studied Mandarin at the same university with many other foreign students. While there he observed, as he later learned from Montessori, that children acquire language most naturally the younger they are. This understanding occurred to him as he asked people from the same country, both native and immigrants, how each other spoke their country’s language. From the responses he determined most of the children who were younger when they moved to their adopted countries spoke with a more native accent.
So, the best time to learn a new language is at an early age and the best way is to be immersed in the language so that the child can learn through the context in which the language is used rather than by translation and memorization. Unfortunately, the latter is the way most adults learn another language.
Is there a limit to the class size?
Initially, the classroom size should be approximately 30 students ages 3-6 years old with three teachers.
How is this more beneficial than a tradition language class?
The children will learn the language effortlessly while experiencing a setting in which Spanish is naturally and continuously spoken.
Why offer Spanish vs. other languages?
First, Spanish is one of the 2-3 most spoken languages in the world today. The other two are English and Chinese. Spanish is also the most prevalent second language in the Mobile Bay area so it is both easier to find available teachers and potentially more useful for the children learning Spanish. We would love to offer a Chinese immersion class but we will first have to find the teachers and then train them in Montessori.
Please retell the anecdote of the child from Chile whose classmates spoke to him in Spanish.
We offered a similar Spanish immersion class in the 1990s, also with children ages 3-6 years old. One day a family from Chile came by the school with their five-year-old son. They wanted an educational setting for their child where he could also learn English. One of the native English-speaking students in the Spanish immersion classroom came up and introduced himself to the child and asked him what his name was. His only response was “Que?” At this, the child at Weinacker’s asked him the same question again, but this time in Spanish! The family from Chile enrolled and the boys became good friends.
Please provide the names of the three Spanish teachers, identifying which two are native speakers and their homelands.
Stephanie Edwards will be our lead teacher. She has her bachelor’s degree and is trained in Montessori. Her mother is from Cuba and she speaks Spanish as a second language. Tulia Perez and Annya Garcia will also be teaching in the Spanish immersion Montessori classroom for three to six year-olds. They are both originally from Columbia and both native Spanish speakers.