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How to start a foreign language program

Exposure to a second language is more crucial than ever. Find out how to start a Spanish, French, Chinese, or other foreign language program at your child's school.

By Alice Chen

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A bon mot (A good word)

What helps children boost everything from math skills to standardized tests scores? Mais oui, it’s learning a foreign language. Understanding even the basics of another language increases cognitive skills and equips children in an increasingly interconnected world (and is especially helpful in a country where minorities will soon be the majority) . While many districts have language programs at the middle and high school level, it's better to start even earlier: Research suggests the window for language learning really blossoms starting at birth and begins to shrink by middle school.

If you want to introduce a foreign language program at your child’s school, the first step is to spread the word. Talk to teachers, parents, and the principal, and tell everyone about the link between learning a second language and high test scores. Terry Caccavale, a K-12 foreign language coordinator who successfully started a Spanish language program in the Holliston, Massachusetts elementary schools, says this will help you build a strong case, especially in an environment of tight purse strings and budget cuts. In addition to sharing this story, two great sites to help you make the case are American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and Ñandutí.

Comments from readers

"I completely agree that foreign language is important, especially at a young age! I tried for 8 months (showing studies, talking with principal etc) to get a language into the curriculum, only to be told "show me the money". Boy did I try! Contacted state, federal agencies, NYC embassy's for guest teachers, even thought I found a solution of Rosetta Stone computer program! But as parents would need to pay $20/child I was told public schools cannot accept money for curriculum. Dead end. Before/after school club mentioned but we (personally and the school itself) are too busy. This REALLY needs to be in the curriculum itself. Does anyone out there have more ideas? Did you know one study shows that bi-lingual kids score more than 100 points PER SECTION of the SAT's higher than mono-lingual kids? How can this not be part of regualar schooling? "
" A good word is (Un bon mot)if you translate word for word."