By Catalina Ríos
There are many effective strategies for learning a new language and the children at SRV model their love of language learning artfully. They are not “students” of Spanish but rather are actively “speakers” of Spanish. The magic is in jumping right in with a genuine willingness to try, even though we might get it wrong before getting it right. We aim to be fearless is our attempts knowing that mistakes help us learn – we are safe to try. Our listening is active not passive, our participation meaningful and joyful. We use language to express our feelings, preferences, interests and identities.
I recently asked preschoolers: “How do you get better at speaking Spanish?” Their responses were insightful. Here are some of their tips for improvement:
“You have to repeat a lot and not be afraid to try.”
“Use the pictures to try and figure it out.”
“Be like a detective.”
“Help a friend.”
“Reading books helps you learn. The pictures are clues.”
“You have to echo, echo, echo.”
I believe that we learn best when the material we explore is engaging, multi-sensory, meaningful and interdisciplinary. Our motivation is heightened when we are curious and encouraged to follow our curiosity. Language learning is more about the communicative process than memorization. It is about language use in context not vocabulary lists. In designing our language explorations and adventures I aim to set the stage for authentic social interactions and exchanges – meaningful communication and expression. We often talk about jumping right in, giving it our best try and that practice makes better, never perfect. The aim of our Spanish program is to provide these opportunities for practice by drawing on direct and physical social experiences because language and communication are at the heart of the human experience. As speakers we strive to engage, express and exchange using language as a communicative tool. We watch, listen, participate, and speak. We interact and socialize, interpret and exchange information, share our work proudly celebrating our process and progress together.