Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How Language Centers Can Supplement Your Child's Bilingual Education

Across the country, language learning centers are in great demand and many parents depend on them to teach their children a second language – especially when they themselves, only speak English. So today Denise Leitch, owner, director, and instructor at Kultural Kids Learning Center, shares with us some background information about these educational facilities and how they can benefit parents trying to raise bilingual kids.

About Kultural Kids Learning Center:

Our Mission: To be a major outlet for building knowledge, creativity, and cultural awareness through our early childhood and elementary level creative arts and foreign language education programs.

Through constant enhancements to our curriculum and learning facility, we strive to provide children with everything they need to be engaged in our programs and to be well on the way to becoming a creative, successful, and culturally aware individual.

Our Philosophy: We believe childhood is the key time to be introduced to a wealth of knowledge. A child's brain has a wonderful ability to absorb information in incredible amounts. By exposing children to various creative and thought provoking activities, the better equipped children will be for academic life, as well as for building lifelong passions.

Children learn best through being actively engaged in a subject. A child becomes actively engaged when he or she is having fun. For this reason, we strive to find the perfect mix between the fun and educational elements that exist in both our creative art and foreign language programs. By focusing on the activity and the enjoyment of the children, it becomes so much easier to encourage them to learn.

How long has Kultural Kids been around? How did it begin?

Kultural Kids Learning Center has been open since January 2005, and it is located in Morton, IL.

While in college, I taught, tutored, and gained knowledge and experience working with children in many ways. After graduating from college, I worked full-time and taught foreign language independently. In little time, I was going to various locations to teach fun foreign language classes to young children. After seeing the growing interest from adults as well as children in my foreign language courses, I decided to create my own fun, full-immersion foreign language and creative arts center. This is how Kultural Kids Learning Center was created.

Photo by david.nikonvscanon
Why do we offer art classes at Kultural Kids Learning Center?

One of my true passions in life has always been art. I have painted, drawn, and worked with 3D media since I was a child. Through my college education, I was exposed to various classes and activities that provided me the tools and knowledge to develop a fun creative arts curriculum for the Kultural Kids Learning Center.

I believe art to be a language, and in our creative arts classes we encourage the intuitive artistic ability found in every child. Children communicate through art, and they communicate while making art.

I enjoy very much working with young children; therefore, teaching foreign language and creative arts classes at Kultural Kids Learning Center is my dream come true.

Our art classes are conducted in English and cover a broad range of art, from drawing and painting, to art history, and some experimental and global art.

We also end many of our foreign language classes with a craft to reinforce concepts and vocabulary being taught in the class. Usually this craft is our way to end our class on a fun note and also apply everything the child has learned. For example, they have to tell us (as they are working on their project) what color it is, what size it is, what it is used for, who they will give it to, etc.

Why immersion learning? What are the benefits? How does it work?

At Kultural Kids, we teach foreign language using a technique called full immersion. Using full immersion, we expose children to a fun environment where they learn the foreign language just like they did their native tongue. As soon as the child walks into our classrooms, the native tongue is left behind and only the targeted foreign language is used. After all, full immersion is the way all of us learned our first language.

Full immersion is the best technique to grasp a second language quickly and almost effortlessly. Our style allows children to have fun and enjoy themselves while rapidly learning the targeted foreign language.

How do foreign language learning centers benefit families?

Families benefit from having their children attend foreign language courses because these classes provide:

- fun age-appropriate activities
- an educational environment for a child to participate in
- learning about other cultures
- interactivity with peer in the target language
- multilingual children benefit in every single way (academically and life, in general)
- and more!

Why are language centers becoming more popular?

I believe that some of the reasons are:

• Families are starting to realize how important it is for children to be exposed to other languages at a young age.

• Parents know that if they do not know the language themselves, it is difficult (not impossible) to provide a good foreign language education to their children.

• Most foreign language learning centers have a fun, safe environment, and they provide children with an age-appropriate curriculum that is effective.

• The most important reason is that in order to truly learn a foreign language, children (and adults) need to INTERACT in the foreign language. Active learning is the key; passive learning will not work 100 percent.

How can parents use these foreign language classes to supplement their homeschool curriculum or their traditional schooling?

Like I mentioned before: INTERACTION is the key to foreign language acquisition. Therefore, the more interaction in the foreign language a child can be exposed to, the better. In a foreign language class, the child is learning and interacting with peers.

At Kultural Kids, we provide an environment that is welcoming and challenging, fun and interactive. This way, children learn in a positive and natural environment.

Not every town/city has a foreign language learning center, but one of our goals is to create an on-line resource for parents looking for language learning centers in their area. By December 31, 2010, we plan to launch a "Find a School Near You" section on our Foreign Language Friends website. This page will have a map of the US where families will be able to select their state (and/or zip code - this is yet to be determined). Once they have made their selection, they will be able to view language schools near them. We hope to be able to have many schools listed. In addition, schools that wish to be added to the list can contact us directly so we can add them to our search engine. Finally, people will also be able to rate their school and leave comments.

Language centers can go ahead and email me their information, or they can call me at (309) 361-2615. And once the page is up and running (by 12/31/10) we will have a way for learning centers to add their information on our site. We will then filter and make sure it is an accurate place and not spam.

We hope you will all participate and help us to create this valuable resource for families all over the United States!

Be sure to look for Denise's next article which will introduce us to Foreign Language Friends!


Denise Leitch is the owner, director, and instructor at Kultural Kids Learning Center. Originally from Chile, South America, Denise is a native speaker of the Spanish language, and also speaks English and French fluently.