Masa, it’s ‘Kick’ not ‘Cake’!
It goes without saying English is at the forefront of international languages. Although it is not the most widely spoken language in the world, it is an official language in many countries. English is a critical language for business, media, diplomacy, technology, and the list goes on. As globalization continues to connect people, expand the economy, and blur physical borders, learning English is becoming increasingly important for anyone entering the job market.
Now, I am not going to pretend that learning English is the easiest thing in the world—but it is not impossible! At TYO, our English language classes prepare children not only for communication purposes but also for employment opportunities in the future. And I have learned at TYO that learning English is both doable and essential for all ages and generations.
I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Core Child Program at TYO which serves preschool and elementary age children. There is significant research supporting that the best language learners are young children. Preschool years are absolutely vital to learning a second language. Ronald Kotulak, author of Inside the Brain says that, “During this period [early childhood] and especially in the first three years of life, the foundations for thinking, language, vision, attitudes, aptitudes, and other characteristics are laid down.”
As someone born in the United States to Spanish-speaking parents, I have personal experience with bilingualism to back up this research. When my mother lived in Perú, she learned English and grew up speaking Spanish. For me, growing up in my bilingual home environment helped me learn both English and Spanish fluently by adulthood.
Interning at TYO has also taught me that one of the best secrets to learning a new language and retaining it is very simple – have fun! When we first learned “Hello, how are you?” we sang along to a song about greetings – five weeks later, the kids in my class are still singing the words! Last week, we learned “K for kick” and “J for jump” in addition to other words related to movement, such as walk, run, and stop. We played many games involving following directions in English – walk, stop, jump! – and it was one of my most effective lessons yet. Masa, one of my students, also git a kick—and a good laugh—out of confusing ‘kick’ with ‘cake’.
Whether through music or through movement, learning English is possible; more than possible, it is essential to the bright futures of the children in TYO’s Core Program, who years from now well be competing for work in the global job market. We are building not only their English skills, but also their language learning capacity and ability to pursue a life as a productive citizen at a global level. By starting early and effective, we are not only building better English-language learners, but also stronger communities.