You’ve done it—you’ve taken the step to enroll your child in Empower Language Academy’s Spanish/English language immersion program. You are thrilled about the life-long benefits of learning a second language (or third or fourth!) and eager to hear your child speak in their new language. But, you also just can’t shake the thought that learning in two languages may be too big of a challenge for your child. Or maybe your child has been in school for a few weeks and you aren’t “seeing or hearing” any progress toward the new language.
Rest assured—you aren’t alone in these worries. Not only is it natural for parents to feel nervous about the decision to participate in an immersive language program, but it’s also part of the learning process. The first few weeks and months will be intensive for young students—but, year after year, we see our students rise to the challenge and come out stronger on the other side!
Learning a new language is a well-documented process that our expert, bilingual teachers are skilled in. The research backs us up when we say “trust the process,” but we also want to alleviate concerns that may arise as your child’s first year at Empower unfolds. To help give you an idea of what to expect, we’ve compiled a list of helpful tips from seasoned dual-language parents and teachers that can help you navigate this new adventure with your child.
Trust your child and our proven program! Things will happen slowly, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t working. Also, your child may be exceptionally tired the first few weeks as they adjust to this new way of learning. Help your child get extra rest and try not to over-commit to extracurricular activities.
A silent period is normal.
Just like we, as adults, don’t want to show off a skill we haven’t perfectly mastered, your child needs time to put their new skills out in the world. There will be a silent period in which your child does not speak the new language. Our teachers know this and plan accordingly. A skilled teacher is able to look for clues that signal comprehension.
Also, don’t expect your child to use the new language at home, especially at first. Children are good at compartmentalizing their experience—to them, that new language is for school!
Convey your confidence to your child.
Be your child’s biggest cheerleader as he/she attempts new things! This type of learning takes courage and your child may look to you for reassurance. You might even want to take up a new skill or hobby so you can experience the thrill and challenge of new learning alongside your child.
You can support your child at home.
Don’t speak your child’s new language, but want to help your child at home? You can still offer support by working on essential skills in your native language. The work you do on math and reading skills in your child’s first language will transfer to the new language when he/she is ready.
There are many ways to communicate.
Humans are able to communicate through many means: body language, facial expressions, and gestures will help your child communicate with their teachers and peers, as well as comprehend the new language. While confusion may occur at times, our empathetic teachers know how to skillfully support a new language learner.
Your child will not fall behind in content areas.
It’s normal for students who learn in two languages to appear to be “behind” their peers who learn in only one language. This is not permanent. Once their language skills have caught up, studies show that bilingual students outperform their peers in all content areas. In fact, our small school is the highest performing elementary school in Linda Vista.
Gaps in both languages may become noticeable as your child progresses in the program. This is a good thing—it means their developing brain is totally immersed in both languages—and will even out with time. Children’s brains are setting down flexible pathways that help them be problem solvers and creative thinkers!
We aim to assess true content knowledge, not just communication skills, which is why our teachers can conduct assessments without the use of spoken language or reading or writing. We encourage your child to draw, act out or point to objects to show us their understanding.
Grammar Rules Come Later.
In the early years of language acquisition, your child will learn by hearing, doing, and speaking. Just as we learned our native languages from listening and being immersed in a language-rich environment, so, too, will your child learn a new language. Grammar rules come much later, so don’t look for worksheets on conjugating verbs in your child’s backpack! Your child learns to speak the language correctly by hearing peers and adults around them speaking correctly.
Understanding a Language is Different than Speaking a Language.
While your child is acquiring language, you will notice that he/she isn’t necessarily able to speak perfectly or translate to their native language. Comprehension, speaking, and translating are all separate skills acquired at different times. As your child gains more and more vocabulary and phrases, speaking and translation will come, but don’t expect your child to be able to supply words immediately.
Expect a strong classroom community.
One of the many beautiful benefits of our dual immersion program is the special bond your child will build with his/her classmates. We have found great success with our language partner program, where we couple a fluent and new language student together to help navigate school in the new language. Our students rely on their peers a lot at the beginning—it’s a fabulous way to teach empathy, collaboration, and leadership skills alongside language and content.
While learning in two languages may not be the easiest way to learn, it’s a challenge that brings immeasurable benefits. Empower Language Academy celebrates the hard work and determination of our young linguists. We are here to support you and every one of our students on their path to bilingualism.
About Empower Language Academy
Empower Language Academy innovates in immersive dual language learning, fitness, and technology to create global citizens. Our holistic approach to Spanish immersion empowers a generation of creative thinkers and effective communicators to lead healthy and fit lifestyles. Our tuition-free public charter school serving grades K-6 is a caring community; providing students from all backgrounds with an educational experience that honors multilingualism, critical thinking, and fitness. Join us in convenient Linda Vista. Enrolling now!