Austin Children’s Academy Spanish dual-language immersion program provides a wonderful opportunity for your children to learn a second language in a natural environment before the “developmental window of opportunity” for language acquisition closes.
Research of brain development and the early years of our neurological system shows that infants and young children are hard-wired to learn language at an exponential rate. This is why the early years are critical and is a perfect time to introduce a second language.
Beyond the immediate benefits of improved communication skills, cultural immersion, and long-term second-language retention, becoming bilingual at a young age brings cognitive benefits that last well into adulthood. The research is unequivocal: Bilingual children can focus on complex tasks more deeply than their monolingual peers, perform better on standardized tests, and have more well-developed executive functions, important for planning, scheduling, and organization.
That’s why, here at the Austin Children’s Academy, we’ve chosen to prepare the students in our care for the globalized 21st century by embracing our Spanish Dual-Language Immersion Program while practicing the Montessori philosophy. The key word is immersion. This program is geared to help children absorb a new language in a natural environment in much the same way they continue to increase their vocabulary in their own native, which for most is English. The dual-language program strives to use both languages throughout the school day. The second language in this case Spanish, also called the “target” language, will be used throughout the day during their daily schedule, in sync with the children’s particular language developmental stage.
Our specialized trained and certified teachers are truly dedicated towards the heart of the Montessori Language Immersion Program. Dual-language teachers understand that children won’t initially understand the new language during the early stages in the program, very much like an new born infant doesn’t at first understand and recognize the sounds and words from their mother. Our Spanish immersion teachers are trained to also use body language cues, context cues, facial expressions, visual aids and actual objects to help the child master the new words and their environment. Though typically children will naturally speak to one another in English at first, the teacher will encourage responses to simple questions to be made in Spanish. The Montessori philosophy is quite apparent as the children’s skills improve, we often see older students acting as mentors, translating for the younger ones, who will eventually begin to use the new language spontaneously.
Austin Children’s Academy’s Spanish Immersion Program recognizes five distinct stages to fluency. Like all Montessori disciplines, teachers recognize and encourage individual development according to the specific needs of each unique child. Because we are all different in our learning patterns and cognitive development, we respect that each child will reach different stages at different times.
This initial phase of study is typically within the first six months. At this stage, the children recognize different vocabulary but have very minimal understanding of the target language itself. In response to teacher’s prompts such as “Show me…”, “Where is…”, and “Who has…”, etc., the children will draw, point, nod, and shake their heads as they begin their journey to comprehension.
From six months to the end of the first year of study, students are beginning to understand simple aspects of the target language. They may be able to make short responses and use key words and common phrases. The teacher will continue to use positive encouragement at this advancement by asking yes-or-no, either/or, or very simple questions that can be answered with one- or two-word responses. Similarly, they’ll ask the children to label items or to come up with objects on a particular category list.
Over the following two years, as your child’s understanding develops, they will be challenged by more complex language vocabulary and instructions. The teacher will ask questions that require students to explain how or why, or require a response in a short sentence form. This will come naturally through their development and experience simply from their classroom environment. Confidence will grow and assurance from their peers and teachers will help influence an eager attitude to speak the target language. Though they’ll still be making grammar and pronunciation mistakes, they’ll come up with short sentences and have a greater sense of target-language comprehension.
The second to the third year of this program builds on the child’s growing comprehension to improve pronunciation and grammar. Using prompts like “What would happen if…”, and “What do you think…”, the teacher communicates by challenging the students to think more deeply, conditionally, and to ponder more intellectual aspects towards fluency.
If your child continues the dual-language program, sometime between the fourth and seventh year, students develop an advanced fluency in the language. While still improving vocabulary, students have reached a near-native level of speech. The program will continually provide opportunities for them to reach high-level expectations, prompting them to tell or retell stories, and to make decisions much like their primary native language.
Call us today to arrange for a tour and speak to our Director and teachers about whether Austin Children’s Academy is right for your child.