28 December 2016
The diverse cultural origins of the families and teachers in our school community benefits all of us and is one of many gifts we are grateful for in our lives. Interaction with people of differing perspectives, social experiences and language abilities helps educate all of us and leads to our greater understanding of the human experience. Across our three schools are representatives from more than twenty countries speaking languages that include Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Punjabi, Gujarati, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Greek, Farsi, Russian, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Swedish, Finnish, Dutch, Serbian, Creole and English. Many of our classrooms this month are basing their curriculum on our diverse heritage. At least once a year, every classroom designs a curriculum with family diversity as a theme.
Diversity education is not just a once-a-year phenomenon at our schools but is pervasive in how we conceptualize the curriculum more generally. We teach Chinese as a second language (Spanish at Sunshine South) starting in the infant program because of our deep understanding and appreciation of the life-long benefits of multilingualism. Research has shown that speakers of more than one language demonstrate greater flexibility and creativity in many cognitive areas including mathematics, science, visual arts, performing arts and any tasks that require balancing multiple data sets. In later life, too, speakers of multiple languages experience significantly lower incidence and slower decline in memory loss. For a brief summary of the literature, see www.uco.es/poling/multilingualism_plan/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Science-Bilingualism-Oct-141.pdf.
Children are capable of learning multiple languages simultaneously without confusion as long as there are clear indicators of which language is used at any given time. One of our graduates learned German from her father, Japanese from her mother, Chinese in language class and English at school easily and fluently over the five years she was in our program. When children learn a language prior to age five, they are more capable of fluent pronunciation than at any other time.
The overwhelming message is to speak your family language to your child and encourage your child to learn other languages whenever possible. Not only will it enhance their future language abilities, it will support their ability to learn across multiple cognitive domains throughout their lives.