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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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Por ejemplo (For example)

Once you’ve piqued the interest of a few parents, teachers, and the principal, invite a language teacher to give a demo at your next parents’ night or PTO meeting. Marcia Rosenbusch, an adjunct associate professor at Iowa State University who specializes in K-8 world language instruction, suggests getting someone engaging and skilled in the latest instruction techniques, such as no-English lessons that use gestures and objects to clarify meaning.

It’s tempting to get people excited about learning Spanish, for example, but it’s crucial to hold off on choosing which language to offer. That’s a decision best suited to the latter stages of the process, according to the classic textbook Languages and Children: Making the Match: New Languages for Young Learners, Grades K-8. Language choice can be divisive. It's best to go with the language you can find the most qualified teacher for, advises Professor Mary Lynn Redmond, chair of Wake Forest University's education department. Instead, gather a diverse committee of parents, teachers, administrators, and the principal together to form your language team. As a group, do some legwork and visit different types of language programs. Ask questions like: "Are students happy? Are teachers engaged? Does the class move along at a good pace? What do we want to recreate?"

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."