“What did you say?”
“Buenos Dias” she repeated. “It’s what I say in school. It’s good morning!”
I grabbed her up in my arms and told her that she was right.
This year, her preschool introduced Spanish into the curriculum for the first time. The language is integrated into the lessons so as she learns her colors, shapes and other fundamental concepts, she learns them in Spanish too.
I began asking her more from the list of words I know she’s learning.
“How do you say one in Spanish?”
I laughed. “Uno.”
Then I asked her about the number two.
So it’s not perfect. But she is absorbing it.
Up until the age of 8, a window is open which makes learning a second language easier than at any other time in a child’s life. My husband and I decided we shouldn’t let this time slip away. We discussed putting AP, our 5 year old, in Spanish classes. Once we learned that MP would have them in school, we got into gear.
Unfortunately, public elementary school in our county does not incorporate foreign language into their curriculum. Of course, they offer it in high school when the learning window is already closed. While it’s true that many of the private schools do offer instruction in a second language, there’s always a solution. Once a week, AP can take lessons at her school with an outside company. I just pick her up a bit later than normal. She too started last week.
Over the weekend, we overheard our girls comparing the words they each knew. They asked us repeatedly how to say other words and phrases in Spanish. We were thrilled.
There are so many advantages to being bilingual, from increased performance in all academics to better understanding a new culture. It also opens the door for global career opportunities in the future.
But I believe it goes beyond the obvious. I think it is a humbling experience, one that shows the student that there is much in the world they’ve yet to learn. It can provide confidence and willingness to step out into the unknown. It also bridges unnecessary divides through the simple use of words.
Our hope is that it prepares our children for a lifetime of embracing differences. That it allows them to explore our amazing world with confidence and respect.
Those are big dreams, of course.
Yet if we are to raise children in today’s increasingly global world, we have to start somewhere.
At the very least, it never hurts to be able to say a small greeting in a language new to you, yet comforting to another. So, Buenos Dias, MP. Buenos Dias.