Last week we got to visit some of our friends, and I discovered another young, aspiring polyglot. His name is Nicholas (funny that the other young language-lover I blogged about is named Nico, short for Nicholas) and he’s 7 years old. Since he still wakes up at an ungodly hour, his parents bought him Rosetta Stone Spanish for him to work one while everyone else is sleeping.
But Spanish is boring to him because “everyone else” learns Spanish. He wants to learn something that not so many people are learning, like Norwegian or Aramaic. (When I asked him if he prefers Ancient or Modern Aramaic, he said Ancient.) Like me, he prefers the obscure language.
What resources are there? I recommended Nico’s favorite website, Omniglot.com. Here you can find trivia about 600 or so languages. The author has created some silly cartoons in various languages. There is a lot of information about writing systems, too. Since Youtube is not safe for kids without adult supervision, Omniglot’s videos are nice to have.
I wonder what becomes of American children who love languages. Fortunately, his dad loves learning smatterings of languages and delving into the uniqueness of various cutlures. But I don’t know about other kids. Our society does not offer them many resources or rewards for following their passion. How often have you seen a child start speaking a non-native language to someone? Other than heritage speakers, I haven’t seen it. Does anyone have ideas to help keep Nicholas motivated?
I also read this article from Language magazine, called “From the Mouth of Babes” (Language, Angelika Putintseva, http://languagemagazine.com/?page_id=23275). Ms Putintseva is striving to offer an environment for small children to be exposed to and speaking multiple languages in her WorldSpeak Language Center daycares. The article states that kids can learn and speak Spanish, Chinese, French, Russian, and English. The education focuses on relationships and daily interactions rather than drills and exercises–the natural way that children learn languages. Ms Putintseva eventually hopes to expand this into a K-5 school.
I researched the school a bit, and a Russian-speaking friend of mine visited the daycare. Maybe some of the article may be too good to be true. The article was written by Ms Putintseva herself, so it may not be as objective as it could be. The school is not large, around 20 or so students, though I don’t know if those numbers are just for one campus or for both. I’m not sure if the French and Chinese programs are still running. Some on-line reviews (take them for what they’re worth) complain about moving teachers around between campuses arbitrarily. The program thus may not be as successful as it appears.
Assuming that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, I am on the balance happy that this daycare exists because we need places for people to socialize in multiple languages, even if just in pockets. I’m pleased that someone is trying to create an atmosphere where people can learn languages like this. I believe that something like this for adults is also necessary. Groups of multilingual folks exist where they socialize in and teach each other languages, but they are not so well known. They are a hobby get-together, not a widely-available teaching resource.
What are ways that we can get children more comfortable with a multilingual environment? even fluent in multiple languages? What are ways we can engage those who are already enthralled with languages?
Photo credit: Julie70 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA