Why learn Spanish?
Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the US. About 13% of our population is of Hispanic origin and this population has grown by 60% in one decade. This demographic change is shifting the US to becoming a bilingual country. On a global scale, Spanish is the second most natively spoken language in the world. While English is a stronghold in the world of business and politics, Spanish is a stronghold in terms of geography and internet usage (growth of Spanish internet publications exceeds all other languages). US and Latin American political and business relations are becoming more tightly bound. As an adult, knowing Spanish will offer more opportunities in travel, friendships, and business, and understanding the world from a more global perspective.
Why learn Spanish now?
Children have an extraordinary talent for language. The first seven years of life is when a child’s brain is the most pliable and language is learned with most ease. Language acquisition begins even before a baby learns to talk, as they learn to identify the sounds and structure of the language they are exposed to. Learning a second language is “more of a cognitive problem solving activity than a linguistic activity” (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). Children who study a second language will not only benefit linguistically, but also show better scores in math, better overall academic achievement, increased cognitive flexibility, and more developed creative thinking skills.
Is my infant too young for learning Spanish?
Why would I expose my child to Spanish if he/she doesn’t even speak English yet? Babies learn language even before they speak. Although the critical age for language acquisition is 0-7 years old, the earlier children are exposed to different languages, the more easily they will acquire bilingualism. Babies less than a year of age can identify and distinguish phonemes of all languages. After about a year, children begin to respond only to the sounds that surround them. In fact, the relative amounts of each language (Spanish and English) babies were exposed to, affects their vocabulary as toddlers.
Why learn Spanish through music?
Music is a wonderful gateway to language. It serves as a natural way to both introduce and reinforce a language. Using music as language learning tool aids in memory retention, pronunciation, and syllable recognition. Just as importantly, music awakens children’s disposition to learn a new language. The non-academic approach means that children can learn through play, very much the same way they learned their primary language. Learning Spanish through music also makes it easy to include parents and caregivers in the process. In addition, having a CD to listen and sing to at home means that your child can be exposed to more than just 45 min a week of Spanish.
What are Canta classes like?
Classes meet once a week for 45 min. CANTA classes are an engaging, fun-filled language and music class. Parents and caregivers participate by singing, dancing, and playing and serve as musical and language role models to their children. A variety of props, pictures, and puppets are used to represent the meaning of the songs we sing. Our hands on class also uses a variety of instruments to allow children to explore rhythm and movement. Posters for each song allow children to see illustrations, while providing adults the lyrics of the songs so they can follow along more easily. Each session explores one of our three song collections that focus on age appropriate vocabulary. Each collection has approximately 24 songs, and we rotate our song collections so families can take three full semesters of class without repeating the same songs!
What is included in Canta tuition?
A weekly 45 minute class, a CD with the songs that will be explored in class, a beautifully illustrated songbook with lyrics and translations, and 2 make-up classes, should you miss any of your regularly scheduled class times.
Do parents/caregivers need to know Spanish to participate in a Canta class?
Every family is welcome to participate in CANTA classes. Our families are usually a mix of fluent Spanish speakers and people who are completely new to the language, with the majority falling somewhere in between. Posters with lyrics will help adults follow along and participate in class. The songs we have selected are also simple and repetitive- it makes it easier for adults to participate and it is also how children learn best! The more you listen to the CD at home, review the songbook, and come to class, the more you’ll find yourself and your child singing in Spanish! Also, although all the songs and simple instructions during class are all in Spanish, more complex ideas will be shared in English so everyone can follow along.
What should I expect of my child in a Canta class?
Just by being present during class and regularly listening to the CD at home, children will be learning. It’s important to remember that children learn in different ways according to their personality, and developmental stage. A child might chose to sit back and simply observe the class; another might be walk around and explore the space, and another might sing and mimic movements. All three children are working equally hard on learning the language and music that is surrounding them. We find it very important to give children the space to learn the way that best suits them.
What should I expect of my child’s Spanish learning process throughout Canta?
In a musical setting, most children are observers before they begin to participate, and often first become active participants at home. When learning a second language in an organic setting like ours, children will also go through various learning stages (Krashen, Terrel; The Natural Approach). Be mindful that language learning takes time, and usually does not start with immediate participation. While we will invite children to participate in Spanish from the get go, we will never force a child to speak Spanish until they are ready. Modeling participation will be the parent’s role in class! Consistent exposure to Spanish is crucial to help your child transition from one learning stage to the next. Class is a wonderful start, and listening to the music and reinforcing Spanish at home (at whatever level you are comfortable with) will be just as valuable. For a detailed description of each second language learning stage, view Raising a Bilingual Child.
What should I expect of myself in a Canta class?
Class is meant to be a time out from the rest of your busy schedule- a time to be alone with your child, doing nothing but playing and enjoying each other. So first and foremost, enjoy your precious time together! Secondly, remember you are the most important person to your child; you are their most highly regarded teacher. In class, parents serve as models for children for everything from singing, dancing, demonstrating rhythm, and even speaking Spanish! In class, we encourage you to participate as much as possible with your movements, expressions, and singing- even if it’s just one word here and there. Children that are newly learning a second language will often go through a “silent stage” where they will learn through observation- they will be studying your responses and listening to your words before they begin to verbalize their own. So the more parents and caregivers participate, the more your child will gain from the experience.
How can I reinforce learning at home?
While participating in class, you’ll also be learning fun ways to incorporate Spanish at home. The easiest way to continue to expose your child to the vocabulary explored in class is to listen to the CD in the car or other idle times. Also, look for ways to bring the songs into context and make them come alive- for example, you can sing “El Semáforo” when waiting at a stoplight, or “Sal y Pimienta” at the dinner table while you add salt and pepper to food. We encourage you to look through the songbook with your child and explore the illustrations for each song. You don’t have to master Spanish in order to offer your child new vocabulary. This means you can take a song, learn just enough vocabulary to expand on that particular song and focus on it at home whenever you find yourself in the right context. For example, “Cancion para Completar” narrates a story about making soup. You can learn the names of ingredients of the soup that you are making and sing or narrate your own story of making soup.
What kind of guidance approach is used at Semillitas?
We are a strong advocate of gentle guidance. Modeling is a huge part of Semillitas, for both teaching Spanish, as well as supporting them in their social and emotional development. This means our job is to help children identify their feelings, communicate them with words, and offer them opportunities to solve their problems. No matter what the situation is, the first thing we will do is to establish an emotional connection with a child by acknowledging their feelings. Then we can identify the problem and either offer them a choice or redirection (for younger children) or begin the process of helping them problem solve an appropriate solution.
"I am picking up Spanish much more quickly than I did in high school and college because of the teacher's movements and gestures with each song. They should teach Spanish this way to adults!! My daughter is really learning the songs as well...it is wonderful to hear her singing in Spanish."
- Kristen T.